Showing posts with label Starbucks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Starbucks. Show all posts

Saturday, October 7, 2017

A Halo Next to Starbucks in Zhongshan

For a change of pace from the "Starbucks Coeeff" store, here is a large Starbucks store with a sign spelling "coffee" correctly:

Starbucks and Halo stores at the Dasin Metro-Mall (大信新都汇) in Zhongshan

What more caught my eye about this Starbucks at the Dasin Metro-Mall (大信新都汇) in Zhongshan was its prominent neighbor — Halo Cafe, which also sells coffee.

Earlier the same day, I had notice another Halo Cafe at the Central Power Plaza (兴中广场) shopping mall.

Halo Cafe at Central Power Plaza (兴中广场) in Zhongshan

Their storefront sign has "coffee" spelled correctly, and there is rooftop seating. So at least the basics seemed in order. There is a Starbucks near this store as well but in another section of the mall.

I don't have more to say about this competitor for Starbucks in Zhongshan other than I haven't found any evidence it is connected to the Halo Cafe in Taipei (review in Chinese), the Halo Cafe in Dublin, the Halo Cafe in Kota Kinabalu, the Halo Cafe in Clinton, South Carolina, or any of the other Halo Cafes around the world I have just found online. Together, all those Halo Cafes offer quite a variety of food though.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

A "Starbucks Coeeff" Store in Guangzhou, China

About a month ago when I visited the China Plaza shopping mall in Guangzhou, I saw that one of the two Starbucks stores there was under renovation.

Starbucks with "Starbucks Coeeff" storefront sign at China Plaza in Guangzhou

To my surprise, I soon noticed something far more remarkable about the store — its storefront sign.

Starbucks with "Starbucks Coeeff" storefront sign at China Plaza in Guangzhou
Mmm.... coeff

A new Starbucks store with "Grond Open" signs outside as I had seen earlier this year in Bengbu is one thing. A Starbucks store with "coffee" spelled as "coeeff" on its most prominent sign is a much bigger thing. And while imitators are easy to find in China, this isn't a case of a non-Starbucks store with a strikingly similar name or a fake sign for an empty store. Starbucks lists this store on their website.

So along with some other questions, I wondered "Has the sign always been like that?"

I knew I had taken photographs inside the mall before, so I did some digging. Fortunately for me, I had a useful photo from earlier this year. Fortunately for Starbucks, "coffee" was spelled correctly back then.

Starbucks at China Plaza in Guangzhou in March 2017
China Plaza, March 2017

Out of curiosity, I continued digging and found a photo from over five years ago.

Starbucks at China Plaza in Guangzhou in January 2012
China Plaza, January 2012

Even in this previous version of the sign, "coffee" had been spelled correctly.

But if the sign was spelled correctly before, how did the misspelling later occur? Was it the result of a prank? If the letter "v" had been available, would the sign be "Starbucks Covfefe" instead?

I don't know the answers to these questions. But I do know that when I more recently stopped by China Plaza I discovered the Starbucks store had reopened and the sign had been fixed.

Starbucks with "Starbucks Coffee" storefront sign at China Plaza in Guangzhou
No coeeff today

I will refrain from congratulating an American coffeehouse chain for correctly spelling "coffee". If Starbucks ever officially puts coeeff on the menu, though, I will be tempted to try it.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Holiday Patriotism and Mooncakes in Zhongshan

Today at the Dasin Metro-Mall (大信新都汇) in Zhongshan there were patriotic signs of the ongoing National Day holiday.

patriotic flag and star display at the Dasin Metro-Mall in Zhongshan, China

Chinese flag at the Dasin Metro-Mall

Today is also the Mid-Autumn Festival. Like elsewhere in Zhongshan, the conjunction of holidays apparently inspired some "Buy One Get One Free" sales at the mall. Perhaps because of the overlap, I noticed just one sign which only mentioned today's holiday.

sign with "Happyiness mid-autumn festival"

Mooncakes are a popular feature of the Mid-Autumn Festival. Unlike last year, this year I have no sightings of Hello Kitty mooncakes or mooncakes for dogs & cats to share. I saw both of those in Macau, so maybe a short trip would have fixed that.

Instead, for some mooncake spirit here is a photo of an advertisement for mooncakes from Starbucks at Lihe Plaza in Zhongshan:

Starbucks ad for its Mid-Autumn Festival mooncakes

A single Starbucks mooncake costs 59 yuan (which at the moment equals U.S. $8.88 — how lucky). A barista pointed out it came in a fancy box which looks like a lantern. It isn't hard to find even pricier mooncakes for sale in China.

Or you could go somewhere like Walmart and buy tiny mooncakes for about 2 yuan (about U.S. 30 cents) each. The ones with black sesame filling and salted egg yolk aren't bad.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Dutch and Tolkien Possibilities for the Starbucks Grond in Bengbu

In regards to the "Grond Open" sign displayed on the opening day of a Starbucks in Bengbu, one reader pointed out that "grond" is a word in Dutch. I had noticed that as well. But since the word translates to "ground" in English and the Dutch phrase for "grand opening" is "grote opening", I didn't see strong reason to believe the sign was a result of the Dutch language.

Another reader excitedly (I imagine) shared that Grond is the name of a battering ram in the novel The Lord of the Rings. Author J.R.R. Tolkien wrote:
Great engines crawled across the field; and in the midst was a huge ram, great as a forest-tree a hundred feet in length, swinging on mighty chains. Long had it been forging in the dark smithies of Mordor, and its hideous head, founded of black steel, was shaped in the likeness of a ravening wolf; on it spells of ruin lay. Grond they named it, in memory of the Hammer of the Underworld of old. Great beasts drew it, orcs surrounded it, and behind walked mountain-trolls to wield it.
Here is how Grond was depicted in the movie The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) directed by Peter Jackson:

Battering ram Grond in the movie The Return of the King
Source: Lord of the Rings Wiki

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence and all, but I feel safe saying there wasn't a gigantic battering ram at the Starbucks nor were there images of Grond in any promotional signs. Perhaps Starbucks should consider it for the future, though.

Although the Dutch language and a fictional battering ram may not explain the "Grond Open" sign, along with the conversations about the sign I had with people at the Starbucks they are indicative of the various paths and questions that can be raised when trying to identify the cause of English which appears to be incorrect or unusual in some way in China. As one reader who has much experience in translating Chinese text to English mentioned, looking for explanations often leads one down a rabbit hole. Sometimes it even leads to a Grond hole.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Trying to Explain the Starbuck's "Grond Open" Sign

In a comment about the sign with incorrect English — "Grond Open" — for a Starbucks on its opening day in Bengbu, Potomacker suggested reasons why English errors on signs are more common in China than in Singapore and included this as a factor:
I'm very confident that more than one employee at this new franchise can read English and recognize the error. But to speak up has no upsides and only downsides. It means that the manager must reorder the signs (more work); the printer must admit that he has no quality control (loss of face); there is a delay in getting a corrected sign on display (horrors, a potential loss of income!) Whereas a Singaporean business owner might express gratitude to a stranger pointing out an English error in a business text, a mainland employee who catches a similar mistake has learned by example to just keep silent and pretend that everything is perfect.
In reply, I will share two relevant conversations I had at the Starbucks along with some impressions. I don't have answers to some of the questions they raise, part of why I don't feel like I know why this "Grond Open" mistake occurred and why it was allowed to be displayed.

While I was taking a photo of the outdoor sign, a young Chinese man who had been sitting inside approached me and asked me a few questions. His family lived in Bengbu, he spoke English, and he had studied for the past year in Toronto, where he would return once school was back in session. I took the opportunity to ask him whether he noticed anything wrong about the sign. He said he didn't, so I asked him to read the English words. What he said sounded like "ground open". After I asked him what it meant, he appeared genuinely confused as he looked at the sign and said he didn't know. This struck me since people in China who have studied English are typically more skilled in written English than spoken English. Also, the Chinese text immediately below could have acted as a cue to what the English text should have been.

I also showed a photo of the sign to one of the Starbucks employees who spoke at least some English and asked her what she thought of it. She recognized the sign and pointed out it was for their first day. When I asked if there was anything wrong with the English on the sign, a deliberately leading question, she said "no" and smiled. Based in part on her expression, I wasn't convinced she hadn't noticed a problem. My past experience interviewing people in China led me to believe I wouldn't be able to effectively and comfortably explore the matter in the present environment, so I didn't pursue it. After I pointed out that "Grond Open" was a mistake, she explained the sign had been made by a local company.

These are conversations with just two people, but already there is plenty to consider and ask.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Two Examples of Localization With Differing Results: Starbucks and Uber

Multinational companies grant vary degrees of independence to regional teams. One reason for increased independence is to enable the company to best adjust to local conditions. One piece about how this can work out and one piece about how this can go awry:

1. Keeping with the recent Starbucks theme here . . . Russell Flannery shares some thoughts from Belinda Wong, the country CEO for Starbucks in China, about the freedom they have to localize the Starbucks experience there:
Overall, the localization effort seems more subtle than overwhelming, making its approach "similar but not so similar" to what the company does in the U.S., Wong says. "I have to think about where you live, where you work and how you travel," she says. "This has to speak to you and not to folks in other countries. I like the fact that we are not the kind of the company that enforces what has to be done in the U.S. to be in China, and I think that forms part of why we are successful in China: because we are able to make sure that everything is developed in China with the Chinese consumers in mind."
2. In a in-depth story of how Uber knowingly rented unsafe recalled vehicles to many of its drivers in Singapore (link briefly goes through Twitter*), Douglas MacMillan and Newley Purnell detail how the desire to localize headed in the wrong direction:
Singapore in 2013 was Uber’s first Asian city, a beachhead for expansion. Uber however struggled to find enough drivers, documents show. The cost of owning a car there is among the highest in the world.

Uber created a unit, Lion City Rentals Pte Ltd., or LCR, in February 2015 to rent Uber-owned cars to drivers for about $50 a day. Buying a fleet of cars was new for Uber, whose business model relies on not owning assets. . . .

Rather than buy most new vehicles from authorized Honda and Toyota Motor Corp. dealers, Uber’s LCR unit bought new sedans and SUVs from more than a dozen auto importers, the emails show. These small dealers operate in the gray market—a legal channel outside manufacturers’ authorized networks—where safety, service and legal contracts are difficult to enforce. The Singapore team calculated it would be able to buy cars for 12% less than at authorized Honda dealers, according to the emails.
The fascinating piece captures how things went downhill from there in a variety of ways.

*I used a Twitter generated link because the Wall Street Journal offers free access to its articles if visited from there and some other sites as well. Otherwise, a paywall may appear for some readers. I could achieve the same effect by embedding a tweet here. I will share some thoughts about this practice in a later post. The tweet that generated the link is here. The direct link to the article is here.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

China's Struggles With English: A Starbucks "Grond Open" in Bengbu

While signs of Starbucks localizations aren't hard to spot in China, such as its red bean scones, one sign displayed on the opening day for the second Starbucks in Bengbu probably isn't how Starbucks wants to adapt in China.

"Grond Open" presumably resulted from a combination of spelling and grammatical errors in translating the Chinese phrase below "盛大开业", which is typically translated as "Grand Opening". When I asked staff about the sign, one young woman told me it had been made by a local company in Bengbu. While them using a local printer doesn't surprise me, with Starbucks opening more than a store per day on average in China I would still expect them to use a design distributed by Starbucks' central corporate office in China. But perhaps displaying a grand opening sign isn't standard and Starbucks corporate hadn't planned for a store to take this route. The last time I saw a Starbucks store on its first day was over six years ago in Kunming, so I can't say from personal experience whether grand opening signs are common or not. A quick online search didn't turn up any similar examples from Starbucks elsewhere in China.

English mistakes like "Grond Open" on professionally made signs, displays, menus, etc. are rather easy to find in China, and the Chinese government wants to reduce their prevalence. It seems fair to have higher expectations in this regard for U.S. based chains, particularly one as successful, prominent, and internationally experienced as Starbucks. That even they slip up suggests it might be a while before such mistakes become a rare sight.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Just Another Day in China: Starbucks Opens 2nd Store in Bengbu

For several weeks, the status of the second Starbucks in Bengbu hasn't been clear. This afternoon I had reason to stop by the Intime City (银泰城) shopping center and discovered the store is now finally open — part of Starbucks opening more than a store a day on average in China. I didn't have plans for a caffeine boost, but I decided to check things out and immerse myself in the experience.

Staff excitedly told me it was their first day of operations. They hadn't opened earlier because some supplies and equipment hadn't yet arrived.

As at Starbucks elsewhere in China, many of the staff wore name tags displaying English names. Typically some of the names are more creative and wouldn't be common in western countries. The name used by the young woman who took my order fit in this category.

Starbucks nametag with "Lonely 石"

In short, the coffee tasted just like the coffee at the Starbucks 1000 meters down the street and other Starbucks much farther away. Although at the moment this location doesn't appear in the store finder for Starbucks in China, it seems safe to say the store isn't a fake. It was about one third to one half full of paying customers while I was there. At times there was a line at the counter, but at other times you could roll right up to place an order.

young woman on skateboard at a Starbucks counter

While this Starbucks reflects Bengbu's recent growth to a degree, what's reflected off of the front of the store will say more about Bengbu's future.

under-construction buildings reflecting off of the front of a Starbucks store in Bengbu

Many residential and commercial building projects are currently underway in Bengbu. Many, many, many. They raise serious questions which also apply to other cities in China. More about that later.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Bengbu Experiencing Starbucks' Expansion in China

I have been to a number of cities in China where Starbucks can't be found, such as Ganzhou, Mudanjiang, and Shaoguan. Yet Starbucks' growing reach in China has been readily apparent, whether by coming across their first stores in cities such as Hengyang, Kunming, and Xiangtan or knowing they have opened in cities such as Lanzhou, Yanji, and Zhanjiang since I last visited them. Loosely based on these experiences, when I recently arrived in Bengbu I didn't expect to find a Starbucks here. I didn't even bother to check if one existed.

But I still found one.

Starbucks at the Bengbu Wanda Plaza (星巴克 — 蚌埠万达广场)

Prominently situated at the Wanda Plaza (万达广场) shopping center, the store opened about six months ago.

Inside the Starbucks at the Bengbu Wanda Plaza

For those now thinking of making a pilgrimage to Bengbu for mug, a warning: unlike many places elsewhere in China, no city-specifc mugs are available at the moment.

"China" labeled Starbucks mugs

Soon after finding this Starbucks, I saw that another Starbucks will open only 1000 meters away at the Intime City (银泰城) shopping center.

Under construction Starbucks at Intime City (银泰城) in Bengbu

Five days ago I watched workers place the letters for the storefront sign.

workers putting up lettes for a Starbucks storefront sign in Bengbu

Since then, the state of the store hasn't been as clear.

Starbucks at Intime City in Bengbu (星巴克 — 蚌埠银泰城)

The outdoor coverings are gone and there is nothing external to indicate the store isn't open. Sometimes, as in the above photo, the door is even left open. This seems to scream "we're open", but they aren't. I have seen multiple people approach the outside door only to find it locked or to open it and discover a Starbucks with a ladder standing in the middle of the floor, empty shelves, and no baristas at work. This experience doesn't strike me as what Starbucks should want to deliver. When I asked a Starbucks employee at the other store when the Intime City location would open she said she wasn't sure and suggested I wait a bit.

Whatever the story, the already-open Starbucks seems to be doing well and presumably, someday, the other will open as well. It isn't obvious whether this says more about the growth of Bengbu, which like many Chinese cities has undergone much change over recent years, or Starbucks, which also has stores in nearby cities including Hefei, Suqian, and Xuzhou. But both Bengbu and Starbucks appear to be enjoying the arrangement.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Bowing and Waving: Contrasting Statues of Japanese Prime Ministers in China

Steve George, a journalist for CNN International, recently commented on a photo of a statue at a mall in Northeast China.

statue of Abe Shinzo with a Hitler-style mustache and bowing

I wasn't surprised to see how Shinzo was depicted or to later discover that the mall is in Shenyang, where six years ago I saw rows of statues depicting the "disgraceful end of the Japanese aggressors" — all in a similar pose — at a museum.

However, the photo also reminded me of a contrasting set of statues I saw several weeks ago between a Starbucks and a Burger King at the ICITY shopping center in Dalian, another city in Liaoning province.

The statues of five world leaders, past and present, were all clearly labeled.

statue of Barack Obama in Dalian, China
"President of the U.S.: Barack Obama"

statue of Nicolas Sarkozy in Dalian, China
"President of France: Nicolas Sarkozy"

statue of Vladimir Putin in Dalian, China
"Prime Minister of Russia: Vladimir Putin"

statue of Bill Clinton in Dalian, China
"President of the U.S.: Bill Clinton"

statue of Junichiro Koizumi in Dalian, China
"Prime Minister of Japan: Junichiro Koizumi"

Obama and Putin were the only current leaders of the set, and Putin is now the President of Russia. It was the statue of the previous Prime Minister of Japan which most caught my eye. Unlike the statue in Shenyang, the design showed no sign of humiliation or apology. Or even a Hitler mustache. Instead, the statue of Koizumi was on equal footing with the others and greeted shoppers as they exited one of the two facing elevators.

elevator doors at the ICITY shopping center in Dalian, China

The statue in Shenyang reflects the anti-Japanese sentiment common in China. But as Chinese traveling to Japan during a Victory Over Japan holiday last year indicated, the full story of Chinese attitudes towards the country and its people is complicated. The statue of the Japanese prime minister in Dalian appears to be representative of a more positive side.

Koizumi did have some small scruff marks though.

statues of world leaders at a mall in Dalian, China

Sunday, May 3, 2015

To See or be Seen in Hengyang

Some of the seats at the Starbucks in Hengyang, Hunan:

seats facing a window at Starbucks in Hengyang

man and woman looking out a window at Starbucks in Hengyang

The view may not seem special, but that doesn't have to be the point.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Starbucks Experience Now Available in Hengyang

Last year I saw a clear sign at a large shopping mall that Hengyang would soon have its first Starbucks.
A Starbucks shop under construction at a shopping center in Hengyang

Starbucks would offer an experience not available in Hengyang I could see people were craving, and I had little doubt this store would be a success. When I returned to Hengyang this month, the store was open.

Starbucks in Hengyang, Hunan

On one Thursday afternoon, people apparently not enjoying Starbucks products occupied most of the outside space, but customers took up much of the available seating area inside.

people inside the Starbucks in Hengyang, Hunan

While the store represents some of Starbucks incredible growth in China, it is also another sign of how Hengyang is changing. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

A Starbucks Experience on a Zhanjiang Student's Mobile Phone

While meeting the students at Zhanjiang Normal University who, to varying degrees, were cleaning up a grassy area, I saw that one student's mobile phone had a notable image prominently featured.

female Chinese university student holding a Samsung mobile phone displaying a photograph of two drinks in Starbucks cups

I found it notable partly because Zhanjiang does not have any Starbucks stores. But the photo represents a genuine Starbucks experience, something I suspect both the student and Starbucks appreciate, and she took the photo at one of the many Starbucks in Shenzhen, where her family lives.

At least for the moment, the photo likely sets her apart from many other students at her university. But soon they and the girl I saw wearing the Starbucks Gangnam Style shirt will have more of an opportunity to have their own genuine experience when a new Starbucks opens in Zhanjiang. I would not be surprised if the occasion leaves a mark on many other mobile phones.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Starbucks Gangnam Style Arrives Before Starbucks in Zhanjiang

According to an outdoor promotional video at a new mall under construction, the first Starbucks in Zhanjiang, Guangdong province, will soon open. But already one can see signs of Starbucks here.

back of a t-shirt with a Gangnam Style Starbucks logo

Possibly inspired by a modified cup, this Gangnam Style Starbucks shirt isn't sold at Starbucks, even in China. However, like the girl in the photo, you can buy it on Taobao. After a quick search, the lowest price I saw is 9.9 RMB (about U.S. $1.60), though a more typical price seems to be around 20 RMB.

With disappointment in her voice, the girl told me she has never been to a Starbucks. She perked up when I told her about the soon-to-open store. I wonder if she knows her Starbucks drink might cost more than her shirt.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Fake But Not So Fake Street in Wuxi, China

In a post on Beijing Cream titled "This Wuxi Street Is The Fakest In China", Bernd Chang shared a photo that has been making the rounds in China:

empty store with Sffcccks Coffee sign from

Chang wrote:
H&N, Zare, Hugo BGSS, SFFCCCKS Coffee: these are just some of the counterfeits of famous brands — not the same as “famous counterfeits”… or is it? — you can find on a shopping street in Wuxi, Jiangsu province...

Maybe it’s a homage.
I would like to add some additional context. First comes from this tweet by Chris Buckley, a reporter for The New York Times:
A key point mentioned by Buckley is that the stores are vacant. That's not to say the signs aren't interesting, but it's a different story than if these were signs for open stores and not possibly just placeholders.

The second piece of additional context comes from the new Kaifu Wanda Plaza I recently visited in Changsha. In the "pedestrian promenade" which surrounds the main building, I saw a number of similar signs imitating popular brands. For example:

Vacant store at Kaifu Wanda Plaza in Changsha with "Sterbkcus Coffee" sign

As in Wuxi, all of the signs were for vacant stores. I didn't see any similar examples there for a non-vacant store and the shopping center included a large number of what appeared to be genuine foreign brand stores.

Many examples of non-vacant stores imitating foreign brands can be found in China. I've mentioned two examples here and here specifically for Starbucks. So I question whether Wuxi should be awarded the "fakest street" award. If the signs were for open stores, then it would at least top anything I've come across in China. Otherwise, what I saw in Changsha indicates the street in Wuxi is not very unique.

Monday, November 4, 2013

More on Inspired-by-Starbucks Stores in China

There are two things deserving further attention regarding the previous post in which I shared an example of a cafe in Zigong with a Chinese name that sounds very much like the Chinese name of Starbucks.

1. In a comment to the post, "Pete" wrote:
If you have to explain the joke...

This made me ponder which Chinese brands I'm familiar with. The the three I thought of were Tsingtao, Norinco, and Seagull. I wonder what the far more than 99% of Americans who aren't interested in the combination of beer, guns, and watches would think of.
I don't doubt Pete appreciates that some of this blog's readers can't read Chinese and are not representative of people in Zigong. So the first line in Pete's comment raises the issue of whether people in Zigong who might consider going to this cafe would appreciate "the joke". The short answer is: I don't know, especially since I am not familiar with the brand recognition for Starbucks in Zigong.

But I still consider it likely that the person who came up with the name is familiar with Starbucks. Again, it would be quite a coincidence otherwise. And in conversations I have had with owners of other stores with possible (or clear) examples of trademark infringement, I have found some might be motivated by reasons not necessarily dependent on the familiarity customers may have with a particular brand. Sometimes an imitation of a brand may be more representative of the owner's own likes or aspirations than of an attempt to deceive others to any degree.

The second part of Pete's comment raises the issue of Chinese brand recognition in the U.S. There were reports of a survey conducted by HD Trade Services indicating that 94% of Americans are not able to name a single Chinese band. The link to the original report, provided by a number of publications, does not currently work, and I cannot find the report elsewhere. So I will refrain from commenting on it.

I will just add that some Chinese companies are now more concerned about whether Chinese consumers think a brand is well-known abroad than whether the brand is actually well-known abroad. One example I have previously mentioned involved a company advertising in London primarily for the perception it provided in China. I will discuss a potential new example in a later post.

2. Some readers may be curious about the stores I saw that "would likely be of more interest to lawyers at Starbucks". So here is one I saw three year ago which quickly came to mind:

Sutarbucks Coffee in Yanji, Jilin province, China

Yes, despite the Korean writing, this Sutarbucks Coffee store is in China. Korean is common in the city were I found it--Yanji, Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, Jilin province--due to its large population of ethnic Koreans and its proximity to North Korea. Like in Zigong, a genuine Starbucks cannot be found in Yanji. The nearest one is about 5 hours away by car in Changchun. Again, I'm not positive this would count as trademark infringement, but I would be rather surprised if Starbucks wasn't an inspiration.

And Pete might be happy I don't think I need to explain why.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

A Zigong Cafe With a Familiar-Sounding Name

While scrolling through small preview images of photos from Zigong, Sichuan province, I became curious as to why I took a particular photo 2 years ago. About a second after opening it up I laughed and knew what had motivated me. Since it relates to a recent post, I will share it here:

新吧客 (Xinbake) coffee store in Zigong, Sichuan province

For those who don't see why this "drink bar" which sells coffee, milk tea, and fruit juice caught my attention, I'll provide an explanation.

The store featured in a recent post, Starbucks, has the Chinese name 星巴克, which in pinyin with tones is spelled "Xīngbākè". "Xing", which means "star", sounds somewhat similar to "sheeng" and "bake" sounds like "bah kuh" (or "bucks" to a lesser degree). The above store's name is 新吧客, which in pinyin with tones is spelled "Xīnbākè". So although the characters all differ, its name sounds very similar to the Chinese name for Starbucks. The only difference is the "ng" sound instead of "n". Especially given what the store sells and its green coloring, it would be striking if the similarity is a coincidence.

Although the store's name jumped out at me, I am not sure whether this could count as a case of trademark infringement. And I've seen other cafes in China which would likely be of more interest to lawyers at Starbucks due to their similar logos and English names.

Like with other possible changes in Zigong, I'm also not sure if this store is still there. All I know is Zigong currently remains without a genuine Starbucks. The nearest one is several hours away in Chengdu. So Xinbake might be the closest you can get to Starbucks in Zigong.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Starbucks and its Customers Both Paying a Higher Price in China

At a Starbucks in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, I spoke with a number of employees during their team meeting a few days ago.

One of the items on the agenda was planning for the upcoming Halloween holiday. In some ways, the workers reminded me of a young woman I met in Nanning who enjoyed working at another American company--McDonald's.

Starbucks was especially on my mind because it recently had the honor of being the latest foreign company to receive the wrath of the China Central Television Network (CCTV). As Adam Minter wrote in Bloomberg's World View blog:
What did Starbucks Corp. ever do to the Chinese Communist Party?

That’s the question China’s latte-sipping set is asking in the wake of a now-notorious investigation, first aired on national television Sunday, that revealed -- among other examples of allegedly shameless profiteering -- that a tall latte costs about 45 cents more at a Starbucks in Beijing than it does at one in London, and that Starbucks’s profit margins in the Asia-Pacific region exceed those of any other in which the company operates.

The story has dominated China, with major international news media outlets subsequently picking up on it.
Read the rest of Minter's post here. The big issue here isn't Starbucks unfairly charging customers in China more than elsewhere. Instead, the CTTV's report is another example of the additional challenges non-Chinese companies can face in China, even if they are offering something strongly desired by many Chinese consumers and providing better-than-average opportunities for Chinese workers.

Nonetheless, I would welcome another CCTV report on Chinese paying more for a foreign brand's beverage. After all, "imported wines to China are subject to taxes that amount to about 48% of the declared value." That usually works out to costing to a bit more than 45 cents. Wine consumption in China is rapidly growing, so wouldn't many Chinese be happy for foreign wines to cost less? And the tax is entirely controlled by the Chinese government. How can you lose, CCTV?*

*Yes, reducing the tax wouldn't necessarily guarantee a drop in wine prices. But if prices didn't fall after a big change in taxes, CCTV could conduct another investigation!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Christmas Creep in Changsha

Even in Changsha, China, one can find a bit of Christmas creep.

several young men dressed up as Santa Claus for a promotion at a shopping center in Changsha, China
Outside a large shopping center

I am now reminded of my visit to a Starbucks in Shanghai this past July. As I tried to accomplish some work I determined the mood was a bit off. So I asked the staff at the counter why they were playing jazz-style Christmas music.

"This is Christmas music?" one asked.

Since they weren't aware they were creating a Christmas mood, it may not be fair to label it as Christmas creep. I also remember a Hunan restaurant in Shanghai that years ago kept up some Christmas decorations year round. They just liked the look.

After I expressed my confidence about the music's identity to the Starbucks staff, I said nothing more and walked back to my seat.

I was not surprised when about a minute later the music suddenly changed.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Update on Starbucks in Yunnan

A quick update to my earlier post on the first Starbucks to open in Kunming, Yunnan Province, China is in order.

Today was the grand opening and I stopped by for a look:

As you can see the place was packed and there was a line extending out the door.  Later in the day all was the same.

I received some questions from people curious about cost.  For today's exchange rate some sample prices in US Dollars:
  • Tall Brewed Coffee:  $2.31
  • Venti Brewed Coffee:  $4.15
  • Tall Mocha Frappuccino:  $4.61
  • Tall Green Tea Latte:  $4.61
Prices such as these for drinks are relatively quite high for China, and especially Kunming.  For example, milk tea can be easily found for about $1.25 at other trendy tea and dessert stores nearby -- even that is a relatively high price for Kunming.

The fact that Starbucks is so busy with such high prices is a particularly good sign for them and says much about the customers' desires to purchase Starbucks' products.

Finally, I saw yet another sign of how Starbucks has localized for the Chinese market, or I should say "signs":

Signs in Kunming Starbucks' bathroom

Throwing bathroom tissue into a wastebasket can be common in parts of China where the pipes/sewage system isn't able to cope with it.  The second sign is likely due to squat toilets being very common in the region.  I assume some people may attempt to use seat toilets as squat toilets.

I suppose Starbucks has had some experience regarding these issues (and tissues) in the past.