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What Starbucks really sells

2016 September 27. Tuesday.

Maybe not what they sell to everyone, but what I buy from them…

Every morning, if I’m at home, I go to the Starbucks on High Street. I give them $2 and they fill my cup with coffee. I spend about $40 a month there. It would be cheaper and faster to get a coffee machine and some beans and make it myself in my apartment in the morning, but I go there anyways.


Because when I go to Starbucks, I’m actually buying two things that matter more than coffee: social norms and the ritual.

Social Norms

Sometimes it’s easier to get work done if everyone around you is also working. I feel rude watching netflix in front of someone studying. In Starbucks, a nap is impossible and snacking costs money. It’s a great place to read and type.

The Ritual

I heard on NPR’s Hidden Brain that turning daily actions (e.g. eating a meal) into serious rituals makes them more effective and satisfying. When you eat dinner at restaurant where you need to sit down and pay attention, your food tastes better and you are happier with the meal. Compare that to eating and texting real fast between classes. The restaurant situation is better even if the food itself is the same.

Same thing with reading a book. I like walking seven minutes to Starbucks, waiting in line, and sitting down to do nothing but read for thirty minutes. I would have more total reading time if I packed it in whenever I could, but the ritual is better because it allows me to pay attention.

I recommend a morning work-session ritual.

Public Domain Dedication.