I decided to set out a place to first begin my observations without knowing what really to expect on what I would find. I came across a Starbucks that was near my home that was fairly empty compared to another one I had been at just a few days before. The Starbucks near my gym is in the corner of El Segundo Ave. and Hawthorne Blvd. in Hawthorne, CA and is in a busy street. I decided to compare this Starbucks location to the one nearby Cal State LA. It gave me an opportunity to observe subjects that I would consider different from myself and my values. As an anthropologist conducting an observation, it was poor of me to assume both locations would be similar but quickly had to avoid any biased ideas that I had of these two locations.
To blend in with my surroundings, I first decided to order a “venti pink drink”, also known as a “large pink drink”. Starbucks is the only location I know that they do not incorporate the typical; small, medium, and large cup sizes. This takes a while for one to get used to since many of the sizes sound like if you are only familiar with its Latin roots. After receiving my drink, I sat in a booth towards the corner of each location and began observing.
I first arrived at the location near Cal State LA during a busy school day during the schools “Dead Week” for finals. I figured the environment would be interesting to observe how differently it would be compared to one that is not necessarily with a school atmosphere. After being at this Starbucks for around fifteen minutes I decided I had enough to draw out my surroundings. The location was like any ordinary Starbucks. It has booths one can sit at and look out the window and get a view of the street and drive thru. There were twelve tables with four chairs on each one for anyone who would like to sit down with a group and get some studying in. there were these small stands where baristas would place a drink and someone would just walk in and take said drink without the need to get in line. After this, I began my observations of the people. Gender was not really a factor in here since many of the people coming in were just at random sitting down to grab a seat and get schoolwork done. From the people who walked in, only 3 were driving while the rest walked in on foot or just happened to have parked far instead of the open parking spots at the front of the store. Around 85% of the people who walked in had a backpack on which led me to believe they were all students at Cal State LA. Most contained a laptop or books inside their backpacks that they would pull out after taking a seat. Many would order and then take a seat and start studying right away. They were clearly focused and avoiding any distractions. The atmosphere was very quiet but at the same time very chaotic since there was a lot of people in this location all stressing in a way with the overload of work they have coming up or already struggling with. This focus the students had did not allow for much communication to take place so language could not really be taken aside from the ordering of the drinks in English.
I observed both locations at the same times. I figured people go for their morning cup of coffee, so I decided to observe both locations at 7am. Most of the behavior I observed at the Hawthorne location was a very casual and relaxed. The style and overall look of the Starbucks was very similar to the Cal State LA location. This location did not however have the drive thru or even the booth looking out the window and just consisted of tables and seats. Most of the people seemed to all be friendly in groups engaging with one another and enjoying their beverages. Sitting in circles conversating at a low volume. The energy was definitely less tense since people at this location were more focused on the drink, not the schoolwork. Once in a while you would get that someone that would recognize another fellow customer and they would proceed to great each other with a handshake meaning they are mutual and often seen each other before. Language was very diverse at this location. In the surrounding area, the community is very diverse with plenty of races in the city’s demographic. This allows for the opportunities to listen to languages such as Spanish and even ASL during my time of this ethnographic observation which caught my eye.
Overall, I have to say that for the most part of my biased ideas was reinforced which is consistent with what I figured would be the case. I was not able to fully understand my subjects and engage with them, I only observed how they behaved in that instance which may have been completely out their norm and even their first time at Starbucks.