It might not seem like it, but Starbucks is dying. Starbucks has something like 8000 stores worldwide, most of which are in the U.S. Plans to expand to up to 40,000 stores have been scaled back because of lackluster sales. That's why I was surprised by this announcement in the Seattle PI that Starbucks will begin offering wireless (possibly even free wireless) through AT&T instead of T-Blow-mobile. Starbucks has lost its soul. Their espresso drinks aren't even made by hand anymore. They need to do something, and free wireless is just the tip of the iceberg. I know in other parts of the world, free wireless is not the norm. Just try finding a free wifi spot in Germany for example, it's nearly impossible. T-Mobile has a complete stranglehold on that place. I don't understand why independent cafes, coffee shops and bars across Europe don't offer free access, but that's another thread. In most cities and towns across the U.S., free access is the rule not the exception. Starbucks needs to embrace this or continue to decline in market relevance. I hope their move to AT&T signals a step in the right direction.
Europeans sure do know how to keep their weekends. I was walking around Sunday and everything was closed*. People were actually "window shopping". Instant gratification is difficult if the item of interest is locked away inside the window of a store with indeterminate hours. Compare and contrast with the U.S. where in the interest of convenience and economy everything is open 24 hours a day. I find it a bit troubling that the grocery store in the small town in Montana where I live actually closes at night, such is my expectation that I should be able to buy what I want (Krispy Kremes) when I want (3 AM). Given the sad, sad state of the dollar, it makes one wonder if all the extra hours we put in compared to our European cohorts are worth it. We're expected to work more, for less money, with an artificially low dollar so that we can buy more crap at the Sprawlmart. I suppose this makes sense in some Greenspanian-Bushian Bizarro world of keeping the economy afloat. Yes, our trade deficit means that foreign investors have capital, and -- at least for now -- they pump it back into the U.S. economy. Outsourcing our industries, McDonald's PlayPlaces, military, and government doesn't seem like a good idea to me. Isn't this a security issue? And if not that, how about just one of pride? How much longer can we sustain this? At some point, the U.S. is just going to be a bad investment. Our trade-deficit partners will take our money elsewhere and the downward spiral will continue. 5 years ago, we lost parity with the Euro. Now a greenback only gets you 0.68 eurocents (tm). Embarrassing. *The doner kebap stands were open, thank God.