So I was walking to work today in downtown Boston when a blondish woman stopped me and asked for directions to a particular hotel. I told her where it was, and then she asked if there was a coffee shop nearby. I thought for a moment and couldn’t think of anything except a nearby Starbucks. I am strongly against chains, so I didn’t want to recommend Starbucks, but I couldn’t come up with a nice independent little coffee shop (like the kind they have all over New York City), so I said, “Well, there’s a Starbucks a block away.” The woman was very enthusiastic: “We don’t have Starbucks in the Netherlands!” Then I told that I don’t like to recommend chains. In fact, when I visited Amsterdam a few years ago, I loved the multitude of little cafes all over the city, all independently owned. She countered with, “But you don’t know what you’re getting in each of those cafes. The coffee could be bad. With Starbucks, you know what you’re getting.” So I said, “I don’t drink coffee, so I really go into the cafes for the atmosphere.” The woman thanked me and proceeded to Starbucks, where she knew she could get the chai she loves.
It was a brief, but eye-opening conversation. I hate chains because of their uniformity (and devastation of locally owned establishments) and she loves chains for their uniformity.