Ethnography of Starbucks

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The Status of Starbucks

For my ethnography project, I decided to observe the Starbucks on Rockside Road in Independence, Ohio. My plan was to observe the subculture of Starbucks’ customers. A subculture is defined as a “structured social inequality or, more specifically, systematic inequalities between groups of people that arise as intended or unintended consequences of social processes and relationships.” My question was twofold. Does Starbucks appeal to certain social statuses? And if so, does Starbucks serve as another example of social inequality? The City of Independence has approximately 7,000 residents. The City is a hub for business, the majority of which are primarily based on Rockside Road. There are a variety of businesses, many of which include law firms, medical offices, and accounting firms. These busy professionals are just the type of clientele that I observed patronize Starbucks. The Starbucks on Rockside Road is located in a mid-size strip mall. The mall itself is very clean and has ample parking. Starbucks is flanked by other restaurants including Heidi’s, Zoup, Chipotle, Winking Lizard, Quiznos, and Thai Gourmet. All of the surrounding restaurants also cater to working professionals who have limited time available for food in their hectic days. The strip mall also contains non-food businesses that complete the full-service atmosphere. The additional stores include a large Kinko’s, Verizon Wireless, AT&T, a second printing shop, and a nail salon. The Starbucks is located right next to Kinko’s. It announces its presence with a large, tripod chalkboard that subtly invites passersby to reminisce of childhood. Indeed, the chalkboard notices offer some form of comfort in an otherwise hectic life. I first walked past the chalkboard on October 30th, a crisp Saturday in Northern Ohio. The chalkboard sign confirmed that it was in fact fall. The sign was decorated with orange and brown ribbons and offers of “Toffee Mocha” or a “Pumpkin Spiced...
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