I'm of many minds when it comes to Starbucks.
The underdog in me wants them to be malevolent just because they are colossal, which is not really fair on my part. I'm only concerned with the size of an institution when it also uses unfair business practices and exploits its workers. However, I'm also not alarmist, and I haven't seen any legitimate proof of corruption in excess, and like Microsoft and McDonald's, sometimes the negativity tends to be just a tad overblown.
I'm also not concerned with overpriced drinks, because this is the new version of a soda fountain, and a caffeine version of a bar. The Renaissance began with the switch from alcohol to coffee, Jane Austin's characters hang out at coffee bars, so I am at home with the idea that people can sit around and drink expensive snobbish concoctions while indulging in voyeurism. They occasionally play the Beatles, and if I'm lucky, I can sit on a couch with my honey, while she blathers at me about something she's thinking about.
Do I like the Mom-and-Pop alternatives? Absolutely. But Coffee Society is five miles away, and Emily's is in Santa Cruz. In contrast, I can walk the kids the two blocks to Starbucks.
In addition, I've always gotten nothing less than perfect quality from a Starbucks, while other places have been less than good. (Not the ones mentioned, but other places. Not naming names, but my wife can't stand your hot chocolate. You know who you are.)
So all in all, I enjoy going to Starbucks, though I feel a tad guilty every time I go, especially when I think about all of the hippies sleeping in trees as I throw away my paper cup, and when I see that the barista has a headset for the drive through.
Then I shudder, if only for a moment.