Farmers kick coffee beans during a march demanding government subsidies… (Getty Images )
"Greed is good," Gordon Gekko famously says in "Wall Street." More than 25 years and a global economic crisis later, greed may not be good, but it sure has balls.
I'm talking about the kind of greed that'll push someone to sell a ketchup popsicle to a lady in white gloves. The kind of greed that convinces a multinational coffee chain that it can sell high-priced, terrible-tasting coffee to the world's greatest coffee country.
Starbucks, whose green logo is more ubiquitous than pigeon crap, has decided that now would be the best time to break into the Colombian market, while Colombia's coffee growers take to the streets demanding a wage they can raise a family on—or at least buy a cup of Starbucks coffee.
OK, so Colombia is only the fourth-largest coffee producer in the world, according to the BBC. But where does that evil-looking little mermaid get the half-fish nerve to sell coffee to Juan freakin' Valdez!
If there's one rule of American capitalism, it's that corporations all belong to the Monkey See Monkey Do School of Economics. Soon there'll be Taco Bells springing up across Mexico and Panda Expresses taking China by storm. I'm sure good ol' Ronald McDonald is already hawking hamburgers to Hamburgers and trafficking French fries to the French.
I'm only somewhat embarrassed to admit I've been known to go to Starbucks on occasion. I like the white chocolate mocha.
But the way I see it, things can go one of two ways for Starbucks: Either the Colombians will take a sip of one of those skinny caramel macchiatos and Starbucks becomes the laughingstock of Bogota or Starbucks succeeds once again at doing what it's always done—convincing people that its coffee is worth an extra $4 when it comes with free Wi-Fi.
Things might go Starbucks' way in Colombia. I was surprised to find out that Colombians aren't big coffee drinkers. Finland, a country one-tenth the population, drinks six times more coffee, the BBC reports. Maybe when you drink coffee only here and there, you're willing to forgo taste for status.
To be clear, I'm not mad at Starbucks. The company gets people who don't like coffee to drink its product religiously. And walking into one of its shops doesn't destroy your soul as much as people say it does, whether it's the shop on the corner, or the one across from the one on the corner.
Maybe Starbucks views its move to Colombia as a public service. Maybe Starbucks thinks coffee pickers can use a pick-me-up in the morning. Lord knows I can't make it to lunch without at least two cups and a scone.
Then again, Colombia did give us Sofía Vergara, and all the ventis in the world won't pay back the Colombians for that.
Hector Luis Alamo Jr. is a RedEye special contributor.
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