Ethnography of Starbucks Essay

1647 Words Aug 4th, 2011 7 Pages
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,
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I found that the majority of the clientele appeared to be middle or upper class individuals. It became apparent that Starbucks appealed to people of a certain socioeconomic status through their thoughtful use of products, language, décor, and location. Socioeconomic status (SES) is defined as “an individual’s position in a stratified social order,” meaning upper middle, or lower class. SES is primarily determined by income. The remainder of this paper will look at the different ways that Starbucks caters to the more privileged.
First, Starbucks products are clearly designed for those with a disposable income. Realistically, who would spend almost three dollars for a small cup of coffee when you can get a jumbo coffee for .99 cents at a gas station? One reason could be quality. Starbucks claims to use high-quality whole bean coffee and sells them in a traditionally European style. But the products are not limited to coffee. Starbucks also offered a full array of organic drinks, socially conscious products, outrageously priced coffee mugs—some of which are plastic versions that prominently display their logo, and music downloads. There were two available downloads that I observed. One was a new release by a famous artist. The other was a new release by an “undiscovered” new group. Similar to the music, my observations revealed that the Starbucks patrons primarily fit into two categories. The first were businessmen and women, who entered…

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