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On the calendar: It’s National Coffee Day

Today is National Coffee Day, as declared by the U.S. coffee industry.

Not to be confused with International Coffee Day, which is Thursday.

What that means for the individual coffee drinker depends on where you get your cuppa joe.

Some places will offer a free cup with a donut or other food item. Others will offer discounts.

Some, but not all, stores of the nation's biggest coffee purveyor, Starbucks, will offer a free taste of its single origin coffee. Not universal though, so individual experiences may vary. But it won't hurt to ask, and be sure to wish your barista "Happy Coffee Day" or, if you prefer, "Happy Hot Beverage Day" if you don't want to seem to be taking sides on caffeinated drinks.

Baristas at some Starbucks might also hand out a leaflet that talks about  how the company has a terrible scheduling system. 

So what will happen on International Coffee Day? We'll probably just have to wait and see. Maybe Juan Valdez and Mrs. Olson will show up. 


Starbucks will start offering wireless phone-charging in its stores

Found this on NW tech blog TakesonTech:

Starbucks is preparing to offer wireless phone-charging stations at its coffee shops. But don't get too excited; it won't start happening until next year for most stores in this area.

Starbucks has been testing the technology across the Bay Area and parts of Boston. The initial rollout is occurring in Boston.

Starbucks is working with Powermat and Duracell, which use the inductive charging standard developed by the Power Matters Alliance. Some phones in the market use the PMA standard for charging, but many do not. Powermat and Duracell make a wide array of sleeves and other accessories for devices that don’t support wireless charging on their own.

Powermat will provide the backend technology needed for Starbucks to build the wireless charging stations into its stores, as well as tools to help customers figure out if their phones are compatible or not.

Starbucks estimates it will add about a dozen wireless charging stations to each of its 7,500 locations in the U.S. Many of the deployments won’t take place until 2015.

Right now, the tech works with a limited number of smartphones. Owners of other devices will have to have a special case, costing about $20 to $30, in order to work with the wireless charging system.

Starbucks Not Laughing At Spoof

Canadian comedian Nathan Fielder of the Comedy Central show "Nathan For You" comes forward as the brainchild of "Dumb Starbucks," a parody store that resembles a Starbucks with a green awning and mermaid logo, but with the word "Dumb" attached above the Starbucks sign. Starbucks Coffee spokeswoman, Laurel Harper says the store is not affiliated with Starbucks and, despite the humor, the store cannot use the Starbucks name. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

Question: Can you blame Starbucks for blocking usage of its name?

Travel: Slip a Gift Card in a Traveler’s Stocking

    Sometimes the best gift is one that can be opened during the holidays but used later in the new year, sometimes again and again. A gift card, for example. 

    Travel, both domestic and international, can be expensive, even for the thriftiest of us. If you have a traveler on your list this holiday season, consider giving gift cards that can be used to fund a travel experience or make any trip easer and more affordable. 


Here are some gift card suggestions for travelers of all ages:


Give the Green Mermaid: Most larger airports have at least one Starbucks, so chances are there’ll be one around when you or your traveler wants a cup of coffee on the fly.  It’s always nice to be able to stop for a latte or any of the coffee-to-go products sold at the stores without having to fork over the cash. 


Drug Store Dash: No matter how carefully one packs, there are bound to be a few things that are left behind or needed unexpectedly: BandAids for blistered heels, cold medicine to fight off airplane germs or prescription replacements or refills. Having a gift card from a national chain like Walgreen’s or CVS, stores that seem to be on every corner of bigger cities across the U.S., could come in handy for one of those little inconveniences or occasional emergencies.


There’s an App for That:  Travel apps are constantly evolving with new options popping up almost over night. Most tech-savvy travelers are always on the lookout for the next big thing. An iTunes gift card keeps them up to date with the latest photo-editing, navigating or social media app. Of course, they can use it to buy tunes, as well.


Pre-paid Plastic: Slip an American Express or Visa gift card in someone’s stocking if you want to make their holiday. Traveling with cash is risky and traveler’s checks are all but obsolete. Pre-paid plastic goes anywhere and is always appreciated.


Let ‘em Fly:  With an Airline gift card you can help someone take the trip of their dreams or get home for some family time.


Phone Home: Most of us depend on our smart phones when we travel but phones can be lost or damaged. That’s when a pre-paid calling card can come in handy.


Get a Room: Most major hotel chains offer gift cards that can be used for rooms or (subject to terms and availability) a room upgrade. 




Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a travel writer whose audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of ‘Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons’ and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com


Free tall coffee offered at all area Starbucks on the Fourth of July

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz decided to get patriotic this past week, announcing in Sunday newspaper ads that he wants Americans to get together and be more civil.

In the ad, titled "How Can America Win this Election," Schultz said it's time for people to sit down and be engaged in making this country strong again.

He's doing his part, offering a free tall coffee in all corporate Starbucks locations across the country. (Probably doesn't apply in the franchise stores inside malls or airports.)

Schultz said that "there is something wrong" with America and "the deficits this country must reconcile are much more than financial, and our inability to solve our own problems is sapping our national spirit.

"In 2012 America needs to win the election more than either party does. It is time now to join together as Americans. It is time, whatever our differences, for us to strive and succeed as one nation-indivisible," Schultz wrote in the ad that said coffee will be free on July 4, "to spark the conversation in our stores."

Boycott Targets Starbucks Stand

A new international Starbucks boycott campaign is under way over the company’s support of legalizing same sex marriage. The National Organization for Marriage has launched the website dumpstarbucks.com, where people can sign a petition against the company or learn how to contact Starbucks directly. "Starbucks has taken a corporate position in support of redefining marriage for all of society. We will not tolerate an international company attempting to force its misguided values on citizens,” said NOM president Brian Brown in a press release. As of Friday morning, at least 6,000 people had pledged to support the boycott, according to the website/King5 via KREM. More here. (AP file photo)

Question: Is it wise for an international company like Starbucks to take a stand on a controversial issue like same sex marriage?

Starbucks opening Evolution Fresh juice store

SEATTLE — Starbucks Corp. is pushing beyond coffee with the opening of the first Evolution Fresh Inc. juice store, the company said today.

Starbucks, which is looking for new businesses for growth, purchased the California-based juice maker in November for $30 million. Evolution Fresh had been selling its juices in grocery stores such as Whole Foods groceries. The first Evolution Fresh store is in Bellevue, Wash.

Aside from juices, Starbucks says Evolution Fresh shops will have wraps, soups, salads, vegetarian and vegan options and other offerings, the Associated Press reports.

Evolution Fresh, started by Naked Juice founder Jimmy Rosenberg, is one of the few larger juice companies that still cracks, peels, presses and squeezes its own fruits and vegetables rather than using pureed or powdered ingredients. It also uses a process called high-pressure pasteurization to make the juice without heating it.

One third of our survey-takers said they’ll spend more at Starbucks during 2012

The unofficial results are in: one third of the respondents to our Starbucks budget survey said they expect to spend more there this year.

Five of 16 respondents said yes, and you can see the other responses for yourself right here.

Thanks to those who helped answer the survey.  Gotta leave for now, I'm off for my morning cup …

The buzz: Starbucks coffee cards are a solid bottom-line pick me up


For much of the past three years, the Office Hours staff has made its daily visits to the local Starbucks store, plunking down cash for java and pastry. Sometimes the experience is more about meeting folks from area businesses, rather than the Joe.

The Wall Street Journal's story Tuesday on Starbucks highlights the chain's surprising growth in amount of money spent via card-based purchases. A key statement:

"Last year, purchases made on the (Starbucks) cards accounted for 18 percent of the company's revenue. Starbucks doesn't split the transactions by country, but assuming purchases were almost all in the United States, they accounted for 27 percent of domestic retail sales. That compares with 13 percent in 2006."

What could be driving that growth, especially as the company has been steadily increasing the costs of its drinks the past four years?  Please take this informal survey below. (Click SUBMIT after checking your answer.)


Starbucks to raise prices in certain regions

Starbucks is raising some prices regionally as it faces tough competition and rising ingredient costs.

The Seattle coffee chain is raising prices about 1 percent in the Northeast and Sunbelt regions. Starbucks won’t disclose all of the states its raising prices, but the regions include New York, Washington, D.C., and most Southern states excluding California and Florida.

Other cities where it will raise prices include Boston, Atlanta, Dallas and Albuquerque, N.M.

The price for a “tall” coffee will go up 10 cents in the regions. But beverages that are “grande,” the next size up, won’t change.

Starbucks spokesman Jim Olson says the prices reflect competition in certain markets and higher costs for coffee, fuel, and other commodities.

The last across-the-board price increase was in 2007.

Starbucks is closing some New York City public restrooms, due to heavy use

Starbucks is a very generous company, even during the holiday season (especially in the holiday season).

But generosity has its limits.

The Seattle-based coffee retailer said it's closing some of its bathrooms in many of its Manhattan stores.

The New York Post flushed out the story, noting "When you gotta go, don’t count on going at Starbucks."

Its story noted the company is closing bathrooms because many of its workers are having to wait in line since customers are using the johns. The solution is converting public bathrooms to employee-only rooms.

Some Starbucks won't make the shift, leaving users or out-of-towners with a guessing game to find stores with a public restroom.
The Post also said it tried to get a comment from Starbucks headquarters but was unsuccessful.

Starbucks Chases ‘Laptop Hobos’

Some Starbucks may be cracking down on so called “laptop hobos” – those people who spend hours at the store on their computers, according to a popular but unofficial Starbucks blog. The blog reports that some Starbucks stores in New York have started covering up electrical outlets. The company hasn't commented on the rumors, which were reported in an unofficial Starbucks blog. Other places like "McDonald's" limit the amount of time customers can spend online/KREM. More here. (AP file photo)

Question: Are you a 'laptop loiterer'?

Coffee prices on the rise

Steve Matott, head coffee roaster at Cravens Coffee Co., empties a batch of Italian roast coffee beans into the cooling tray at offices in Spokane.

Spokane coffee roasters are losing sleep, and it’s not the caffeine.

Supplies of high-quality Arabica beans are tight. Prices have doubled in the last year.

Last week, Starbucks announced it would raise the price on its packaged coffees an average 12 percent, in line with increases by other major brands.

Simon Thompson, owner of Cravens Coffee Co., said he has raised prices twice in recent months, but the total seven percent boost amounts to less than $1 per pound. Bert Caldwell, SR

Will rising prices make you cut back on your coffee consumption? How much is too much for a cup of coffee?

Starbucks Tip Jar Brings Suit

On March 3, 2008, 54-year-old Roger Kreutz was waiting in line at a St. Louis area Starbucks when Aaron Poisson, a mop-haired 19-year-old from Georgia, grabbed the coffee shop's tip jar, containing less than $5, and sprinted outside with it. Kreutz, a relatively wealthy owner of a couple hotels in the area, took it upon himself to give the bandit chase and, in the process, wound up dead when the teen accidentally backed his getaway car over him. Now, with Poisson convicted and most of the family at peace, Kreutz's father, Edward Kreutz Sr., is suing Starbucks, claiming that the company should have known that an easily reachable tip jar would be too tempting for petty thieves and their crime-thwarting nemesi to resist/Curtis Cartier, Seattle Blogs. More here.

Question: Do tip jars at counters represent too much of a temptation for thieves?

Starbucks To Offer 31-Ounce Drinks

A man pulls a cart past a Starbucks store in Beachwood, Ohio. Starbucks will begin a phased-in nationwide rollout Tuesday of its Trenta cup size that can be filled with just shy of a quart's worth of iced beverages such as coffee, tea and lemonade. The nationwide rollout should be complete by May 3. Story here. (AP file photo/Amy Sancetta, File)

Question: What size coffee drink do you usually order at Starbucks?

Starbucks Unveils Anniversary Logo

Starbucks new 40-year anniversary logo is seen on a cup at right. Other cups bearing the company's logo from over the years, from left, 1971, 1987, and 1992, are also shown. Story here. (AP Photo/Starbucks)

Question: Which Starbucks logo do you like best?

Starbucks Tells Baristas To Slow Down

Starbucks Corp. is telling its harried baristas to slow down — which may result in longer lines, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. Amid customer complaints that the Seattle-based coffee chain has reduced the fine art of coffee making to a mechanized process with all the romance of an assembly line, Starbucks baristas are being told to stop making multiple drinks at the same time and focus instead on no more than two drinks at a time — starting a second one while finishing the first, according to company documents reviewed by the Journal/Wall Street Journal. More here.

Question: Would you rather have Starbucks baristas work slower and be more personable than get your drink quicker?

Hi-Noon: Starbucks Finally Going Wi-Fi

Finally! Starbucks is finally going to provide free wi-fi service at its beaucoup shops around the nation. On Facebook, Cindy re-posted a link about the move that ‘ll take place July 1. You can read it here (scroll down). Why did I use one of the few exclamation points in my literary arsenal? I spent an hour-plus last summer at a Starbucks near the Portland airport, trying to use the finicky AT&T system that requires occasional users who aren’t registered to pay for a phone card that may or may not work. Mine didn’t (despite being refunded a second card). And I didn’t get my money back. I’ve never had such problems at Java on Fourth. ‘Tis nice to see a trend-setter like Starbucks finally catching up with the other coffee shops.

Question: When and where did you last use wi-fi at a place other than your home?