Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Product placement?

Coming across the above news photo, my first thought was that product placements had started to infiltrate the campaign for president. I then wondered if, among all the "human interest" questions that reporters regularly ask political candidates about their personal likes and dislikes, anyone has asked the current presidential frontrunners whether they prefer Dunkin' Donuts or Starbucks.

The above photo also got me thinking about British journalist Gerard Baker's recent column on the alleged confrontation between "latte liberals" and "Dunkin' Donuts Democrats". Leaving aside any consideration of the political points Baker wishes to make, I don't buy his argument about a cultural divide between customers of Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts. I've lived in places in the United States where Dunkin' Donuts is ubiquitous and Starbucks is basically nonexistent, and I've also lived in places where one can find a Starbucks on every corner while Dunkin' Donuts is hard to find. If you live in one of these places, your choice for either Dunkin' Donuts or Starbucks cannot be seen as a vote against the other. Nonetheless, in a city like New York (where Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks are both thick on the ground) one can easily opt for one or the other depending upon one's preference. Even so, stopping into Dunkin' Donuts or Starbucks isn't a "lifestyle choice" or an indicator of one's cultural or social values. I've seen blue-collar workers at Starbucks, and I've also seen well-heeled executives at Dunkin' Donuts. I've yet to meet anyone who views Dunkin' Donuts or Starbucks patronage as a political act.

Speaking personally, I tend to prefer Dunkin' Donuts coffee but more often go to Starbucks while I'm in New York. Why? Because Starbucks outlets normally have places to sit down, and the staff (or associates, or baristas, or whatever they call themselves) tend not to mind if customers want to stick around for a while to read or study or chat with their friends while they drink their coffee. This is an impossibility in most New York Dunkin' Donuts locations I've been in, which tend to be counter operations with little or no seating. If I had the choice, I would probably pass on both Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks to go to Peet's Coffee, which I grew to love last summer while I was in San Jose. Alas, Peet's has yet to come to New York. In coffee, as in politics, you often have to accept that you can't have what you really want and simply settle for what's available. AMDG.


Post a Comment

<< Home