Basic Principles

Today is Memorial Day, and you’ll have to forgive me, but this post is not going to be about the great men and women who sacrificed their lives to protect this country. In all honesty, it’s hard to feel inspired to write about their sacrifice when so many individuals and our leaders are holding the position that staying home and wearing masks during a deadly pandemic is a massive infringement on their rights, as if during past wars, our soldiers were never drafted and everyday supplies never rationed for the cause. In addition, most comments today in regards to Memorial Day will most likely fall flat to me as I cannot help but feel that this holiday has become nothing more than another excuse to party instead of an actual reminder of what it took for our country to get to where it is.

So instead, I plan to talk about the Basic Principles of Coffee in Spokane.

Never heard of these principles? Well, let me enlighten you.

Principle #1: Thy coffee shop shall be a drive-thru.

Yes, that’s right. Requiring customers to get out of their car and walk into a building to order some coffee and a pastry is just so last decade, especially in light of this pandemic (ignore the fact that most of these drive-thrus existed before COVID was even a thing). As long as the building is big enough to accommodate all necessary supplies, equipment, and two baristas (See Principle #3 for more on this), a line of cars is guaranteed, sometimes even all the way around the block.

So remember: Less land/building/maintenance costs + More customers per hour = $$Profit$$

Principle #2: Thy drink menu shall contain no less than 20 items.

The original purpose of the coffee shop may have been to sell coffee, but the more, the merrier, right? It’s just simple product diversification to reduce business risk. In fact, for this Principle to really work, there should be so many items on the menu that finding the line for “Drip Coffee” should take so much time that the more anxious customers will eventually give up and just order the next thing they see. This will essentially guarantee higher revenues as anything that’s not drip coffee is at least $2 more. Also, the sugar-filled additives and milk in most of the other drinks will hide the fact that the coffee is cheaper and of lower quality than the coffee from the gas station across the street.

Always remember: More sugary products + Less coffee = $$$Profit$$$

Principle #3: Thy employees shall be female, white, skinny, and, wherever possible, meet the stereotype of a “basic bitch.”

*record screech*

Wait, what?

I know. That sounds awful, but when I was doing some research of coffee shops in the Spokane area, this is what I found on many of their Instagram pages:

No guys. No individuals of color. No non-cis, non-traditional individuals. No curvy or disabled bodies. It really is all very much the same kind of person and same kind of vibe.

Now don’t get me wrong. If these women were posting these pictures on their own personal Instagram accounts, I wouldn’t care one iota about it. In fact, there are probably some pictures on my own Instagram account that have the same energy as some of the ones above. I am a white, skinny (well, in some areas) woman after all. The problem is though that these are business profiles. These pictures were specifically created by the businesses to spread a very specific image to potential customers. I can imagine that if I were part of a minority, I would feel very unwelcome by these companies.

But maybe that’s the point…

Ugh.

Anyway, after about an hour of searching for coffee shops, I was starting to feel rather cynical towards Spokane. I mean, I knew that there were drive-thru coffee shops with scantily-clad baristas out there, but I wasn’t quite expecting to see this less-scandalizing version of the Hooter’s business strategy utilized so thoroughly across the city. I was already concerned about the lack of diversity, but now I can’t help but wonder if there is a severe deficit in terms of support for women’s equality here. I guess I’ll find out soon enough.

I do need to admit that not all of the coffee shops in Spokane follow the principles listed above. That is absolutely not true, and I don’t want to make it seem like that is the case. I have actually been to a few of these places and was impressed by their coffee offerings.

Probably why this is bothering me so much at the moment though is that many of the coffee shops that function in a way that I prefer have been closed in response to the COVID pandemic. Unlike many of the coffee shops that I frequented in Texas, these places either could not or chose not to offer to-go or delivery while stay-at-home orders were in place, and while I’ve mainly been staying home and sticking with my own coffee, during the few mornings that I just needed to get out, I’ve had to choose to either drive somewhat far out of the way to visit those few quality shops that are open or risk it with the nearby drive-thru. And when those are the options, it’s really easy to eventually feel like you’re surrounded and trapped and that everything sucks.

Or maybe that’s just my anxiety spiking from being stuck in the house too long…

Anyway, I’m hoping that as we weather this pandemic storm and things start to open up, I’ll be able to see more of the good in the coffee industry that exists in Spokane because I do honestly believe that every city and country has something to offer that is unique to their geographic area but beneficial to the coffee industry as a whole, but until then, until I can actually experience it in person and not have to rely on what is showing online, I’m likely going to feel rather pessimistically toward the industry here in Spokane.

That being said though, if coffee shops in Spokane are not actively attempting to improve the diversity of their workers and customers, they are going to have some severe issues in the future for a couple of reasons:

  1. Diversity of workers and customers leads to diversity of thought which can help with innovation which is necessary for survival, especially in an industry where the central product is threatened by climate change. To not be aware of this and actively working on solutions is to be negligently indifferent and passively contribute to the problems.
  2. As of right now, Spokane is not a target for investment, but as other cities start to price out, Spokane may become one. Coffee shops that lack diversity and the mentality for it will either miss out on investment opportunities when they arrive or they will be pushed out by those companies that do have either attribute.

It’s a matter of survival, and I think we all can agree, especially after this quarantine period, that survival is collaborative. We need each other, no matter who we are or where we come from. Deliberately ignoring that fact can have pretty severe consequences, and I doubt that those men and women who are remembered on this day would be particularly pleased to see ignorance destroy what they so valiantly fought for.

Granted, it is a matter of opinion as to what is contributing to the problems of this country, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t come to a mutual understanding. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of imagination. I’ve never been to war, but I can imagine that, if I did have to fight in one in order to protect my children and grandchildren, I’d be pretty pissed if one of them died because my own countryman refused to stay home a few weeks and therefore spread a disease with no cure or vaccination to them. On the flip side of that, if I was concerned that the government was not addressing the pandemic appropriately, I’d need to get proof that its actions were hurting the country more than benefiting them in order to gain support, and with 100,000+ lives (and growing) lost during this pandemic just in this nation, that would mean assigning a dollar value to each life.

Not only is that impossible, but I’m not willing to demean a life like that. It’s already been too much, especially when I know that the economy will eventually bounce back, even though it will probably look a bit different from before.

We all have choices before us, some of better quality than others, but it is our responsibility to deal with the consequences of those choices whether good or bad. That requires humility, intelligence, and empathy, three characteristics upon which we could all improve. I hope that after such a scary period of time, we are all willing to do just that, in our personal lives and in our businesses.

But for now, I think until this COVID craziness is over, I’ll just have to stick with what I know and can thoroughly support without any hesitation: My home-brewed coffee.

And today I raise a glass (or a mug) in remembrance of those we have lost to both war and disease.

Realizing with surprise that I somehow did make this about Memorial Day,

The one and the only Pookachino

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