I was always of the opinion that Starbucks was a last option. Another chain, I associated with McDonalds, that was on my avoid list. That was precisely the attitude that Starbucks in the past year has set out to change in their much advertised new corporate strategy. And at least for me, it has worked. I have been forced back into Starbucks for a few reasons. 1) Amazingly, the most comfy coffee shop in Ithaca is a Starbucks. By comfy I mean clean, bright, open, with comfy chairs. Believe me, I refused to believe that a college town like Ithaca wouldn't have a better one, but having tried many, I finally conceded Starbucks the victory. Gimme! still has much better coffee, but Starbucks was still nicer. 2) That from the front door of our apartment in the Upper West Side, you can see at least three Starbucks, but basically no other coffee shops exist. I searched long and hard, and didn't really find any. So I gave in. 3) The free wifi with purchase is a nice touch.
And having gone there, I am generally impressed. Service is nice, one day they offered a free coffee tasting of different beans, and the guy was very knowledgeable. Other times, free samples are nice. Their new House blend is actually quite good, both regular and decaf. Though their espresso is still dull. I started thinking about this in a quite nice Starbucks in Buffalo, where I got a free coffee for filling out a survey, which asked how they were doing. And I had to say, they were doing quite well.
(my one complaint is that a couple of the Starbucks in my neighborhood in New York smell unpleasant from time to time, though the smell I discovered is always correlated with the arrival of a couple of their unwashed regular patrons, which I guess you can't help in New York City)