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Really Misguided Downtown Coffee Promotion

(Updated) Posted over at Chicagoist this morning, a today-only promotion of a new chain of coffee counters taking place on North Michigan Avenue at the Equitable Building. For a chain of coffee counters located only in BP gas stations. Which aren’t located within two miles of North Michigan Avenue and the Equitable Building. Can it just be me who thinks this is a silly idea?

For the record, the cofee chain in question is Wild Bean Cafe (lame website alert).

What’s the problem you ask? Well, when you think about it, North Michigan is the (THE) bus corridor for downtown. Most of the folks arriving at work–and walking by this coffee give-away promotion–are getting there by local bus, express bus, L train, Metra. They’re not driving in. These marketing-misguided bean pushers are hawking their coffee to a crowd of people that, during their five-day-a-week commute, will never see a BP gas station unless their bus drives by one.

Living a five-minute walk from Equitable, I took Wild Bean’s bait and walked over for some coffee and questions. First the questions. The promo table was staffed by I-need-to-pay-for-books college types, but one woman stood out, older than the rest. I figured she was the gang leader. I’ll call her Mrs. Bean.

Chicago Carless: “Mrs. Bean, the free coffee is nice and all, but why promote it here? This is the city’s busiest transit street, most people aren’t driving in. These aren’t the people who are going to drink your coffee on a daily basis on their Monday through Friday drive in. Cause they’re not driving in.”

Mrs. Bean: “Well, everybody has to fill up their car sometime. So now when you have to fill up your car, you’ll think about grabbing a cup of coffee, too.”

Chicago Carless: “But if you’re not driving to work five days a week, you’re not filling your car up a lot, either. So these people here at the promotion are going to visit a Wild Bean gas-station coffee shop maybe once or twice a month, right?”

Mrs. Bean: “Um…well they eventually will and then we hope they’ll think about us.”

I don’t know about you, folks, but I know when I think of filling up a gas tank with $3-a-gallon gas, my mind always wanders to thoughts of gourmet coffee. Which, by the way, wasn’t bad. It’s not Starbuck’s, or Caribou, or Canada’s Second Cup. More like a watery Peet’s. Good enough to make me ask Devyn to swerve into a BP on one of our monthly rental-car excursions for a cup? Not really.

For my day-to-day, I’ll stick with Starbuck’s for a treat, White Hen when slumming it, Dunkin’ Donuts when desperate, and my honey’s gourmet brew on the weekend.

The day I’ll actually take notice is once someone gets around to marketing an authentic Portuguese meia de leite.

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Michael Thaddeus Doyle

I'm a NYC-native, Latino, Jew-by-choice, hardcore WDW fan in Chicago with an Irish last name. I believe in social justice, big cities, and public transit. I do nonprofit development. I've written this blog since 2005. Believe in the world you want to live in.

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