Wednesday, September 24, 2008

We Are Watching You -Starbucks

The following is an ethnography and analysis of a local Starbucks. It was done in response to a homework assignment. The location of the Starbucks was omitted for my own reasons.

We Are Watching You, Signed Starbucks

The following observations were made at the Starbucks on [redacted] and

[redacted]. With regard to the clerks: their uniforms were nearly identical in color and

style. Each clerk wore a black hat with a Starbucks logo, a black, collared shirt, and a

green apron. Females usually wore their hair in pony-tales while the males had short,

shaved hair. Above and behind the cash registers were black security globes which have

hide in themselves security cameras. The cash registers themselves record each

transaction. Customers line up single file in front of the register to purchase their choice

item of consumption then proceed to an area to pick up various condiments. The clerks

appear to make several errors in making the drinks, making the drink "on the house."

They charge the customer and make the drinks in a robotic fashion, delivering standard

lines to customers such as, "Hi, what can we get you today?"

In Starbucks, the clerks represent the lower (but not lowest) class in a

dystopian society. First, they are under constant observation by the black security globes

(not just for the customers, one can assume that the globes also watch the clerks to

make sure that nothing is stolen). Second, as previously stated, each transaction is

recorded on the register, making sure that it balances out at the end of the day. These

two surveillance measures are similar to the Bentham's Panopticon, that because they

are under constant surveillance, the clerks will (presumably) both perform within

expectations (maybe even exceed them to gain a reward) and act honestly (for fear of

the possibility of being caught in an illicit or illegal act). Foucault would love this as it is a

fulfillment of his writing, that the Panopticon has expanded its aims beyond the

punishment of prisons into daily life. Third, the clerks conform in their appearance both in

the clothing and the hairstyles that they wear. This trait is common in dystopic novels,

certainly 1984, where the outer-party members must wear blue jump suits. Fourth, they

perform their tasks with robotic (though imperfect) efficiency: Take the order, blend the

drink, and call out the name of the customer. The same is with the labor section in

dystopic literature where efficiency for the party/government (in this case the Starbucks

corporation) is key. Lastly, they make the drinks for the customers and give the drink

away for free if an error is made. The customers that come into Starbucks represent the

typical dystopic superior (the Inner party in 1984, the gorillas in Planet of the Apes, and

the high government officials in movies like Equilibrium). They get to wear different

clothing, act in an independent manner, and are served by the lower, inferior class (the

Starbucks' employees).

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