« "From the Comfy Chair": Treat every customer like he might be Juan -- just in case! | Main | Once again, it's time to get the weekend OPEN THREAD going »

August 06, 2009


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Aces of Eight

And the customers who want a single line for drip coffee just do not understand the logistics of it. I am admittedly irritated that someone should know better, an actual barista, doesn't realize the impossibilities of such.

Sure, if you were an incredibly high volume store, it would be possible. But only during certain peak times, and it would confuse a ton of customers, other people would wait in that line thinking it was just for small orders, and told they had to move, people who just wanted tea would also want to be in the line... people would try to use the line if they wanted a misto, an iced coffee etc. And how would it really be faster if their wasn't extra labor assigned? It wouldn't be that much quicker. And just because brewed coffee customers think they are better than the other people or something. Think of it this way, those other people are not really holding up the line that much, while they are waiting for their drink, they are not holding you up. They are holding you up while they are also waiting in line. When the guest pays for their coffee we get it for them right away.

Furthermore, aside from all the problems for stores that could possibly do it, and again, even for a very high volume store, they would probably still need some extra labor and would only be able to do it in peak times. There are other issues. For instance, in low volume stores their is now way that many of them could manage to do this even in peak times, even if they were given more labor.

And many stores aren't even high brew sales. A friend of mine who worked in a DT store in SC for awhile, said that they sold mostly frappuccino. And had two people on cold bar all the time, just constant.

So sorry, but this guys idea's need some work. As for his first idea, it seems that unless they make things more in the hands of the people running the business it just wouldn't work. In other words, Starbucks would need to start franchising, something Howard is very very against. As for rewarding frequent customers, I think that's a good idea.

But it isn't what the company needs. I always thought that what was special was the connect, discover, respond, that customers came back because of the experience, and because they were friends with the barista's who knew their names, not because they were given monetary incentives. It goes way against everything Starbucks has ever been. How about instead of incentives that don't create loyalty, but just act as a monetary convenience, we ask Howard for more non-coverage so we can do coffee tastings and truly connect with the customers?

As for communicating with the workers, lol, just give the managers some actual non-coverage so they have time to keep their employees up to date and their wouldn't be such a big problem. Sorry, but I think he is going in the wrong direction with htis.

me myself and I

How many times can we beat a dead horse???

"Many of our customers would appreciate it if a single register were designated for drip coffee."
I thought we already discussed that and established this would only be a useful thing in a very few stores and most likely get customers more confused than being helpful.

* "Develop a new plan to reward frequent visitors."
More freebies? Really? Why do people always only want free stuff?
I do agree the rewards program might not be the fairest one out on the market, since some customers don't get anything out of it, but most do.
With a registered card drip and IC customers are getting free refills, bean customers are getting a free tall beverage, syrups are free, premium milks (like soy or lactose free) are free.

What more free stuff can people ask for? Starbucks is a business after all.
You might argue to get something like a punch card, but seriously, the gold card is exactly that (though not available in Canada as of yet), except you don't have to drink ten cups to get one free, you get your discount with every cup, which adds up to the same.

Sorry, I'm just ranting here, but it really annoys me that everyone comes in and asks for free stuff. No, we are not charity, we are a business, go to the salvation army if you want free drinks and food.

Jim Romenesko

"this guys idea's"......

You need to click on the link and go to the story. The author is not a guy.

me myself and I

I do like the other two ideas, though.


I agree with Aces of Eight. But I think the real joke is thinking that Howard would listen to any ideas at all, good or bad. He does what he wants no matter how many customers or partners he walks on.


the person probably has some good ideas but regarding the 'internal newsletter' maybe there is that for managers or levels above store managers, but do you honestly think starbucks as a company cares about sending baristas newsletters. not that it would be hard to email everyone a letter that wants one, but starbucks or any fast food type of company gives no thought towards its barista-level workers, most who dont even work full time and get paid barely minimum wage. theres no reason to send these workers information on what makes certain stores profitable. most baristas arent going to have any interest in this type of info anyway.

and i think now with the gold card & the registered regular card, that is a pretty fair customer rewards program. plus although the gold card costs $25, ive gotten probably close to that amount in just free coupons throughout this past year. i dont think there really needs to be any more of a rewards program then they already have. the only thing they should change is to allow gold cards to get free syrup so u could get a little more discount with the gold card, free syrup + 10% off.


@me myself and I: Fabulous post. I never really appreciated or understood how customers just want free free free free free free until 16 months after the launch of MSI I realize the top ideas tend to be (always, more so than any PPR discussion) "Can you give me a special break?"

Ugh! And my dry-cleaning bill adds up, but never once does the woman at the cleaners say, "Oh Melody we'll just do this suit for free now because you come in a lot!". And wouldn't I love to be able to arbitrarily say, "It's a recession. Can I have that BurgerMaster for $1.50 instead of $3.00?" GRRRRRR.

I understand that every business (and this is SO true) ALL have some variation on "just say yes" when a situation is ambiguous and the result would be losing a customer over something not worth arguing over. Even if they don't advertise "Just say yes" it exists. In clothing retail, it happens now and then that a customer walks up to the register and says with a shirt on a hanger, and you ring it up, and the customer says, "but wait!! I grabbed that shirt from the sale area in the back of the store. Shouldn't it be 20 % off?". There is no way to know for sure. Clothes get hung in the wrong place all the time. You, the register person, look up, and realize the store is a disaster, the jeans wall torn apart, the sale area has clothes on the floor almost, and it is possible that that full-price shirt was in the wrong section. Not worth arguing about. But these situations are the exception, and not the rule.

And don't get me started on the drip-only line. I hate that idea.

What a rant! Sorry! /rant over

Pat Nerr

that's comical... like a barista has anything to teach Uncle Howie... He has got this partners...


Ah, the beauty of not knowing anything at all about business...

Margins are probably lowest on coffee. And yet this brilliant mind wants to privilege your lowest yielding customers with a special line. Of course, mocha and latte customers say won't ever say "that's line's shorter, screw it, I'll just get a coffee."

Dunkin' Dough Nut

Margins are probably lower on coffee? Are you kidding? Do you have any idea what the margin is on coffee compared to the more expensive beverages?


If a store is adequately staffed with experienced partners and has their deployment mastered- then wait times aren't an issue...the expediter's ability to multitask is a major factor that determines speed of service during high volume periods. Being able to recognize bottlenecks and fix them- all these ideas seem pretty naive to me. The second you start empowering managers to source food, music, etc you do the exact opposite of sustain the brand. Why don't we let the stores come up with their own interpretaion of the correct drink recipes and store policies too?
a designated drip coffee register would wreak havoc on deployment and create massive confusion. Customers have a hard enough time staying in an ordlerly line without budging etc when the expediter is calling down the line. reward plan= gold card, internal newsletter = the store portal/culture & news page, how did this writer merit any consideration for the fortune website?


These were great ideas?
I agree, we give out waaaaayyy too many freebies to customers and give them an inch, they take a mile! You wouldn't believe how many of our regulars take advantage of those free refills that come along with their registered sbux card (the frustrating part is that my store does not enforce the refill policy at all).

I could come up with a few better ideas...

brown dot

even though these are the same ideas we hear over and over, at least she is trying to come up with something to increase morale and sales comps. What are the rest of you doing besides being pessimistic and knocking this lady down for trying?

SBUX Alum Bill

The best change Howard could make is to live by the Guiding Principles, rather than using them as a PR gimmick!

Jim C

SBUX cannot have it both ways. It can either act like a QSR restaurant and reward loyalty with 'cents off' tricks like no charge for soy or an extra shot. Or they can act like a neighborhood coffeehouse and have some type of card that reward loyal customers with a free drink for every 10 they purchase. The "freebies" that you are complaining about is really only ONE thing that the customers continue to ask for, and SBUX refuses to give - a loyalty card, with every 11th drink free.
And Melody, usually you are so balanced. You of all people should know that you can't compare the coffeehouse retail channel to the dry cleaning or burger channel, they have different rules. Just look at the tip jar, SBUX has one because all coffehouses do, or better yet, they have one because Peet's had one in 1971.
SBUX claims they listen to the consumer, and when the loyalty card issue went to the top of MSI, they dropped it in favor of the pre-paid SBUX card soy and shot promo. When growing chains like Dutch Bros. can have a get a drink free for every 10 as a loyalty reward, so could SBUX.
And for those still confused- Drip coffee makes WAY more margin than any other drink. Drip coffee purchasers should be revered. High cost paid for small labor and even smaller ingredient cost.

The Complete Package

The gold card with its 10% off is giving one out of ten free, even though it costs the $25. The discount coupons take care of most of that.
Along with free refills with a regular gift card, it's not a bad deal at all.

SB will need to do something about the longer lines, now that they are selling a lot of crap during the morning, backing up the previous short lines.

An express line isn't a bad idea.


JimC, you're correct about wrong industry comparisons. I find myself ever increasingly frustrated with the repeating themes on MSI, of "I should get a discount." The site is so flooded with that. I vented here at the drop of the mention of re-doing rewards as described by the barista's article.

Hey check this out!

^ Pretty humorous site from Starbucks.

And there is another Starbucks/H.S. interview out there too:

The real question is, could anyone of us write a better open letter to Howard Schultz? I think Pat Nerr might be right: Who would have anything to say to him that he doesn't clearly know, researched, or thought about. I don't know but I might work on it! LOL


An express line, wouldn't that basically lead to down-selling? What about "just say yes" for people who will insist on ordering other things at the drop register.

It'd be a mass of confusion.

Hey, does anyone know what the reduced rate for the Premera plan will be with the Health Quotient discount?



We used to have a partner newsletter- it was called "The Scoop"...it was sent to the stores on a weekly or a monthly (its been some time & I can't remember) but they discontinued it in favor of portal communication..."The Scoop" was great because it was a newsletter several pages long that summed up cultural happenings and such...

would love to see "The Scoop" make a comback


"Why not empower–and incentivize–managers to appeal to their communities by sourcing food, music, and artwork from locals while sustaining our brand?""

Many stores do this. Well, not the food thing, but that's just silly. But many stores have work on the wall by local artists and have live music by local bands. So... non issue. It's being done.

""Many of our customers would appreciate it if a single register were designated for drip coffee.""

The only customers who wants this are the customers getting drip coffee. I'm sure the customers getting vanilla lattes wish there was a register devoted just for vanilla lattes. I'm sure customers just getting a muffin wish there was a register devoted just for muffins. Who cares? Not gonna happen, should never happen. Again, non issue.

"Develop a new plan to reward frequent visitors."

Yeah, ok.

"It would be wonderful if you communicated more with the workers. I would like to get an internal newsletter, with information about what successful locations are doing, new products, and the company’s strategy."

They've had that ever since I started at Starbucks four years ago, and nobody ever read it.


DITTO to everything you said. I laughed at your muffin line comment.

How about a newsletter that goes to the partners email. I would be thrilled to read it on my own time. At work, I have too much to do.

me myself and I

Why are so many people into punch card kind of schemes? This would mean we either have to have punch cards for every drink, have to decide if a 5$ Frappuccino is worth two punches compared to a drip coffee etc. Our customers don't always drink the same drink every day. And consider someone getting ten short drips, the eleventh (free drink) would be a venti WMF for sure.
So the discount card takes that into consideration. Take away the silly 25 dollar startup fee, make it available everywhere and here you have your "punch card". I'm sure your friendly neighborhood barista can even punch a whole in it for you if you insist (JSY, you know).

Burned Bean

thank you for all proving my point that "respect and dignity" is dead...

Venti Urnex Latte

I am concerned that Sun Min will be terminated for talking to the press. Starbucks strictly prohibits this. If she did not get permission to write this, she could be at risk. I hope her job is safe.


Mel--you go to BurgerMaster!?!? I love it!!

Batista Ben

I really was sad when the scoop died. Also saddens me that all the fun portal videos are done with. I understand the cost was probably too much for little or no return, still I personally enjoyed those videos!


Barista Ben,
There's still videos on the 'Starbucks Broadcast News'... Right now most of the videos are about Lean stuff. Ughhh.
I miss the Scoop, too. The PartnerBlog on MSI is kinda neat, but I hate signing in and being asked if I want to go to the Partner site or the Customer site all the time.

Sorry Sun, you seem like a really awesome barista with her heart in the right place, but I don't see these ideas as practical... although incentivizing managers to find artwork would be neat. I've seen a lot of stores do that anyway, though. A lot of the things I see from the pictures of 15thAveC&T are what I want Starbucks to be like. But that's just me.

And I don't understand why customers on MSI keep pushing more rewards. If you buy the same drink with the gold card every time, the 11th drink is free, in a sense, because of the 10% your previous 10 purchases.
If I were to see Howard, I don't think I would bring anything new to the table. Morale is low because of pressures your throwing on starving, I mean Lean Thinking, labor control, an Every Day Brew (PPR), no bold in the afternoon, etc. If I did mention these things, I'm sure he would charm himself out of it by talking about his Rwanda visit, or how cool the new U.Village store is.
I can't believe how obsessed I get with these kinds of thoughts. The more I think about upper management's lack of communication to its front line barista, the more frustrated I become.
The communication they do send us, like Siren's Eye, Barista-Need-To-Know, are not actually being read because we are not allotted labor for this training/communication time. The last time my store had a meeting with shifts we wasted 45 minutes introducing ourselves to a new barista instead of actually getting down to business and solving a lot of our stores problems.
UGHHHx10. Ok, going to stop typing. Sorry for the typos/grammar.


Shoot, I hope I didn't italicize this whole post.

Beantown Bearista

How do you know that this wasn't purposely leaked to the media to show a happy ethnic barista with an interesting background who chooses to work for the company???


"Drip coffee makes WAY more margin than any other drink. Drip coffee purchasers should be revered. High cost paid for small labor and even smaller ingredient cost."

It may be true that drip coffee has a higher % margin than any other drink, BUT a store could not stay open on Brewed Coffee sales. Its still preferable to sell the lower margin drinks (%), because per drink we profit more dollars,

Also, coming from another QSR that used a punch system, it was HORRIBLE. We eventually got rid of it because it was FAR too easy to abuse and didn't return enough value to the company. Infact, almost every large chain has completely abandoned the punch card loyalty system.




Mine's only going up $20 a month...small price to pay I'd say....

I am especially happy to have it as I just had to have emergency surgery that would have cost me tens of thousands of dollars without my insurance.


$108.00 a month here.

SBUX Alum Bill

This Business Week article,
Howard Schultz v. Howard Schultz
is a bit of a puff piece (as articles about Starbucks often are), but it provides an interesting analysis of the dilemma that Howard has faced over the last year and a half. I still think the best long-term solution is for Howard to actually practice what he preaches (& return to the Guiding Principles as more than just a PR gimmick), but I know that isn't going to happen.


@SBUX Alum Bill,
As much as you don't like it Bill, things are changing here, slowly and constantly. We're not sending tons of money into new store builds, we're saving boatloads of money in retail and supply chain, the store offerings are improved, and customers are beginning to come back. Investors are happier. Some hiring has begun. Internally decisions are made more often based on sound data and not instinct or whim. Budgets are to be respected. The workforce is more professional. The changes will continue but will take time.

Many of you bitter former partners have been on here celebrating the troubles these past two years, which by the way correspond to the most significant global economic turndown in the past 100 years. That's not an excuse, just a fact.

Things are now improving. You may not like it, but they are, slowly and constantly. Sorry you're not here to enjoy it, but perhaps it's time to "move on."


starbucks must do something right for most of its employees since nearly everyone who works at sbux posting on this site refers to the company as 'we'. unless u are a store owner or more than a store manager, which im pretty sure no one who uses this site is, there's no 'we' when ur a barista. a barista has 0.0 influence or importance to the starbucks company. yet sbux must oftentimes somehow create a feeling of belonging for the employee since it seems like workers care somewhat about the company in general most of the times, especially the ones who post on this site.



the most significant global economic turndown in the past 100 years? Did you ever heard of the Great Depression? Sheesh.

me myself and I

Why wasn't I surprised to read a Melody comment on the Forbes side? :-)

Starbucks will rise again

I walked into a Starbucks a few days ago and saw only one barista working the lines and making beverages, it actually made me feel pretty sad because even though he was ringing/calling down the line/making beverages as fast as a professional, people were still getting frustrated at him and a man started shouting at him demanding to know why he was the only one working the floor. The barista replied that his shift supervisor would be right out as soon as she finished a task she was working on and that was the end of it. I did see her after like 5 minutes come out of the backroom, but it really made me think about the times when it was rare to see only one barista working the floor because usually there were at least three working it and having fun connecting with customers. I love Starbucks and miss working for this company, but i'd rather keep loving it than go back and start being against a company I love so much. Hopefully Starbucks will make a shocking comeback that will stun everyone on the business world and baristas can once again be able to do the connect/discover/respond that was very important in stores. So far they have been saying the recession has ended and we are going through a recovery, let's hope this is more true than false and wish Starbucks successful days ahead. Go Starbucks! :-)


I stand corrected. The Great Depression remains by almost all measures worse than the Great Recession.


If you have been around as a partner for for longer than than 10Yrs you would know that we have done ALL of the suggestions. Partners decorated their home stores for the Holidays. We all sourced local art and bakeries for our products. It has all been done.This company is in constant evolution. At times, we must evaluate the success of the programs on a large scale.We could not grow as a company if every store was doing their own thing. We needed systems and organization. A draw back was loosing our coffeehouse feel. All these are fantastic ideas, yet very hard to reproduce with the growth we were experiencing in the past 10 yrs.


@bill, the comments you made are very sound and logical if you worked in the ssc. But that it the problem. The people in the SSC are out of touch with the stores entirely.

Be Vulnerable
Be Present

While like most of our culture, the 5 ways of being (not to be confused with the Green Apron Behaviors, those are their own thing) are long gone.

While I'm happy we've made some financial gains, those cost efficiencies are bandages only. If store traffic and sales continue to decline, the bandages start bleeding again come a year later when the company is forced to make an annual comparison.

We could implode on ourselves. I embrace change, it was once a core competency. However, those creating changes have obviously never worked in the stores a day in their lives. The store partners should be commended for executing and deploying some of the most insane systems and hair brained ideas in the history of business. And whoever dreamed up optimal scheduling is TOTALLY out of touch with our business. Optimal scheduling is not logical for any service or retail industry. Holiday is around the corner, and when sales ramp, you cannot have partners just seasonally, and after you'd need to "let someone go because of over staffing."

So Mr. @Bill, Be Vulnerable and Be Present and see the other half of the argument. Band Aids do not heal wounds. We need to start finding a happy medium to set the stores up to successfully staff, server customers, clean the stores, etc. that doesn't create a work environment that make Starbucks a place people don't enjoy working in. 2 hours of extra non coverage would be fabulous just for cleaning!


@ Jenna, did you do the HQ survey? That will take a huge bite of the increase.



Starbuck's Coffee Company and Howard Schultz are unfortunately dealing with a couple of severe cases of Multiple Personality Disorder. Are we a luxury brand selling a lifestyle and catering to a core group of people who "care" about the environment, eachother and the premium product we are brewing? Or are we McDonalds, focusing only on 1/2 hour customer counts, speed of service, CONSTANT obnoxious and offensive upselling and the bottom line? Having worked for the company for 3 years and been fortunate enough to feel a little of what "our culture" was all about when I first started, I have to vote for the latter. We are no longer a premium brand, the customers get it, the baristas and everyone else at store level gets it, Howard just doesn't get it. At my store it is the expectation to answer EVERY drive-thru transaction with a "Hello! Welcome to Starbucks this is ***** would you like to start off with a nutritious Strawberry-Banana Smoothie today?" Our DM, RD, and RVP will come through and if we do not stick to the script they'll tear into us with things like "Aren't you suppose to offer me something?" HUH????? I can not make sense of this tactic or logic. In my opinion we should be gracious and thankful to EVERY single customer that walks through those doors and orders ANYTHING. Instead of insulting them with offers of the new best thing, then when they politely decline instead ordering the beverage they get every day and love, taking that order and saying "How about a reduced fat cinnamon swirl coffee cake or cream cheese danish to go with that?" Another required part of our DT script. I feel like I am losing my passion for this company... Howard and the rest of the head honches need to start giving blogs like this one and the others like it some validity. WE ARE NOT ALL DISGRUNTLED PARTNERS. There are some of us who want only the best for the company we are loyally working our tired behinds off for.

SBUX Alum Bill


I have moved on to other things, but I still get angry whenever I hear Howard boast about how enlightened his company is. My gripe has nothing to do with the streamlining that all companies have had to do to over the last year and a half. My objection is to the extraordinary gap between the values that Starbucks practices versus those that the company claims to follow. "Respect & Dignity" simply don't exist in the way the company deals with many of its "partners."

My own example: I found out the hard way that Starbucks has no grievance or appeal process to make sure that its supervisors' decisions are appropriate. Shouldn't any “respected” “partner” be given the very basic right to defend his/her job performance in front someone (anyone) other than the immediate supervisor that made the decision? At Starbucks, the answer is “no.” This is a very basic process that's almost universal, even in companies that don't hold themselves up to be paragons of virtue the way Starbucks does. It's also a process that, in my opinion, benifits the business as much as the employee.

I think there are many other "partners" who have also experienced the gap between what Starbucks preaches & what it actually practices. "Respect & Dinity" at Starbucks is now just a PR myth. My ongoing gripe is the hypocrisy that seems to be firmly entrenched in the corporate culture at Starbucks.


trying to fix the italics.


the only thing that would really benefit with rewards, would be to combine the starbucks rewards card benefits on the gold card. this would provide more incentive for people to pay to the gold card. i'm not saying get rid of the rewards program, but just make the gold card have free soy and syrup, as well as 10% off.


First I would like to say that suggestions for howard have to be in the millions, but at any rate-here goes:
In the now uneven, failing corporate structure of Starbucks, there is an incredible lack of support and accountability-mainly due to nepotism in hiring nationwide. The standards once applied to everything have been watered down by "yes men" who have unsuccessfully tried to reword what others have applied rather than try to understand it first. The companies most incredible employees were burnt out by the first few waves of random hires which would quit after a few weeks, forcing the remaining partners to pick up the slack since 2003, most of them giving up and going to work for starbucks' competitors. That's almost 6 years of this ripple effect. With that hiring standard gone-and the now nearly extinct tribal knowledge it takes to recognize said candidates, and the time which must be invested to arm these employees for real success-the company cannot survive. That said-my suggestions are as follows:

1.Fire all store managers whose stores under perform. They are taking advantage. Period.
2.Promote heavily from within. You can pay half the salary and get 3 times the passion, and pay the partners in the store more hourly-encouraging long term employment, and improving customer service all around.
3.Go back to brewing 2 different coffees everyday. This is a no brainer. As a coffee company-Starbucks educated 2 generations on the characteristics of different coffees and roasts by serving different coffee day to day. By doing so-drip coffee drinkers recognized the differences making employee knowledge very real and trustworthy. That lent to more whole bean sales over time, and the suggestive selling successes later based on that trust.
4.Reward your best people. But pay attention, they arent who you think they are.

I am of course a Starbucks partner. I once loved my job so much, and I could tell you all the terrible things I've seen. I could complain about people and circumstances-but there is no justice so why bother? I would like to thank KZ for showing me what true passion, courage of conviction and leadership are, you really inspired me.

That Girl

I am a store manager and I source local artwork and music for our store on a regular basis. In fact we have a rotating display of framed photographs and paintings done by partners, customers, spouses of partners. We try to change the displays ever other month. Starbucks provides special art rails to hang art on so that you can adjust the hight and width of the frames without putting holes in the walls. Get your DM to contact your facilities manager and order some for you. I think they were $70 each. If you go on the portal there is an art display agreement the artist needs to sign basically stating they are allowing their work to be displayed in the store, the time frame it will be displayed and that the store is not responsible for any damages that may occur while it is on display (ie: someone tripped and their mocha splashed all over a photo once, but thankfully the glass protected it).
As for music we have had weekly music for over seven months now. Being close to the university we attract students from the music department, as well as customers who simply see our boards displaying the next live music night and and come speak to me. I explain to them the music needs to be appropriate, acoustic if they are playing in the cafe, but if the weather is good and they play on the patio (which is large) they can bring their own mic and amp. There is another form for musicians also available on the portal.

Our local free community paper publishes a community calendar which is free to submit events to. So when ever we have a change in art display or music coming up I send in an events posting which highlights the artist or musician and simply has our starbucks as the location so that we are not advertising the store so much as the person.

Through the summer we had live music three nights a week some weeks. I am the community involvement/shared planet lead for my district and so my store is often involved in local festivals and fund raisers (the Starbucks events tent literally lives in my car as my store uses more then any other).

The comments to this entry are closed.

Search Site

Ads (2)