The coffee chain’s offerings are becoming fast-foodier … and yet they lose to McDo’s in taste tests and Dunkin’ D’s in consumer polls. That doesn’t sit well with Starbucks’ cofounder and chairman, Howard Schultz, who last month sent around an internal memo lamenting “the commoditization of the Starbucks experience.”

In the memo, which was leaked to the blog Starbucks Gossip, Schultz argues that moves to streamline service—like bringing in automatic espresso machines and flavor-locked, preground bags of coffee—have removed “much of the romance and theatre” involved in espresso preparation and taken away the fresh coffee aroma from stores. And that has led to a scary, scary state of affairs, as:

competitors of all kinds, small and large coffee companies, fast food operators, and mom and pops … position themselves in a way that creates awareness, trial and loyalty of people who previously have been Starbucks customers. This must be eradicated.

Yikes. Maybe he can enlist this woman in the quest to stamp out the competition: Writing in Advertising Age, a journalist from New York argues that the ’bucks is still the only place she and millions of other freelance types can go to write or study all day.

That’s why it really doesn’t matter if McDonald’s wins a coffee taste test or Dunkin’ Donuts is on a roll. Those places gave us fast food. Starbucks gave us an extra living room. If it spruces up a bit, brings back the coffee smell and gives us just a little more cream cheese, it will remain the place America goes to lingle.

That’s right, lingle. Linger plus mingle. I wonder if she knows she could do that at hundreds of other places in her hometown without paying to get on the Internet.

See more articles