I went to the Target early yesterday morning right after it opened. I like that time of day when no one really has undertaken the doings of the day yet and retail spaces are quiet and peaceful. Stockers are still filling the shelves for customers yet to arrive like a dress rehearsal for a Broadway play.
What I noticed was the small groupings of coffee klatchers sitting in the plastic molded chairs in the little carve out area of the Starbuck’s inside of the Target. It seemed to me that this was their destination for morning coffee and conversation. I was struck by the idea that you would have the Starbucks inside the Target be your morning meeting place and then I overheard a conversation between one of the coffee klatchers and the barista.
Barista: I know you like a lot of cream in your coffee. Do you want me to leave you some room in the cup?
Customer: No, I want coffee to the top. I’ll spill out some when I add my cream. I want to get my money’s worth.
I waited in line behind this customer and then ordered a coffee myself. My order was the same as the previous customer and as a creature of habit, I almost always order the same thing. When I paid for my order, it was about 25 cents less at the Target Starbucks than it is at my regular freestanding Starbucks. When I looked around at the coffee klatchers I saw that they were elderly people and I wondered if they had done the math to see what made the most economic sense for them and decided that the Target Starbucks is where they’ll have their coffee and socializing every day.
On thinking about this experience I ask these questions: Did the environment at the Target Starbucks warrant a lower price per cup because of the loss of ambiance? Was the coffee any different than what was normally served at the regular Starbucks? Did the elderly prefer the plastic molded chairs and the florescent lighting at the Target Starbucks over the crafted environs at the regular Starbucks? What makes people choose what they choose?
I didn’t ask any of the coffee klatchers these questions so I don’t know their motivation. What I do know is that people will always gather around for conversation and friendship no matter where it might be—even in the Target Starbucks.