Monday, August 04, 2008

Starbucks rip-offs

Ripping off other peoples' ideas is a national pastime in Japan. But I must admit that I am tired of seeing companies here try to just mimic success instead of developing new ideas and creating a diverse market.

Hmmmm...doesn't that lettering look similar...and the logo...and the menu...(and the colour, if you were around before they changed the logo to avoid getting sued into oblivion)! Yes, Excelsior is guilty of copying the Starbucks logo...literally, guilty as charged. Starbucks was going to take them to court as per this article in the Japan times. So they had to change their colour from a "try-to-look-like-Starbucks-green" to the current shade of "avoid-a-lawsuit-blue."

It was all pretty funny when they first opened. About 8 years ago, I was meeting my buddy in Roppongi. I was waiting in Starbucks when he called to ask why I was late. I said, "Where are you?" He said he was in Starbucks. I looked and didn't see him, but he insisted he was in Starbucks. I asked him to read the logo in the shop and he said, "Why does the Starbucks sign say 'Excelsior?'" Get a new logo will you, jackasses!

Actually, Excelsior coffee used to suck, but it's not so bad now. AND you can buy a beer and sit outside and enjoy it. I guess all of this new quality came when they decided to change the colours on their logo and do something eeeeever so slightly original. When they first opened, all they had was the logo, and a menu photocopied from Starbucks. The shops were smokey and dingy, and the coffee machines they used were those little plastic automatic jobs that make coffee that tastes like the oil leaking from my car. Now they use real live coffee machines. It's not complete shite now.

Then came Tully's coffee. They were the first to have an original logo, and the coffee doesn't suck as bad as Excelsior. But they are just as guilty of stifled creativity. They have an almost identical menu of coffee drinks and snacks -- and the prices are identical pretty much to the last yen as Starbucks. I guess they haven't realized that Starbucks is the star of the industry, so they would be smart to try to just be a little cheaper. But who said that Japanese companies were smart. With 110 million people who tend not to bitch about things as much as I do, they have plenty of people who won't notice the difference.

Not that I'm absolving Starbucks Japan of their own lack of creativity and insanely high prices. Starbucks in Japan is such a rip off, they should be bitch slapped on a daily basis. And talk about a limited menu. Last time I was in Victoria in Canada the Starbucks had decent coffee, reasonable pricing, and some amazing snack foods, including a lot of healthy low-fat choices. In Japan, you get cookies and cakes and chocolate -- but only if you can afford it, and only if you have your insulin shot ready to inject.

But I'm still a fan of Starbucks, who's kidding who! Now who's going to run out and get me a foofy no-fat latte!