Solitary Midwesterners Bowl, Drink Vivannos Alone


In a commentary for Public Radio's Marketplace, New York Times Magazine "Consumed" columnist Rob Walker ridicules the dispirited consumers behind the much-blogged "Save our Starbucks" campaign; those push-button cappuccino lovers who are "trying to convince a multinational corporation not to close up one of its thousands of locations." It's unclear just how big the Save Our Starbucks movement is—they have a website and a handful of petitions, many of which are signed by people mocking the effort—but Walker scoffs at the very idea of asking a sinister corporation with "thousands of locations" to reconsider shuttering underperforming stores. Of course, he doesn't seem to grasp that, unlike in Walker's hometown of Manhattan, the people of Lockport, IL (two petition signatures) might not have 20 other Frappuccino outlets within a five block radius.

But this isn't Walker's real point. Starbucks, he says, has "now apparently…evolved into a symbol of community pride and economic vitality. Maybe this says something promising about Starbucks' future. But I wonder what it says about the future of American community."

Can you imagine a similarly widespread Save Our Library campaign, for instance? Or have we reached the point that the most important symbols of community strength are, in fact, publicly traded megacorporations?

Booooo to the multinational corporations! Hiss to the megacorporations! But what about Walker's straw man argument that Starbucks has recently morphed into a "symbol of community pride?" And how "widespread" is the Save Our Starbucks campaign? And what does a caffeine addicted resident of Ponca City, Oklahoma tell us about our supposedly fraying communities? And yes, I can imagine a campaign to prevent the closure of 600 public libraries, despite the increasing reliance of students and academics on the Internet as a research tool.

But what do you think, H&R readers? What does the Save our Starbucks website say about "the future of the American community," if anything?