The Price of Pretention

Last modified on May 25th, 2007

After I broke up with my ex-girlfriend, I decided that for the first time in a long time, I wanted to live relatively close to work. Some people argue that if you had to choose, you should always choose to live where you play (as opposed to living where you work). But, I spent the last few years having nearly an hour commute in each direction to go to work, and I was just sick of it.

So, I found a place downtown, and here I am, after nearly two years. I have a pretty sweet deal down here – I pay $1200 for an 800 sq. ft. apartment about 20 steps from the water, in a relatively nice area of downtown. But to be honest, I’m not a big fan of living downtown. I’m a very light sleeper, and a usual night for me involves waking up to sirens, or watching the fantastical art on my walls from the lights the cop cars make as they fly down the Granville Street bridge.

People ask me all the time if I live in Yaletown, and for some reason some people seem to assume I live there (I don’t know why?) I’m not really sure what part of downtown I live in, although if you check out this definition from wikipedia:

Yaletown is an area of downtown Vancouver approximately bordered by False Creek, Smithe, Davie and Homer Streets. Formerly a heavy industrial area dominated by warehouses and rail yards, since the 1986 World’s Fair, it has been transformed into one of the most densely populated neighbourhoods in the city.

then I don’t live in Yaletown. Which, to be honest, is a good thing in my mind. And the fact that I can even say that bothers me to no end. Because it seems like there’s this stigma attached to so many people in Vancouver simply on where they live or work. Invariably, one of the first questions people seem to ask around here in the bars is “where do you live?” And while I haven’t spent tons of time in other big cities, I have spent enough, at least in Canadian cities, to know that it’s a strange question to ask. What people are really asking is “are you cool enough to hang out with me?”

Yaletown has a reputation for being full of self-important people willing to drop $14 on a glass of wine or a glass of rum and coke. Many of the newest bars in the region are martini bars or tapas houses, and while I swing by from time to time to meet people from out of town who are in Vancouver, I never really feel comfortable in that kind of place. I think of bringing some of my Chilliwack friends into places like that, and it nearly makes me sick to my stomach.

The other day I walked into Starbucks on my way into the office. I’m not one of the people who got on the coffee bandwagon — I actually think Starbucks coffee tastes like shit, and I just don’t buy into the whole latte-three-times-a-day thing. I’ll take a can of diet coke over a partially-streamed no-fat extra-hot over-priced thingamabobber anyday. But, I do like caffeine, and one of the side effects of me being downtown is that I’m usually rather tired after a night of not sleeping very well. So I walked in to grab a medium cup of drip coffee. But since it was nice outside, I figured I’d just get them to throw it over some ice and have a nice refreshing iced coffee. Well, when I hit the cash register, the guy asked for nearly $4. I was like “for what?” He was like “your iced coffee.” I said “it’s just coffee, with ice in it right?” And he was like “yeah it is.” So, I paid $4 for a $1.50 drink with some ice in it. And I beat myself up about it all the way to work.

I read a revealing article last year about why all these coffee places can get away with charging these insane prices. The author’s opinion, and one that I found myself swayed towards, was that people aren’t really paying $4 for a hot coffee — they are buying a small chunk of time outside of the office and the daily grind of the work force. I guess it has slowly replaced the water cooler over time, but I think it’s just insane how much money people are willing to drop at places like that. I for one, for whatever reason, am happy I am generally not associated with that lifestyle, and am still debating getting the hell out of the downtown core.

10 responses to “The Price of Pretention”

  1. Keira-Anne says:

    First, I’m anal so let me point out two edits.

    “…and I usual night for me involves…” Ummm?

    I’m also sure you’re referring to the Granville Street Bridge…or perhaps are making reference to the Howe Street on-ramp to the bridge.

    Okay, you can slap me for being uptight.

    Anyways, glad that you’re writing again and getting back to yourself. I find that theory about the $4 coffee quite interesting, and I think the author is definitely on to something. But my $2.50 Americano is an escape that I don’t think I can do without anymore.

  2. Duane Storey says:

    Fixed, thanks.. Yeah, I cave in from time to time, so I’m not excluding myself from the group. I just think if people were to add up how much they spent over a course of a year on coffee, it would be rather depressing for them.

  3. The disproportionate prices in Starbucks never fail to amaze me. Not only is Starbucks coffee expensive in Britain but furthermore, when you go to Countries where the cost of living is a lot lower (for example Spain), things don’t seem to be any cheaper there either!!!
    I’ve discovered that in most big towns, you can actually find somewhere very similar to Starbucks but that is not run by a large multinational and which offers a much more personal service at an affordable price.

    In July I’m going to China for a year – it will be interesting to see how much a Starbucks coffee might cost there – in a country where you can eat out comfortably for £1 ($2.14) and where hotels cost about £5 ($11) a night. Somehow, I just can’t imagine people paying £2 or £3 for a coffee when for the same price they could have four or five pints of lager!

  4. Beth says:

    You are so right about the first question everyone asking here being, “Where do you live?” Try answering “I live in Dunbar” and see the kind of looks you get! Dunbar is a nice, quiet little neighbourhood, within walking distance of Kits and a few blocks from a gorgeous forest full of trails. But it’s defintitely not Yaletown cool. Our grocery stores here don’t fly their bread in from France.

  5. Jana says:

    In Starbucks you pay for the little walk yes, as well as the ‘name’. I think Starbucks tastes awful, I think chewing burnt coffee beans just about describes that type of experience for me.
    Funny thing is, people complain about rising gas prices, yet they go and get their $4.50 latte at Starbucks. (Not that I am happy with those gas prices). It reminds me back home – people constatly complaining about prices of everything (and quite rightfully so), BUT they all sport the latest model of a cell phone. It’s time to do some prioritizing, isnt’ it?

  6. Clay says:

    Perhaps if you don’t like the coffee and don’t like the cost you shouldn’t bother going there? I can’t stand starbucks coffee; as someone else said it’s overpriced over roasted over self important crap. Having said that, I do quite like their mocha frappacino’s…but at about 30473473739828 calories and 4 bux, I don’t have one very often.

    What you pay for at Starbucks is not the time away from the office (you can get that for a buck and a half at Tim Hortons or Macdonalds) or the great coffee (see above for my opinion on that) or even the name (maybe you pay for it, but that’s not how they get away with charging it) …it’s the mystique and the opportunity to be part of the coffee clique. To say you’re in the know about coffee and not just a cowboy with some folgers. Of course, these days that’s about as sensible as thinking you’re important because you’re carrying a cell phone, and yet it works for the boutique coffee shops. I’m not sure why, but it’s true. I know people who don’t go for a coffee, they go for a starbucks. Ridiculous, if you ask me.

    By the way, you live in False Creek, downtown side. To the person who was embarrassed about Dunbar…try saying North Van sometime…hehehe.

  7. mel says:

    ah yes… yaletown… I too struggle with it.
    A good friend from high school came for a visit and *literally* broke up in to laughter when a micro mini dog came out of the elevator….

  8. Duane Storey says:

    Dunbar is a nice, quiet little neighbourhood, within walking distance of Kits and a few blocks from a gorgeous forest full of trails. But it’s defintitely not Yaletown cool.

    I dunno, that sounds pretty cool to me. I’ll trade your some french bread for it?

    And Jana — I’m amazed how many starving students i encounter that are walking around with a 8GB iPod Nano and a Motorolla Razr phone.

  9. phil says:

    I like an iced coffee now and then, and McDonald’s just came out with one for $1.50. It’s good, and it’s cheap.

  10. “It’s good, and it’s cheap.”

    But its from McDonalds!! Do a search for “mcdonalds evil” and you will see what I mean…

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