Columns » Ranger Rich

The war against Starbucks


The next time you walk into any of the few dozen Starbucks around our village, your tongue begging for that exquisite cup of Dulce de Leche Latte ("steamed water with extra soap"), glance at the newspaper rack. It's right next to the banana nut loaf and cream cheese muffins and just below the Starbucks nutritional guide, which is conveniently located on the ceiling.

In the rack you'll find two papers: the New York Times ("All the news that's fit to print") and the Gazette ("Like dj v especially if you read the Denver papers yesterday").

There used to be a third newspaper in the local Starbucks' racks. It was this paper, the Independent (No official motto, but 345 people did pass out at this year's Christmas party).

For many years, the Indy, which is free and is read by slightly more than 100,000 people, was right there, all chummy with the NY Times and the local daily and hanging out with the macchiato, which is a delightful drink combining the Italian words macch ("look") and iato ("at what Grandma spit up").

Things were very peaceful inside our local Starbucks the lone exception being that one incident in 2002 in which Indy publisher John Weiss nearly got whacked after insulting the daughter of the godfather of coffee, Giancarlo Frappuccino.

But a few months ago, everything changed. The whole We are one big family of eggnog latte-gulping, white chocolate mocha-swilling, 500-calorie cup of oh-my-god-look-how-big-my-ass-is-getting family thing came to an end.

The Indy was tossed out of Starbucks like Richard Simmons at a Focus on the Family meeting. Customers could no longer pick up the paper inside the coffee shops. It was banned.

Why? Did the Indy, like some papers, write about how coffee plantation workers in Ethiopia earn $2 a day and sell the beans to Starbucks for about $1 a pound, coffee that Starbucks puts in glitzy bags and sells for as much as $26 a pound?

No, we didn't.

Did we write, as other papers did, about how Starbucks apparently tried to block Ethiopia's efforts to trademark its best coffee, which would increase the selling price, give the plantation workers perhaps another dollar or two a day and gasp affect Starbucks' annual revenue, which was, last year, about $8 billion?

No, unfortunately, we didn't.

So why has the Indy been banished?

Because one guy one complained. He told the manager of a Starbucks at Southgate, near the Broadmoor neighborhood, that the Indy was trashy. It even had sex ads. Take last week's edition, for example, in which ads appeared for 11 massage parlors.

On the same day, however, the God-fearing Gazette most definitely did not run 11 massage parlor ads. The Gazette, as you recall, actually has tossed Bibles into its customers' driveways just to earn a few extra bucks for the California corporate boys who run the newspaper. (And, of course, nothing says "We are community" quite like tossing the teachings of Jesus into Jews' driveways.)

No, on that same day last week, the Bible-flinging Gazette ran 17 ads 17! for massage parlors. Praise the Lord and pass the baby oil.

Which brings us back to the guy who whined. He told a Starbucks manager he was a Christian and was offended by the Independent. The manager pulled the Indy the next day. And then the Starbucks district manager hopped on the book-burning bandwagon and ordered the paper removed from all Colorado Springs-area shops.

And our village sank just a little deeper into the 18th century.

There are plenty of other coffee shops, of course. Locally owned shops that don't ship their profits to corporate headquarters in Seattle, where teams of Starbucks folks devise new ways to make bigger profits off the backs of $2-a-day Ethiopian children.

The other coffee shops don't tell you what to read, either.

So next time you want a cup of coffee, perhaps you can live without the creamy white chocolate syrup and the cloud of whipped cream.

And maybe you'll sleep better at night.

Listen to Rich Tosches most Thursdays at 8 a.m. on the Darren and Coba Show on MY99.9. Reach him at

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