In re: Does Starbucks actually help mom & pop coffee shops?

sbucks.jpgI find Starbucks an interesting company to read about, I’ve talked before about the economics of Starbucks an almost entirely corporate owned empire compared to the fast food empires that tend to be franchises.  Well, the newest article of interest on Starbucks I’ve come across is in Slate and discusses the subject of whether Starbucks coming into your neighborhood actually helps the local coffee shops that Starbucks is aiming to kill.  Here in Columbus there are several places where Starbucks is right across the street from other shops, often Cup of Joe’s a local chain.  (Some were upset when Starbucks opened in the Short North across from Mo Joe (Cup of Joe coffee shop w/ a bar as well) – I wasn’t because I don’t fear Starbucks and while I hadn’t seen the information this article is based on I thought that Mo Joe was different enough and had a nice enough setup to still draw folks).

Indeed according to this article Starbucks often serve to create a ‘coffee Mecca’ where people know they can get coffee and some days they might decide to go to the other shop.  In fact the effect has been so large that some coffee shop owners target Starbucks, that’s right, they choose to open near the Starbucks (in downtown Columbus there is a new Cornerstone Coffee 50 yards from a Starbucks – too bad I haven’t been real impressed w/ their coffee).  Why is Starbucks different then Wal-Mart that serves to drive out others and kill the market?  Well as the article points out Starbucks isn’t cheaper, people learn that it isn’t necessarily the best and can be competed with(they don’t offer much food so there is room to compete with them on that as well) and lastly Starbucks creates new customers who haven’t been $4 latte swillers before and now you got someone who might now come to your locale.

Soon after declining Starbucks’s buyout offer, Hyman received the expected news that the company was opening up next to one of his stores. But instead of panicking, he decided to call his friend Jim Stewart, founder of the Seattle’s Best Coffee chain, to find out what really happens when a Starbucks opens nearby. “You’re going to love it,” Stewart reported. “They’ll do all of your marketing for you, and your sales will soar.” The prediction came true: Each new Starbucks store created a local buzz, drawing new converts to the latte-drinking fold. When the lines at Starbucks grew beyond the point of reason, these converts started venturing out—and, Look! There was another coffeehouse right next-door! Hyman’s new neighbor boosted his sales so much that he decided to turn the tactic around and start targeting Starbucks. “We bought a Chinese restaurant right next to one of their stores and converted it, and by God, it was doing $1 million a year right away,” he said.  “Don’t Fear Starbucks Why the franchise actually helps mom and pop coffeehouses.”

In re: Flex games?

Flex games are new to the NFL, allowing Sunday Night Football (replacing Monday night as the premier game showcase) to shift the time slot (to primetime) of a game in order to get the best game out there (with complex rules on which games they can touch) this is to prevent getting stuck as in past years w/ meaningless games that were thought when original scheduled to be a good matchup.

Now you may paint me a sour Cleveland fan (and you may be right) but I think it might be for the good of the sport to introduce flexible game schedules as well (think flexible matchups.) 

WHAT! You say, you may be calling me crazy.  I know, I know, but what if, just what if you got rid of the Sunday night game this upcoming weekend where the Colts play Tennessee and replaced it with the Browns v. Tennessee.  Suddenly you have a sudden death game where the winner will go to the playoffs and a game w/ potentially large ratings, large fan interest and well an interesting game.  Instead lets look at what we got: Browns v. 49ers that has zero (yeah, strange huh?) implications on the Browns playoff chances, winning, hell playing the game in no way effects their chances, instead the whole answer to their playoff dreams is in the Tennessee game where they play the Colts, who have absolutely nothing, that’s right nothing to play for and Tennessee possibly against a 3rd string Colts team is playing for their lives.

So it’s a flaw that comes up again and again, but what if in situations where teams would gladly forfeit if allowed (Cleveland, and Indy) could swap games somehow (in exchange maybe the Colts would get a draft pick?) and now you got a great and meaningful game.  Not so crazy?

In re: NCAA limits in game blog posting

Live Blogging is something I am not really too familiar with, but the NCAA is apparently familiar enough with it to come up w/ some crazy new limits on reporters blog posting (they have apparently thrown a reporter out of a game for too many posts already).  Anyway, the concept of live blogging is giving an account / opinions of the even while in progress and for some (namely the NCAA) they think this is going to far and intruding on their space as providing the sole accounts of the game.  The problem is that they are already making billions and these types of blogs only get fans more into the game and more likely to be watching (and increasing ad money).  So once again greed seems to be the tune of college sports and new media attempts to provide better fan experiences are suffering (which is sad since the NCAA/CBS was actually progressive in putting their tournament up on the net).

“a reporter can blog three times per quarter and once at half-time for NCAA football games and five times per half and once at half-time for NCAA basketball games. Two live posts are allowed per overtime period for basketball. In baseball, live-blogging is allowed once per inning.”

See story  “Too many posts and your out

In re: Coffee hypocrisy

keurig.jpgSo I’ve been accused of being a hypocrite before, being a ‘flip flopper’ or the like and I say yeah, well I think thats really not that bad a thing. What does it mean? it means that I don’t become so entrenched in my view that I am not willing to change when events change or I learn new information (maybe our politicians will learn from me?) (you may also remember some rants on product (red) stuff but when confronted with christmas card choices I opted for that, so at least I am consistent in my inconsistency?)

You may remember my earlier diatribe against single serving coffee machines and how they were the sign of the apocalypse, and now only a year removed I am now the owner of one such machine (a Keurig) that sits in my office pumping out the presealed, individual cups. So what changed? Well for one the machine is in response to the truly truly horrible coffee that Aramark supplies my office with and instead of trying to make the change in coffee at an institutional level I decided to just save myself.

Once it was decided that I was gonna go at it alone on the coffee front, what kind of coffee maker to use? French press? Drip, etc. Well it was tough and I spent some time, but the big factor was that I really didn’t need to make whole pots and the annoyance of having to go fetch water each day (filtered water is at the other end of the floor) and the single serve machines really only require filling once a week.

So I now have a coffee maker that I’ll admit doesn’t make the best coffee in the world, but is far superior to the junk in our break room and takes very little time to make. The only downside aside from the high per cup cost (still much cheaper than Starbucks) is the noise of the machine that alerts everyone that I am having another cup of coffee.

See earlier posts:
In re: Single serve coffee machines,
In re: I say single serve coffee machines ruining the world; others disagree – a rebuttal

In re: How America Lost the War on Drugs

I can’t say I read Rolling Stone much these days, but every now and then some great writing comes out of it (the great book Fast Food Nation got its start in the magazine, as well as Eric Schlosser’s second book Reefer Madness which partially covers the problem with the drug war in America)  Anyway I was interested to see a piece on Slate that declared a new article by Ben Wallace-Wells in RS the Smartest drug story of the year.  Stating that:

“If I were maximum dictator, I would force every newspaper editor, every magazine editor, and every television producer in the land to read Ben Wallace-Wells’ 15,000-word article in the new (Dec. 13) issue of Rolling Stone, titled “How America Lost the War on Drugs.” Slate

The article is well worth the length, I thought it was a fascinating tale of how our drug policy has been formed and how we have spent half a trillion dollars by now fighting drugs and all we have ended up with is a huge surge in our prison population and basically the same problem we started with.

In re: We forgot.

Following the holocaust the world said ‘never again’ and we believed it.  That is until genocide repeated itself again and again, with the world often doing nothing or waiting and waiting.  The UN was at the center of the attempt of the post world war international regime that was supposed to allow collective action to combat human rights abuses and the atrocities of the first half of our previous century.

Yet the 90’s and now the first 7 years of our current century have had genocide occur while the world is more able to watch and know then ever before.  As the UN debated (and China blocked) countless resolutions over the past 4 years people in western Sudan and now eastern Chad have continued to be attacked, killed, raped and displaced in what is most clearly only the newest, but not only genocide of late.  Unlike Rwanda  where many said they didn’t know what has been going on, we know what is going on in Sudan and yet our governments are only half heartedly working to get involved.  Pressure and awareness has grown including mass rallies in Washington and pressure on China (a boycott of the Olympics in 2008 was likely the most powerful weapon) to stop blocking the UN.

If your sitting at home (as I am, comfortable, in my home right now despite the cold day outside) its sometimes hard to bring to the front of your consciousness the atrocities that are going on not that far away.  If you (like me) were some or are somewhat ignorant about more specifics of the situation or more specifically how the UN and the international community has failed the people of Darfur I implore you to watch an amazing Frontline documentary On Our Watch that can be seen online or possibly as a replay on your PBS station.

  The world vowed “never again” after the genocide in Rwanda and the atrocities in Srebrenica, Bosnia. Then came Darfur. Over the past four years, at least 200,000 people have been killed, 2.5 million driven from their homes, and mass rape has been used as a weapon in a brutal campaign supported by the Sudanese government. In On Our Watch, FRONTLINE asks why the United Nations and its members once again failed to stop the slaughter