Starbucks and our pursuit of snobbery _ hawaii tribune-herald

WASHINGTON — Indiana’s Thomas R. All inclusive resort hawaii Marshall, who was America’s vice president 100 years ago, voiced — he plucked it from a Hoosier humorist — one of the few long-remembered utterances to issue from that office: “What this country needs is a good 5-cent cigar,” which would be $1.11 in today’s currency. Discount hawaiian vacations A century later, what the country needs is a $12 12-ounce cup of coffee.

Today, you cannot swing a dead cat without hitting a Starbucks store. Hawaiin vacations There are 25,000 in 75 countries, with 12,000 more due by 2021, so Starbucks is not an elusive or exclusive experience. Tour hawaii This poses a problem peculiar to affluent societies, and an opportunity.


Vacation deals for hawaii Seattle, where the original Starbucks was opened in 1971, now has a Starbucks Roastery where customers can turn a cup of “small-batch” coffee into an experience — Starbucks sells experiences as much as coffee — of both conspicuous consumption and conspicuous connoisseurship. Family vacation packages hawaii Bloomberg reports that for a pittance, aka $10, skinflints will be able to buy a cold-brew coffee, which presumably is an excellent thing, infused with nitrogen gas, which sounds like an acquired taste.

Many existing Starbucks are located to capture foot traffic in malls and shopping centers, which have been losing customers to online shopping. Hawaii vacation sites The original 30 Roasteries — Reuters says they will be “ultra-premium,” not mere tacky premium — will be destinations where people will go to linger. A trip to hawaii So, by 2021, when there will be more normal Starbucks than McDonald’s, the few Starbucks Roasteries scattered from New York to Shanghai will be Starbucks’ entry into the positional economy.

Very pricey coffee is just a fresh-brewed variation on the familiar phenomenon of positional goods. Airfare to hawaii They are necessarily, inherently enjoyments for the few. Hawaiian island tour packages They exist because, particularly in the upper reaches of affluent societies, it is not love that makes the world go ’round, it is a compound of envy and pretentiousness.

Four decades ago, the economist Fred Hirsch distinguished between the material economy and the positional economy. Flight and hotel to hawaii packages Once a society has satisfied basic material needs (food, shelter, clothing), it turns yesterday’s luxuries (cars, air conditioning, college educations) into necessities. Hawaii flights and accommodation packages Because these are mass-market commodities, such material prosperity is a leveling, egalitarian force. Hawaii vacation packages for 2 Positional competition is emphatically not.

In the competition for an “elite” education or an “exclusive” vacation spot, one person’s success is necessarily a loss for many other persons because positional goods cannot be expanded indefinitely. Tours of hawaii packages Of course, Starbucks Roasteries could be expanded by the thousands, but this would make the “experience” banal and drain the stores of their positional power.

After elementary needs — food, shelter, clothing — are satisfied, consumption nevertheless continues, indeed it intensifies because desires are potentially infinite. Places to vacation in hawaii People compare themselves to their neighbors, envy their neighbors’ advantages and strive to vault ahead in the envy-ostentation sweepstakes.

The political equality of democratic societies leaves ample room for, and incites, social inequalities, which are coveted because they counter the leveling forces of mass affluence. Flight and hotel to hawaii Furthermore, as inherited privilege has been replaced by social rationality — Napoleon’s “careers open to talents,” a meritocracy based on skills and education — there is a residual human urge for irrational distinction. Travel hawaii packages Such as savoring a $12 cup not just for the — let us stipulate — divine flavor but for the sheer fun of showing that you can and that your palate is so refined that merely very good coffee would be excruciating.

In any American city large enough to sustain a social ecosystem of snobbery, there is a magazine to guide fastidious consumers to “the five best craft breweries” or “the five best artisanal cheese shops.” Heaven forfend that anyone should have to settle for the sixth best. Hawaii air hotel package deals For discerning tipplers, there are artisanal ice cubes. Waikiki hawaii In San Francisco, The Mill, a cafe and bakery, offers artisanal toast for $4 a slice. Travel hawaii deals It is to die for, say the cognoscenti.

Where will the positional economy end? It won’t. Hawaii tour package deals Stanford professor Francis Fukuyama notes that it is a peculiarity of human beings that they desire some things “not for themselves but because they are desired by other human beings.” Hamsters have more sense. Trips to hawaii all inclusive This characteristic of our species — the quest for recognition by distinguishing oneself from others — provides limitless marketing possibilities because for many wealthy people, “the chief enjoyment of riches consists in the parade of riches.” So wrote Adam Smith in “The Wealth of Nations,” published in the resonant year of 1776.