Tuesday, August 18, 2009
DUNKIN' DON'T: TEN REASONS TO AVOID DUNKIN' DONUTS
Considering the amount of coffee Americans consume and the social, environmental, and economic impact of coffee production and sales, choosing the best coffee house is a very important decision. So I feel compelled to explain definitively why you should NOT choose Dunkin Donuts, the nation's largest coffee retailer with over 8,800 locations worldwide and sales of over 6.9 billion in 2008. The advantages of large chains are well documented (availability, consistency, prices) but here are ten reasons that should persuade you to avoid Dunkin Donuts altogether: (in no particular order)
1.Dunkin Donuts coffee is not fair trade. While their espresso drinks are fair trade, their coffee is NOT. Espresso drinks make up approximately 10% of their total business so the impact of using fair trade espresso is big, but nothing in comparison to the impact the nation's largest coffee retailer could make by brewing fair trade coffee. Paying foreign farmers a fair wage would only cost DD a few pennies on the pound, but it can make an enormous difference to the farmers' families and countries. Why fair trade? Click here.
2.Eating Dunkin Donuts products makes you fat. Now this isn't necessarily DD's fault, it's our responsibility to eat well, but it's not like they make any food/drinks that are remotely good for you. Their donuts and breakfast foods still contain small amounts of trans fats (anything under a half-gram is considered 0 grams so their foods have just under a half gram of trans fats) and their coffee drinks, which should contain very few calories/fat are loaded. According to the nutritional information on their site:
-A large 32 oz. DD iced coffee w/regular cream and sugar contains 240cal/8g saturated fat (12g total fat)
-A large Iced Mocha swirl latte (32 oz)= 440 cal
-A plain bagel contains 300 cal and w/cream cheese 450 calories
-A crème filled donut contains 310 cal/16 g fat.
3. Dunkin' Donuts is the coffee equivalent of conservativism. I realize it seems difficult to connect a retailer to political ideologies, but DD's ad campaigns and political stances (there are few of them) suggest their support for the conservative side of things. (if you're a conservative, more power to you) Historically, 78% of Dunkin Brands/Allied Domecq/Bain Capital (former and current owners) political contributions go to Republicans (though private equity firms usually favor the GOP and lately they've been mostly split) Their advertisements consistently attack Starbucks/local coffee houses as being snooty, elitist and connect non-english words (see #10) with these negative stereotypes to garner support from more conservative/supposedly working class Americans. For example, ads in late 2008 stated that more "hardworking Americans" prefer Dunkin Donuts coffee over Starbucks, which sounds suspiciously like campaign ads for Republican candidates over the years. I realize the company is simply out to make a buck and the “hardworking”, xenophobic people of the U.S. make up an untapped market for coffee, but how far are they willing to go to cater to them? In 2008, they pulled an ad starring Rachel Ray (don't get me started) in which she wore a scarf that vaguely resembled a traditional keffiyeh ( men's scarf loosely associated with Palestinian/Jordanian nationalism) because it apparently symbolized Palestinian/Arab “terrorism and jihad” to brain dead conservative political pundits like Michelle Melkin. (note: the keffiyeh, worn since the 30's throughout the Middle East including the Jewish people, couldn't possibly be used to keep cool/clean in arid climates or wrapped up as turbans. And for the record, Palestinian nationalism does not mean jihad either)
4.DD is cheap, but not that cheap and you get what you pay for. DD products are generally 5 to 10 cents less expensive than the two local establishments I frequent in Portsmouth and Dover, NH (I can't comment on coffee houses elsewhere) A large DD iced coffee is $2.54 and the average cost of a local large iced (Breaking New Grounds in Portsmouth and Adelle's in Dover*) is about $2.65 for a large FAIR TRADE iced coffee (definitely worth the extra 10 cents!) Now, if you drink DD coffee every week day for a year, you'd save a whopping 25$ a year. So their famous slogan “It's breakfast, not broke-fast” is accurate only if you ignore foreign farmers' struggles to feed their families and/or your hospital bills from the heart attack you'll have from eating/drinking their food.
6.DD's customer service, coffee and food isn't worth even the shortest drive. Low paying positions and poor work conditions guarantee poor service from young workers who don't know jack about a decent cup of coffee or breakfast food. The customer service disasters are well documented, but your in-house experience doesn't stop there. The often drab and dirty atmosphere must be unsettling to those people ordering items beyond coffee. Or perhaps not, the egg on your bagel or croissant is a frozen patty that gets marginally tastier with the additional American cheese and a long trip in the microwave. None of the food is cooked in house, its all frozen and nuked or, like the doughnuts, made at a production facility. They don't even put your cream cheese or peanut butter on your bagel for you (it comes with a plastic knife and individually packaged condiments.. see environmental practices below) With all that said, the coffee isn't bad, but it's not worth seeking out either.
7.DD costs taxpayers millions of dollars because they won't give their employees decent wages or healthcare. In 2008, their 1,950 uninsured employees in Massachusetts cost tax payers almost 8 million for state subsidized health care costs. This number is larger than even Wal-Mart and #1 on the list of self reported state subsidized care in Massachusetts.
8.DD strongarms the very franchisees that provide their products to America. Many people talk about the company being “owned” by franchisees, but this simply is not the case. There is an entity that makes stringent rules for all the stores, step out of line in the slightest way and you'll be fined hundreds of thousands of dollars. Since 2006, 144 franchisees have been sued by their beloved parent company. Since DD is always expanding, it should come as no surprise that they try to get rid of franchisees who own a small number of stores since they typically don't have the capital to expand quickly. Unfortunately, many of them are immigrants and lose their livelihoods at the hands of DD.
8.DD is not an environmentally friendly company. Despite wide-spread awareness of the environment problems polystyrene has caused, Dunkin' Donuts still use styrofoam cups for their medium and large hot coffee drinks (that millions of cups a day) Styrofoam (technically, a plastic) is made from petroleum (non-renewable resource) is not recyclable and in addition to being a health risk when it contains hot items, is filling up land-fills all over the U.S. Even McDonald's stopped using styrofoam years ago. DD also use a ridiculous amount of unnecessary plastic packaging, even providing individually packaged servings of peanut butter, cream cheese, coffee creams, etc.
9.DD puts local shops out of business and promotes the homogenization of coffee in America. All the coffee Americans buy at DD means less coffee purchased at local, more socially and environmentally friendly shops who provide a community social scene and different (or should I say better?) coffee. These community hubs may showcase music or art and (sometimes) intelligent conversation and a place to meet new people. DD destroys the community by taking business from these local shops and because they don't foster the same atmosphere in their stores. (to put it mildly)
10.They don't understand the English language or world history. Their commercials claim "Delicious lattes from Dunkin' Donuts. You order them in English." This is an attempted shot at Starbucks and snobby coffee drinkers sure, but the commercial's xenophobic tone seems to deny the origin of coffee and it's just plain ignorant. Latte is an Italian word, so you can't order it in English since there is no equivalent in our language. Coffee originated in Arab countries, but Italy was the first European country to drink it and subsequently made several changes to the drink that are still around today. (Lattes being one of them) I'm aware that DD is smartly staking the claim to the down-home “common man's latte,” but read #3 for more on that. Also, since when is DOUGHNUT spelled DONUT?
NOTE: I am not suggesting that people who know and love DD are bad people and if you are one of them, then this probably won't change your view of the company. However, other people trying to make a wholly informed decision on where to purchase coffee may find this entry helpful as these points are not as widely known as they could/should be. Further, this entry is not a declaration of support for Starbucks and I don't necessarily suggest them as an alternative to DD. (though they are generally more socially/environmentally responsible)
*The opinions on this blog may not reflect the positions of these local coffee shops and they should not be connected in any way with my commentary.