David Michael Miller
Dave's Introvert's Coffee
When Starbucks' announced its baristas would engage their customers in a conversation about race first thing in the morning, I decided it was time for me to roll out my two-decade-old coffee shop idea.
First a word about the worst marketing idea since Coke changed its formula. Most Americans, especially white Americans, would walk across hot coals to avoid a conversation about race. So why on earth would you want to go somewhere where you are forced into that conversation against your will and in the pre-caffeination period of your day? Moreover, why would you want to have that conversation in 20 seconds with a stranger whose job it is to serve you your latte?
"What do you think about race?"
"I think it's a real serious issue."
"Thank you! Enjoy your drink and have a great day! Tomorrow let's talk about the possible existence of God!"
And there you go. After centuries, the race problem in America solved.
Starbuck's CEO Howard Schultz apparently sees what needs to be a serious conversation as an opportunity for some sort of marketing ploy. For something more thoughtful along these lines, check out the Ted Talk by Madison YWCA director Rachel Krinsky.
After a couple weeks of getting appropriately ripped in social and mainstream media, Schultz decided to back off and drop the idea. Still, even in retreat he was overwrought. "Our mission is to inspire and nurture the human spirit," Schultz said. No, it isn't. Your mission is to sell coffee.
But all this got me thinking again about Dave's Coffee Shop for Introverts. It would be the anti-Starbucks. At Dave's we wouldn't just avoid hot-button social issues; we'd avoid conversation altogether. We'd also eliminate choices. My coffee shop would have the only kind of coffee worth drinking: heavily caffeinated and very strong. You could add cream and sugar on your own. If you want something else, go someplace else. At Dave's we don't care.
You would just walk up to the counter, I'd pour you your coffee, and you'd slide your money across to me. We wouldn't have to say a word or even look at each other. Then you could walk through the silent, dimly lit room to one of several nooks I'd have built with a single big leather chair in it where you could sip your coffee all by yourself with nobody bothering you. Ahhhh... that's Dave's.
Ya know, come to think of it, we wouldn't just be selling coffee at Dave's. We'd be nurturing the introvert spirit. I'd charge more for that.