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February 23, 2007


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how about we DON'T go back to La Marzocca machines. sightlines and communication are nice, but the VAST improvement in speed is worth the sacrifice. besides, there's before and after the espresso bar to communicate with our beloved customers. good enough.


I seriously doubt that this is real.


As I, the BOSTON STARBUCKS REBEL, I must say that Uncle Howie at least knows what the rebellion is about. Maybe he even reads my posts here which is a comforting thought tha I may have even been the impetus for him sending out this "internal" email. However, as we know, any email sent out can little remain internal for long. Whether or not this email is for real is another question. I must say that this communique has captured my own personal feelings.
1) How many partners actually know how to make a good French press and perhaps even explain the subtle differences between Ethiopia Sidamo and Gazebo Blend?
2) How many partners might be able to pull a perfect shot of espresso or even identify how long a shot is good for?
3) How many partners would be willing to acknowledge a regular customer outside of Starbucks?
In my opinion, less than 10% would be able to answer yes to all three of the above questions. That means we have created a company consisting of 90% of failures. Yes, I said 90% which is far worse than the worst performing inner-city schools. If Starbucks were schools under the "No Child Left Behind," then we would have to close a vast majority of Starbucks for remedial training.

Personally story about when I realized that I could make a great latte. I made a latte following all of the Starbucks standards from pull time 18 seconds, to steaming milk correctly to 160F and incorporating the espresso shot and milk together as soon as it finished. The customer commented, "Let me add some milk because it is usually too bitter for me. Wait, no this latte is perfect, no bitterness just espresso and milk. Wow, thanks you make the best lattes at Starbucks."
The moral of the story is that if we follow the Starbucks standards we can truly "Create an uplifting experience that enriches people's daily lives."
I, myself, strive everyday to ever excel towards greatness in my own small way. This is because I have passion and love what I do. If you don't love it, then you can quit Starbucks. Yes, do us all a favor and as Kelly Clarkson says, "Just walk away."



It's not real.


interesting read and maybe it is real... maybe it isn't.

This would sorta clarify Howard's "love letter" a few weeks ago.

Anyway... if there is to be a focus on the "core" of Starbucks, it's going to be allot harder than just retro fitting store interiors, focusing on retail and espresso machine usage.

It's the partners currently employed with Starbucks.

There are many new partners who are poorly trained or truly do not understand or follow the company mission statement.

There are older partners who now could be considered "burnt beans". They, feeling betrayed, are not as passionate as they once were.

If everyone could be like BOSTON STARBUCKS REBEL, this company would be a fantastic place to work at and or patronize.


nope it isn't real at all.


no way that's real.

For example #1, look at this typo

Again, the right decision at the right time, and once again I believe we overlooked the cause and the affect of flavor lock in our stores.

Two, I honestly believe (sadly enough) that Howie has either checked-out and doesn't care, or else has approved all of these changes while being aware of what they would result in long term. He is after all, a businessman. But yeah...not real.

Not authentic, no way no how...no mention of stupid non coffee drinks. Besides would it really be released?

Kelowna Starbucks Rebel

Even though I have never used a La Marzocco I advocate it. I believe that a Barista is more than someone who steams milk and adds it to, for lack of a better word, processed espresso. Besides, the manual bar's shots taste way better. If in fact this is a genuine e-mail, I'm glad to see that Uncle Howie is finally getting back on track. As many of you have said, "It's just coffee people," you are absolutely right and it's something that all of us need to realize. Starbucks has to realize this as well, and should take steps to further enhance the Starbucks Experience by getting back to basics, and making it all about the wonderful, godly nectar we serve, the drink that this great company was founded on, coffee.

Lou Sussler

My vote, Not real.


Definitely not real. Besides, all the things listed shouldn't be considered the beginning of a downslide. If a Starbucks loses it's magic, it has nothing to do with the espresso machine, or the fact that they happen to offer "non-coffee beverages". It's about the people. Believe it or not, there are still stores out there that feel like a neighborhood coffee shop. The tone is set by the partners.


I seriously doubt it's real.

Supposed Eric

The real letter would have been ghost-written by someone who knew how to use English.

Seeing as how the use of La Marzocco (not La Marzocca, as in the letter) espresso machines was Howard's choice, I doubt that he'd make that typo.

The FlavorLock valve is decades old, and Starbucks attributes it to the growth of the company. Howard says himself that Starbucks owes much of their success to the valve.

What this is, unfortunately, is a rehashing of the gripes of every barista who takes his or her job far too seriously. The biggest thing for Howard right now is without a doubt Starbucks International, followed closely by Starbucks Entertainment. Those are the two arguments for brand homogenization, and two of his passions. It's not brand homogenization if Howard doesn't say so.

I think that Jim should use his head and stop posting things on Starbucks Gossip that are patently fake. It's just immature rabble-rousing.


Whether it is real or not, I absolutely agree with a majority of the points in the letter. I work at a very busy store, and I must say that it does not have a coffee house feel to it whatsoever, it feels like a fast food restaraunt, too much like a business, and not as much a place to sit down, relax, and enjoy myself. If I want to go to an authentic coffee house, for a real, homey coffee atmosphere, I never go to a Starbucks. Almost all of my partners, and I include myself in this one, don't know hardly anything about the different coffees we provide. We couldn't tell you any difference between any of the coffees except that one tastes stronger or weaker than the others. We probably know zero about the roasting process...its just sad to me.

Starbucks needs to go back to its roots, recapture the coffee house atmosphere. Right now I don't think there is a single one that has it.


I would like to state that this letter in my opinion is psuedo Howard Schultz literature. Although written in the style of him, especially if you read everything he has written and spoken, there are many textual errors that indicate it was not written directly by him in his own hand.
However, I believe that if we treated like the Gospel we could say it was written by somebody in the Company and are aware of the primary themes of Uncle Howie. Just like the Four Gospels were written by the community of believers, so this too was written by a close associate(s) of Uncle Howie. Obviously, my own writing style is singular and discernible. Therefore, it would be most difficult for somebody to replicate my grammar, syntax, sentence structure, rhetoric, etc.
Again, I would like reiterate that many of the points in this aporchypal letter do go to the heart about how Starbucks has gone dreadfully wrong and aweary in its mission and purpose.
On a lighter side, I would like to state that my timing on trying to produce a Starbucks beverage, made to standard, is being cut down to 30 seconds. Yes, my managers want me to be able to produce a beverage, made to standard, in under 30 seconds. Yes, I am a little north of that figure right now but I think with a little practice and efficiency refinement I shall be able to meet that goal.



Boston Starbucks Rebel -
I understand your statement: "1) How many partners actually know how to make a good French press and perhaps even explain the subtle differences between Ethiopia Sidamo and Gazebo Blend?".

I have to admit that I can't explain the differences - I've never had Gazebo Blend. It has not been offered since I joined the ranks last summer.

I can, however, make a good french press - that's what I've been using for coffee at home since 1994, when I saw that was the only way to get a cup of coffee in a restaurant in Glasgow, Scotland. (And liked what I got!)

While I wasn't a wizard on the La Marzocco, I was getting pretty good with it when I transferred to a newly-opened store. Except for decaf. I only got the right tamp and pull about 30% of the time with decaf, but was hitting 80-90% with regular espresso. (I had awesome learning coaches!)

And I do have conversations with customers outside of the store. I often bump into them at supermarkets, bookstores, conventions, and sometimes just out on the street. We recognize each other, and have apparently connected, because the conversations will continue the next day (or week) at the store.

Again, I love what I do, and most of the folks I work with (even the one or two I don't love, I like.) I don't _have_ to work for Starbucks - I _want_ to work for Starbucks.

Yes, the company isn't the same as it was a decade ago when I became a customer, but not much is. I take it upon myself to make Starbucks a great place to be, as a partner AND as a customer, and to try and spread this attitude to everyone I encounter.

I don't hit all of the Gold Standard points, but I'm working on them!


I don't buy it. Doesn't sound like Howard.

It lost me at Marzocca.


The difference between Ethiopia Sidamo and Gazebo Blend is that Ethiopia Sidamo is a single-origin coffee and Gazebo Blend is BLEND of East African coffees. There is a noticeable difference in the flavor especially if you pair Gazebo Blend with berry items such as blueberries and cranberries while Ethiopia Sidamo goes very well with lemon loaf.
Do not forget and remember that the passion that baristas had for coffee at Starbucks was what compelled Howard Schultz to leave New York and throw his lot in that small coffee shop in Pike Place so many years ago.


zero chance this is real... especially given the gramatical errors such as affect instead of effect and the fact that despite it having several CC: it is addressed to one person and at the end it says something about thank you all... if this persons comments had merit they could stand on their own and not need "howies" signature


zero chance this is real... especially given the gramatical errors such as affect instead of effect and the fact that despite it having several CC: it is addressed to one person and at the end it says something about thank you all... if this persons comments had merit they could stand on their own and not need "howies" signature


My bad... I mis-read
"Finally, I would like to acknowledge all that you do for Starbucks. Without your passion and commitment, we would not be where we are today."

but its not like Jim Donald has been there for very long and brought starbucks to where they are today.... sounds like an ending for a letter to partners


If you recall, the Starbucks MWS does not have spell/grammar check so its not surprising that words like that popup. I usually make a point of correcting the store communications for those type of mistakes. I guess having advanced college degrees really do come in handy for something, even if it is to correct management who are unable to speak English well.


OK, right off the bat my vote is that it's fake as well... I do, like others, agree with alot of what's said. I also want to state, however, that there are still some very great stores out there. Boston Starbucks Rebel - You would appreciate my old store in Mystic, CT. When I worked there (I can't vouch for it now, but still...) we ALL knew how to pull and time perfect shots, make delicious french presses, and discuss the finer flavors of our coffees. We had a real community environment where we knew our customers by name and drink order and -gasp - actually hung out with some of them outside of the store (in a small town with a few bars, what more can you expect? hah). Anyhow, I loved this environment and I truly believe that stores can be this way if the partners within them want it to be... The store I am at now, though, is definitely one of those cold get-in, get-out kind of stores that I think more and more are turning in to. It's unfortunate, but I think that if you as a barista want your store to be more welcoming and true to our core values, you can help inspire your store to become that.

~ J


Yes, I shall agree with you on the point that I find many Starbucks in CT are still very close to the core values of Starbucks. And at my store, I definetely make a point of getting to know my customers. I really cannot help it because I live in the same area and so therefore if somethind does go wrong at my Starbucks, believe me I hear all about it! The management on the otherhand seems not to care because they do not have to interact with the customers outside of the store which makes their life alot easier I suppose. I fully participate in the community in which I live and get involved, one of the ways of being I might add.



FWIW, the person who sent it to me says: "I don't have any reason to think it's not real." This source has also told me how he/she obtained it. Again, I personally can't vouch for its authenticity, but believe the points made in the letter are worth discussing.


Wouldn't you think that Chairman Howard would tell his associates something this big to their face over the phone and not in an email?


I don't think it's real. Why waste all that money and time on something just to go Opps..not gonna happen anymore let's go back and redo it all to the old way. I'm sure they research this stuff before they put it into every single store. So my vote is fake.

johnmoore (from Brand Autopsy)

As a former long-time Starbucks marketer, I have SERIOUS doubts, like others have expressed, about the authenticity of this email. My thin-slice reaction tells me it’s a 100% FAKE. Why?

First, the FY08 strategic planning process started in 2006, not 2007. Starbucks begins its 2008 financial year in October of 2007. Ain’t no way the company is just now starting the planning process for FY08.

Second, Howard would NEVER single-out Flavorlock packaging as being a reason for the commoditization of the Starbucks experience. Instead, he would focus on the elimination of scooping whole bean coffees from bins. Flavorlock package made it possible for the company to ship roasted coffee all over the world while keeping it fresh. Without Flavorlock silver bullet 5 lb. bags, Starbucks today would be the size of In-N-Out Burger.

Third, Howard would take full responsibility upfront for the decision to phase out La Marzocco espresso machines in favor of the Verisimo machines. That was his call ultimately. He would acknowledge that upfront. Also, since this is an internal email, he would use the specific Verisimo name and not the generic “automated espresso machines” name.

Fourth, this email is devoid of any aspirtational tone. Howard, no matter how critical he is, will always exude an aspirational tone.

Fifth, no where in this email is the mention of the “Third Place” experience. Howard would NEVER send an email harping on the commoditization of the Starbucks experience without referencing the “Third Place” customer experience. NEVER.

Sixth, when this email touches upon the encroaching competition of other coffee places and QSRs, Howard would NEVER use strong language like, “This must be eradicated.” As a company, Starbucks is extremely careful to not use such language when talking about competitors. Starbucks learned from the anti-trust proceedings with Microsoft that internal emails using strong language that mentions killing/thrashing competitors could be used against them. Trust me, Howard would NEVER use such strong language about blunting competition.

I could go on but … I won’t.

**** A NOTE TO Starbucks Gossip Webmaster Jim Romenesko … I think you used very poor judgment in posting this fake letter. You have enough journalistic smarts to smell a fake. Shame on you. Someone just pulled a Howard Stern Baba Booey on ya. ****


"...but believe the points made in the letter are worth discussing."

Why discuss a potential lie and flasehood clearly sent out to flame the fires of the best coffee roast?

Bullshit is bullshit. Let's call it what it clearly is and not waste our time "discussing".


I agree. Take down this garbage. Have some integrity.

BSR...I have never heard anyone talk about themselves the way you do. You are possibly the most egotistical human being on the planet. If you are so great, why are you working as a shift at a Starbucks? Seriously. Give it a rest. No one is as good as you think you are. If I worked for you I would slit my wrists.



Many good points have been made above, but I'd like to contribute one or two.

Adding on to JOHNMOORE's post, I'd like to point out that there's also no specific action to take. Howie wouldn't send out an email that says, "Oh, sh*t, we screwed up," without saying, "Here's how we save our asses." Simply saying we need to get back to the core isn't how Howard would end this.

Also, BOSTON STARBUCKS REBEL, I somehow doubt that Howard writes his emails on the MWS, at least not initially. I assume he has access to the email feature of the company's network via a more traditional personal computer. If he doesn't that's silly. Anybody have confirmation of executives in the company being able to access such features? DMs? Regional folks?

I think it's fine for this to be posted for discussion. After all, the name of the website is Starbucks Gossip. Gossip, people. Look it up. Yes, it's flame bait, but that's sort of the idea sometimes...



Howard cares about money. The end.


No, it's not real.

No, the executives themselves do not use their time to read this site. BSR, sorry to break it to you, but they are not reading your sanctimonious posts.

People at corporate, much like any other company, use outlook which certainly does have spell check.


Howard dosn't like blue paint in stores...ever noticed that there are virtually no totaly blue walls in starbucks stores.

And the three new starbucks store designs are really cool. Country of origin is a trip back to the roots of the coffee producing countries, classico is super cool with the victorian patterns on the chairs and that super cool lounger and di mode with its modular furniture that can be moved around to fit your move. (granted the plastic chairs are kinda cheezy)

starbucks oh how i love the


First, for all of you who can't get it right, its BOSTON STARBUCKS RBEEL. Second, to the anonymous poster, well if you do decide to slit your wrists, make sure not to get your blood into any of the drinks. Make sure to slit your wrists on your own time, thanks. And oh yeah, get your shifts covered in case you really are trying to kill yourself. Nobody will be missing you, Actually, most of the baristas do enjoy working with me and look forward to because I am very fun to work with. In case your Latin was a little rusty, "primus inter pares" means first among equals. Yes, I understand that I CANNOT do it alone and I need the help of all the partners to do it.
Maybe, Uncle Howie was sending out the email on his Blackberry or something. Maybe, he was sending it as an text message to other executives. From the times I have met with Uncle Howie, I will say he seems kind of spacey, like he has had too much coffee and wants to hide it but wants to hide and secretly wants more or else he will turn into a pumpkin, a pumpkin spice latte.
Finally, its not surprising that Mr. Romenesko might post a possible missive not actually written by Howard Schultz. Sometimes, people seem to miss the point that says not possibly written by Howard Schultz at the top of the page. There is a disclaimer people. However, we do live in the age when false documents can be mistaken for true ones and before you know it dictators are being hanged and militant insurgents are crying like school girls because they have dogs all over them with wires coming out of their arms.
Finally, the comment about the "automated espresso machines" also refers to the Verismo and Magistrales. Ever hear of those wonderful Magistrales?
Corporate does read this website because if you remember back, they did have one of their communication specialists people respond to the comments being made about the change in price in frappuccinos(r) blended beverages and junk.



Going off topic based on Andrew's post, but the "country of origin" store layout is really cool. A weekday location I go to changed their layout from this past weekend, and it's pretty nifty.

Oh, and BSR, it's "Verisimo," not "Verismo". ^ I'll just look at that as you being exhausted from working so hard on your shifts this week. ;) Wouldn't want anyone to think someone's faking your posts, as well as Howard's emails.


Thanks Hopkinsbella for correcting me onn that point on how to spell Verisimo. Thankfully, it was not in Akeelah and the Bee or else I would've been kicked out. Yes, I have not had a single day off in about fourteen (14) days so I am quite tired.
I believe that getting names on cups is a good way to avoid the commoditization of the Starbucks Experience because it allows partners to connect with the customers on a personal latte and not reducing them to a simple beverage order. I heard there was a fight on the floor this morning at one of the Starbucks about getting names on cups. Good news travels fast you know here in Boston. HAHAHAHAHA! Telephone, telegram, tell a barista!




Wall Street Journal reports this as real, confirmed by a SBUX spokesperson.


johnmoore (from Brand Autopsy)

This just in ... the Wall Street Journal has verified the authenticity of this email from Howard Schultz. A Starbucks spokeswoman comfirmed the email is legit.

I'm shocked. And Jim Romenesko, I apologize for calling you out for publishing this email since it seems to be verified as 100% real. Oh my. Oh, oh my ...


Wow. I was quite sure that the letter was a fake, but if the WSJ got a confirmation, then I, as well as many others, owe the webmaster here an apology.

Sorry to have doubted you, Jim.


I'd eat my hat, but I kind of like it. All I can still say is "yikes" about the email. It didn't um, inspire believability when I read it, and learning that it's authentic doesn't exactly inspire confidence, either. Does the right hand know what the left hand is doing? Or does it know all too well?


I never personally doubted that it was for real.



I have been visiting the Washington D.C. Dupont Circle stores over the last few months. The stores are so dirty that are actually unappetizing. Sterile would be a welcome improvement.


BSR wrote:
"Second, to the anonymous poster, well if you do decide to slit your wrists, make sure not to get your blood into any of the drinks. Make sure to slit your wrists on your own time, thanks. And oh yeah, get your shifts covered in case you really are trying to kill yourself. Nobody will be missing you."

wow. so, love your customers, huh, but hate your coworkers? since your head is stuck far up the rear end of whatever corporate manual you read every day, you should know that creating the Third Place also involves your coworkers, bucko.

"Actually, most of the baristas do enjoy working with me and look forward to because I am very fun to work with."

coulda fooled me. if you're even a 10th as sanctimonious and self-righteous in real life as you come off on these boards, i'd be transferring out of your store pronto.

anyway, the newer store designs here in philly have lots of blue. blue tile on the back splash and lots of dark wood. it looks great. my store, on the other hand, looks very 1999. sigh.


I wonder how many times a customer has to repeat their order. Tall coffee. Tall coffee. Tall coffee. I would rather have 1 excellent barista who knows all operational standards than having 3 mindless, apathetic baristas who could care less about giving a customer a stale cup of coffee.
Letting people become partners at Starbucks is like "social promotion" where they keep on pushing students along until they are old enough to graduate but not functional citizens. We have baristas on the floor who know little if anything about a great cup of coffee. This is probably the most disturbing situation and Howard Schultz does have every right to be deeply concerned about Starbucks.


BTW: The Starbucks in Philadelphia always made me very sick whenever I had a drink there. Maybe, it was just the dirty air.


I don't think it's so outlandish to think that Howard would make a spelling or grammar mistake...my DM has spellcheck on his laptop and most of his e-mails confirm that he is at best a semi-literate toad. If Howard sent it without a proper proofread, he could easily miss some mistakes.


Thank you Mr. Schultz.

For the last three years I have had the honor to be a partner for what I consider one of the greatest companies in the world.

But as I moved to a new market to start college, I realized that the store around me lacked to represent the true mission and vision Starbucks was founded on and that Mr Schultz emphasised in his book "Pour Your Heart Into It?"

When I began, my mentors reminded me that my duty wasn't to sell as many ceramic mugs and pastries as possible, but that my main duty was to provide every person who walked in my store a "third place". This meant going an extra mile to make their day better by helping them finding the perfect cup of coffee, even if we had to do a french press of every multi region blend or single origin coffee starbucks had to offer, making their favorite specialty drink, or simply talking with them.

I hope that this his memo has been truly noted by the rest of the company.

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