I’m Not An Addict

Really, I’m not.  It’s just a little…infatuation.  Harmless.

Oh, who am I kidding?  I LOVE YOU, KIMCHI FRIED RICE.  Screw the rest of the world!  Let’s run away together and shack up on a beach in Goa and spend our days together in  spicy-rice-y-onion-y-cabbage-y bliss!  Of course, this might not be as pleasant for you, since you’re getting eaten and digested every day…  I didn’t say this would be a perfect plan.

In case you can’t tell, I went back to Super H Mart for lunch today and for another helping of their kimchi fried rice.  It’s — in my estimation, at least — the perfect fast food.  You get rice, onions, chunks of thick bacon and cabbage all in a spicy sauce with a fried egg on top.  And it’s served with a side of extra cabbage!  And pickled radish!  And a bowl of onion broth!  What more could you possiby want out of a meal?  NOTHING, I tell you.  NOTHING.

In addition to being the crack dealer to my addiction, Super H Mart also provides an almost endless amount of entertainment while you’re there.  Exhibit 1: as I was pulling into the parking lot, I realized that my way was blocked by a shopping cart.  I put the car in park and got out to move the shopping cart out of the way.

As soon as I got back into my car, I was immediately blocked by another random object in the road: Exhibit 1A: a stroller.  Complete with baby.  A woman had pushed the stroller halfway into the street, then turned around to greet a friend.  The two of them were happily chatting away on the curb while the stroller (COMPLETE WITH BABY!!!) sat in the middle of the street, unattended.

Being the kind soul that I am, I did what any other thoughtful person would do in this situation.  I rolled down my window and yelled at the idiot woman to get her damn baby.  She shot me a surprised look and hustled into the street to remove her baby from the middle of the road.  Hey, at least I didn’t honk.

Exhibit 2: as I eagerly awaited my lunch in the food court, I witnessed two little old Korean ladies getting yelled at by another little old Korean lady because they had left their used trays and dishes on the table.  The best part?  The one doing the yelling was an employee.  Gotta love stores where the employees clearly just don’t have time for customers’ BS and totally call them on it, loudly.

Later, after grabbing some cans of green tea for the road, I passed the Pocky display.  Poor choice of exit route.  I can’t pass Pocky displays (or Pepero displays) without grabbing at least one box.  I stood in front of it, happily agog at the many kinds of Pocky for sale.  I couldn’t choose which box to get.  But then…I found it.

Exhibit 3: Men’s Pocky.  What?  Is this a marketing gimmick like the ones that Yorkie bars use?  Either way, I felt compelled to buy a box of Men’s Pocky and condemn the sexist Japanese candy-making regime with my act of defiance.

It turns out that Men’s Pocky is quite boring, and not at all the manly type of candy I expected (you know, tasting of, like, gunpowder and whiskey and Old Spice with bits of dead deer stuck to it).  It’s just bitter chocolate.  I should have stuck to my original plan and gotten some delicious Marble Tea Pocky.  This feminism thing isn’t getting me anywhere…

Regardless, I’ll most likely be back at Super H Mart the first chance I get, babies in strollers blocking the road and sexist Pocky be damned!  I WILL HAVE MY KIMCHI FRIED RICE.

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Iced

I’m sure that you’ve all heard by now that Starbucks is closing 600 stores in the U.S., which amounts to a total of 12,000 jobs that will be lost as a result (although that really remains to be seen, as most are expected to simply transfer to a nearby store that won’t be getting the axe).

To some, this reeks of recession repercussions.  Starbucks themselves have even blamed the weak economy on its decision to close these stores.  But I have to play devil’s advocate (one of my favorite hobbies): isn’t it possible that they simply expanded too quickly and aggressively?  It’s not just that there’s a Starbucks on every corner anymore.  There are two, sometimes three Starbucks to an interserction!

Houston herself has the ignominious distinction of being the first city to host dueling Starbucks sitting resolutely across the street from each other in River Oaks (at West Gray and Shepherd).  In the shopping center across the street from where I live, there are three Starbucks.  THREE.  It’s overkill.  Of the three, only one is ever busy.  The other two languish in their oversaturated locations, their employees idle and their epsresso machines dormant.

The overhead to maintain these stores and the cost to not only pay the employees, but also provide health insurance to them, must be astronomical.  Health insurance in particular is an enormous part of a company’s SG&A, often being the second or third most costly expense on their books.  Trust me on this one.

So couldn’t it be Starbucks’ recent, unmitigated growth that’s more to blame for their need to close down underperforming stores?  Couldn’t it be all the stores that aren’t serving customers and simply costing too much money to operate, because they were opened in a location that was already served by a nearby Starbucks?  Haven’t they ever heard of self-cannibalization?

Moreover, what about competition from other coffee-selling establishments?  Bubble tea and tapioca houses — particularly in Houston — seem to have no shortage of customers, nor do locally-owned and operated places like The Coffee Bean.  I know it’s hard to imagine Starbucks budging even one iota on their market share, but as more people become conscious of the environmental impacts of buying fair trade goods, staying local and supporting smaller stores, I’m sure that even a giant like Starbucks could feel the prick of lost customers over time.

I think blaming the economy for this is a particularly weak move on the part of Starbucks, and one that the general public unfortunately won’t see as a convenient excuse for bad strategic planning.  They’ll simply eat it up as yet more proof that we’re approaching the next Great Depression and the self-fulfilling prophecy will continue miserably on its path.

But that’s just my two cents.  What do you think?