By now everyone’s heard of the Dumb Starbucks store in Los Angeles that drew so much attention on social media. It’s no surprise people took such an interest in the parody shop, considering that deep down everyone hates Starbucks at least a little bit.Don’t pretend like you’re not slightly embarrassed every time you say our order aloud.
Dumb Starbucks was the perfect way to make fun of the coffee kingpin that can’t be escaped, which is why it’s so unfortunate it was shut down in February. It’s funny, too, that the store was forced to close because it did not have a valid health code permit when it sported the same logo, menu and structural appearance as an actual Starbucks store.
It was really just a matter of time before the Dumb dream came to an end. The store was riding a fine line of legal language, claiming to exist strictly as a parody of Starbucks. Technically it was an ‘art gallery’, the coffee being the ‘art.’ The only way the store could legally remain functioning is if its sole purpose were to make fun of Starbucks. (How fantastic would that have been?) Unfortunately, the store was indeed a business and needed to make money like any other.
And it’s not like Starbucks didn’t know about it. Had the store not been closed down due to other reasons, Starbucks’ lawyers would have intervened. The LA store had copyright infringement written all over it. Literally. The real question everyone wants to know is who was behind this? Was it just a stunt, or was it a comment on the dominance of corporate chains in America? Nathan Fielder revealed himself as CEO of Dumb Starbucks after making an announcement in person at the store, explaining to customers what it was. Fielder is probably best known for his roles in various comedic productions with more recognized comedians like H. Jon Benjamin and Demetri Martin. It turns out Dumb Starbucks was really just a prank pulled for Fielder’s TV show “Nathan For You,” which airs on Comedy Central.So it was just a stunt, and not a slap in the face of big business like many had hoped it might be.
Still, people couldn’t help but take interest in the spectacle. While it was still open, the store continually drew lines that extended out of the store and around the block. A local Los Angeles TV station found people that had driven from as far as Portland to visit Dumb Starbucks. And most people told reporters the coffee was hardly desirable. But a crappy cup of coffee is worth participating in a little mockery of America’s most popular coffee shop.
Just because it was a stunt for a TV show doesn’t mean Dumb Starbucks doesn’t have its political implications. Intended or not, it has made people question the dominance of incorporated chains, even in the coffee business. At the very least, people are thinking about it. Local stores are always feeling the pressure that big business imposes on them. Sure, this time there was a blatant copyright infringement, though the legality of the store’s existence didn’t seem to be a real concern to Fielder. But it’s amazing how far nationally recognized chains will go to protect their image or name and prevent even the slightest marketing associations small stores may have with them. Often times they force those local establishments to shut down despite the fact they’re hardly taking away business from the chain.
Dumb Starbucks didn’t exactly have the smartest game plan, as one might have expected, but surely the owners of those small mom and pop shops are silently applauding the effort. It gave us all a good laugh while it lasted, but back to Starbucks we go.
by MATTHEW SIMONS / staff writer