Hey, Starbucks: Your Drive-Thru Doesn’t Belong in My Community

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Or is it, maybe, the fact that there are not one, not two, but three locally-owned coffee shops all within a couple blocks of this Starbucks, none of which have more than a handful of people in line on a given day, and most of which have lower prices—so why do people have to patronize the busy, expensive chain? 

Is it, perhaps, just the confusion I feel when I see a line of 10 cars all waiting for coffee at 4:30 p.m. (isn’t that kind of late in the day for caffeine)? 

Maybe it’s just that I can’t understand why so many people can’t be bothered to get off their butts for mere minutes in order to procure their daily coffee, but must instead wait inside their climate-controlled vehicles, with no interaction between them and the store employees besides hearing a disembodied voice that says, “May I take your order?” and seeing a hand produce their Venti Honey Almond Milk Latte after they swipe their credit card?

But no, it wasn’t any of these things on their own that were driving me insane. What I realized recently is that I’m infuriated by the drive-thru because it is fundamentally not for me. Instead, it denotes my neighborhood as a place to, well, drive through—a place that doesn’t even merit stepping outside your vehicle for. Sure, there are probably some people in my neighborhood who stop at the Starbucks on their way to work, but this business is strategically located a few blocks from a highway exit and along a busy stroad. It was built for people passing through, so that they wouldn’t even have to exit their cars in order to get their daily Grande Caramel Frappuccino with Soy Milk.

Do you have a drive-thru fast food business in your neighborhood? If so, do you have the same feeling about it as I do? That this place is built so people outside your neighborhood can breeze through and never actually experience the place where you live?

Our communities should be places where people want to stay and spend time, not zip through at high speed. When we build our world around wide streets, parking lots, and drive-thru restaurants, we are communicating the message that fast car traffic is more important than children walking to school, than local businesses trying to make a profit, than families biking to the park, than homeowners trying to live on safe and quiet streets… The list goes on. By building this drive-thru business in my neighborhood, the priority is clear: a multinational business making quick money and a stream of cars speeding through to give them that money.

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