StarbucksWhen I have the opportunity I am apt to choose the underdog. Aside from the sinfully delicious Cinnamon Dolce Latte, for example, I dislike Starbucks and will generally go to the mom-and-pop coffee shops scattered around Los Angeles. More often than not lately, though, I am finding that Starbucks’ secret superpower is consistency. Mussolini kept the trains on time, and the Seattle coffee giant manages to use economies of scale and various other buzzwords I remember from my one college economics class to open earlier and provide better service than the little guys.

This morning I stopped at Bueller’s Bagels on my way to work. It was 5:55 and they don’t officially open, apparently, until six. A Mexican radio station was blaring, there was nobody manning the counter, and there was no coffee ready. I waited patiently for about five minutes — an eternity when you’re standing in an otherwise empty bagel shop at sunrise — and then walked across the street to one of the ten Starbucks located on my way to the office. They open at five. I walked into a store bustling with activity, with lovely music playing, and with a bacchanalian amount of caffeinated beverages to drink.

A medium coffee at Bueller’s, including tip, is about $2.50. A medium CDL at Starbucks is $4.00 with tip. This morning my coffee was free. The cash register was malfunctioning so the baristas had been instructed to just give customers their morning sustenance gratis. You can’t beat that. Sometimes the underdog loses for a good reason.

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