A Day in the Life

A day in my life. Thoughts on leadership, management, startups, technology, software, concurrent development, etc... Basically the stuff I think about from 10am to 6pm.


Business: What I think about a Drive-through Starbucks

BusinessPundit asks if Starbucks adds drive-throughs will that cause brand confusion for them? And since I used to be a huge fan of Starbucks I’m going to talk about what I loved about Starbucks and why they are currently on my blacklist.

Starbucks drinks are way over-priced. You can buy the same or similar drink from other locations for less money. I went to Starbucks because of the experience. The place was clean, the people very friendly, the service usually fast. And for those times that there were problems with the machines, the staff more than made up for the wait by their friendliness. All these nice, good, homey feelings drifted to all the other customers. We talked to each other, were courteous, held the door open, etc...

But recently I had two bad experiences. These experiences did not occur in the Starbucks store that made me fall in love but in two other stores. The first situation occurred at a store in Piedmont, CA. I swear the Barista was stoned. Either way, I waited a VERY long time for my Mocha while he talked to a friend (who was an off-duty co-worker) and played with a camera phone. Yes, taking pictures and joking while the place was filling up and no drinks were being made. I asked a waiting customer if she was a regular and she said yes. So then I asked if it was always this slow and she said yes. I decided to scratch that Starbucks off my list.

The second experience was in Mineola, NY over Christmas. It was morning, I had the kids in the car and Starbucks was my breakfast. I ordered my drink and when it came up...there was a flat lid on it. Sorry they said we ran out of tall lids. I thought okay I can deal with this. But when I opened the drinking hole, whipped cream squirted out of the cup all over my clothes. I asked for a cloth to wipe up my clothes but neither of the staff ask what happened or showed any concern. To top it all off the lid helps the cup maintain its structural integrity and it was very hard to drink a Venti Mocha in a car without that support. Well my clothes ended up being stained and I am pissed. Now two things should have happened. One they should had told me about the lid BEFORE making my drink, they should have put in less drink to avoid the explosion factor, and they should have been concerned and apologized when the accident occurred. I was the only customer so they had plenty of time to do all of those things but they didn’t.

So, since to me Starbucks is the experience and not the drink, I see no reason to continue to give my money where it is not welcome.

Is Starbucks the corporation responsible for each Starbucks store? I say yes. Consistent user experience is important. And ultimately the person at the top is responsible. I’ll be very curious whether adding a drive-through to a Starbucks store improves business or doesn’t make a difference at all. But one thing I’m sure of is that it will change the Starbucks experience and they better have enough tall lids!

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At January 07, 2006 7:50 PM, Anonymous Brian said...

I doubt you'll let two isolated experiences like that cut off your addiction. While I've had better, cheaper espressso concoctions at other coffee shops, Starbucks is both ubiquitous and consistent.

Besides, all companies hire bad employees. The differentiating factor is how quickly they identify and shed that dead weight.

At January 07, 2006 11:47 PM, Blogger Kim Greenlee said...

True. However, what Starbucks is currently dealing with is a growth issue. And unless they can fix it such that the experiences are consistant with the image they will have problems. Those two incidents are just the most extreme, I've had some other less enjoyable encounters since leaving WildPackets which set the stage for my thoughts that there is more to this then a few troubled teams. I even had an employee at a Fremont store argue with me about sleeve reuse. Leadership is from the top down and I think they are growing faster than they can train the management.


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