Starbucks sells itself as a "third place" between work and home, but its customers fail to interact the way people used to in public spaces, according to history professor Tom Simon. "Rarely do these different people doing different things actually talk and exchange ideas. But talk and ideas are crucial to the making of community," he writes in his book Everything but the Coffee: Learning about America from Starbucks.
Simon visited hundreds of Starbucks outlets while researching his book and witnessed very few spontaneous discussions. “People immediately create their own little private, gated communities. You come in, set up your laptop and put on your headphones,” Simon tells the Telegraph. “You couldn’t be more alone in public if you wanted to be.” He says the chain's widely spaced table and free wi-fi access encourage customers to isolate themselves.