Your two cents: ‘tone deaf’

Has it really been three years since my last Your Two Cents post? Time flies. Anyway, Sunday’s column on my favorite Starbucks closing — not my favorite coffeehouse, my favorite Starbucks — was my most popular all month based on online views, which I would not have expected.

Although I made a point of saying that the loss of mom-and-pop businesses will be felt more keenly, some people were unmoved and wondered why they should care that a single Starbucks closed (they may have only been reacting to the headline) or why I would waste space writing about a corporate business.

Here’s an email to that point, sender’s name excised:

May I ask why you chose to focus on corporate closings for your article detailing a recent Starbucks shuttering? While you acknowledged that mom and pop stores will also likely close, I feel you wasted your article space by focusing on large corporations that will more easily navigate the difficult economic period. Your article could have addressed the local businesses or coffee shops that need all the help they can get! Sanctuary Coffee is one such location that is non-profit dedicated to social change and great coffee!

May I suggest that you consider highlighting organizations that can actually use the money we spend as consumers? I have little sympathy for corporations like Starbucks losing a location in the sea of their other locations. My only concern is for the employees that are working there and if their jobs are still available to them at locations which I don’t believe you addressed in your article. What of them and the impact of the closure on their jobs? Your portrayal of being inconvenienced by the closure comes off as selfish and tone deaf to be honest.


(Sender’s name)

OK, I admit I’m sharing this email mostly because when she followed up “selfish and tone deaf” with “Kindly,” I let out a horselaugh. One might even wonder if the writer was tone deaf to her own email.

When I replied to her, politely, I cut and pasted the two paragraphs about the fate of the employees, said that I write about local businesses often and that I never expressed sympathy for Starbucks or said anyone should.

But I’ll throw it out there anyway: Who else thinks writing about a closed Starbucks that I frequented was a poor use of column space?

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  • Doug Murray

    I support your reporting on whatever suits your fancy. If anyone feels the need to report on something different, I suggest they blog on Facebook, or start a career as a newspaper reporter and editorialist. See, easy fix. 🙂

    • davidallen909

      Yes, it is tempting sometimes to say: OK, you have one idea for a column. Great. Now come up with 155 more ideas and you’re good for this year.

  • Hugh C. McBride

    If your article had been “Amid Pandemic, I Weep for Corporate Giant That Suffers Minor Setback,” then perhaps your “kindly” letter-writer would’ve had a proverbial leg to stand on. (And whoever writes your headlines would’ve probably deserved a swift kick in the shins – but I digress.)

    But you weren’t writing about Starbucks, the capitaliist behemoth – you were writing about the closure of a local coffee shop where you often stopped to read or write or think, the baristas (three of whom you mentioned by name), and several of the other customers who frequented the shop.

    Yes, there are bigger problems in the world right now than one coffee shop closing – especially when that coffee shop is part of a massive corporation. But I think one of the many (many!) reasons why your columns are so treasured by so many is your ability to view larger societal issues through a uniquely personal lens. (Either that, or your love of trains & mocking local council members.)

    It is is easy to be overwhelmed, and even numbed, by the deluge of horrific news these days. But sometimes it’s the “minor” inconveniences that trip us up, & remind us of the myriad ways life has changed over the past few months. To me, this article was a reminder of that, and a nice tribute to the folks who worked at & patronized the now-shuttered location.

    As long as you don’t follow this up next Sunday with “Elon Musk: The Pandemic’s True Victim,” I think you’re good. 🙂

    • davidallen909

      I was amazed at how popular this column was online. It’s my most-viewed column of May, even more so than the Mission Tiki column. Most who commented on Facebook or email understood the point, and many were fans of that particular Starbucks. A few didn’t get it, for the reasons you cite. Somebody on the DB’s FB said, “Am I supposed to feel sympathy for Starbucks?” I replied, “No, and I never suggested anyone should.”

      The writer of the above email replied to my reply, still politely, but wishing I’d gone into more detail about the baristas or about procedures Starbucks is taking to make them feel safe. (It’s worth noting that she thought my lines about the employees weren’t enough, and yet she didn’t read them carefully, saying I should have followed up with the “three” employees for personal interviews and that if only the three still had jobs, what about everyone else? Sigh.)

      I sent a short note back that said she seemed to want this column to be about something other than what it was, and that’s OK. But this is the column I wrote. There’ll be another one along any day now.