Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz, Sent Us an Open Letter Proving How Unwelcoming His Stores Really Are
I admit, since I saw this sign (pictured above) in the doors of all the Starbucks stores I frequent (there are many) I have been harboring an upset with the company I have supported with over $11,000 in purchases since 2012 (per the calculation a Starbucks Customer Service rep gave me a few months back).
I have been stewing about it for a week or so and didn’t realize why until a few unsavory experiences happened within the stores. When added to the recent slew of run-ins I have had with numerous Starbucks partners, I started to realize that I feel unwelcome too, and that Howard Schultz’s big “handling” of the situation is to cash in on the public relations while making ALL Starbucks customers pay and once again make its partners a priority, a fact I am about to back up with my recent experience. This open letter is to you, Howard Schultz, but also to you Starbucks customers, to ask that you make him feel it in his wallet, much more so than the $12 million the news media claims they will “lose” for the big “closing at 2 PM” PR stunt they are pulling.
[Additional note, this make the incident in Philly that much worse by using it to cash in on PR for the company – shame on you additionally for that]
Closing at 2 PM When The “Training” Only Takes 3 Hours, Making Customers Unwelcome During Key Hours
Just this morning I was voicing my frustrations to barista friends at my home store whom I asked why the store was closing at 2 PM. They indicated they were uncertain as the training is 3 hours long.
Let alone the obvious fact that the situation in Philly was pretty cut and dried, and those partners should have been disciplined accordingly with a 5-15 internal staff meeting to follow in each store discussing what happened and leaving the rest to common sense.
As a matter of fact, I did not blame Starbucks as a company for the idiocy and lack of common sense these partners displayed. No matter what company they worked for and what policies governed them, the would have behaved equally as idiotic. That the media chose to make it about Starbucks was misguided sensationalism. I have seen policy misapplied many other times at Starbucks and equally with numerous other companies. I watched one partner in Starbucks one time actually ask an elderly couple not to take pictures because it was against company policy, something which I have NEVER seen in any other of their stores. Clearly, this partner was an idiot.
More to the point, when I asked my barista friends, why not close the store at 7 and have the meeting at night they retorted, and I quote, “but then we would have to work at night”, to which I had no response. I was at a loss for words.
Just Last Night We Were Denied Access to a Store Where Partners Decided to Lock the Doors 20 Minutes Early
I have already called Starbucks customer service once today over this issue but feel it necessary to mention as it just further proves my case. I will happily call out the staff at that store publicly. It was on Route 59 in Suffern NY. I have been in Starbucks approaching closing before and had partners yell out a warning that they will be closing in 15 minutes, frantically cleaning to apparently “get out on time” ignoring the fact that the advertised hours say they serve until closing time. This was something else. The lights were turned off in the dining room and 2 partners were behind the bar cleaning up – DOORS LOCKED with us and several other customers trying to get in.
Insult to injury? Without a doubt. This on the eve of the unnecessary close at 2 PM.
Howard Schultz Is Ignoring His Responsibility to Customers to Service Them at a Key Time of Their Working Day, When he Could Simply Do It At Night When People Less LIkely Drink Coffee
My wife spends almost as much as I do in Starbucks. She works a sales job on the road. I am my own boss and travel frequently as well. I resonated with drummer Greg Bissonette when he released a song on his recent album called “Starbucks Is My American Embassy” in that I have noticed in my travels that people like my wife and myself are common at Starbucks and rely on it as a place to stop, get recharged with coffee and food, use the facilities, make a few calls, use the internet, etc.
I also happen to know that corporate people are a major demographic, particularly in the mornings but, especially after that “afternoon crash” phenomenon. In hearing in passing that Howard Shultz reported this closing costing the company to the tune of $12 million, I wondered further why not just train at 7 PM. The losses would be far less. Then again, I thought, the PR value and face-saving benefits would be far less too. Once again, a business move over a customer one.
My Numerous Bouts With Customer Service, Store, District and Regional Managers
Part of my credibility for writing this is that I have been very proactive as a customer with Starbucks, holding them, not to impossibly-high standards, but the ones they purport to hold. I merely want them to deliver the standard they promise at corporate-level at the point of sale.
It’s not very much to ask at all. But, apparently, Howard Schultz doesn’t agree…
I feel as though I have been training Starbucks partners at my own expense. I have covered everything from the condition and disrepair of dining rooms and bathrooms to defending a customer treated rudely by a partner giving priority to his own family and berating a customer for inquiring why he was waiting unreasonably long. I have been contacted by probably a dozen district managers and even a regional one.
At one particular store in my area, one which was retrofit into an old Krispy Kreme donuts building had been in an inconvenient state of disrepair, I had pleaded with managers and partners to get the broken outlets and window shades fixed to no avail, with them telling me they have voiced it to higher levels to no avail, encouraging me to contact customer service. Those repairs finally got done after even bypassing the district manager and talking directly to the regional.
Some Starbucks Baristas’ “Nomenclature Bullying Tactics” and Inconsistency in the Ranks, a Violation of the Very COncept of a Franchise
I don’t intend to blow this out of proportion, but I have been spending quite a bit of time correcting customer service with Starbucks already. As I have previously mentioned, I have been in touch with, probably, a dozen district managers after numerous calls to customer service over an ongoing issue with the drink I order.
Without getting into the gory details of these altercations, and to avoid creating more confusion on nomenclature, let’s start with the Starbucks standard first, as verified, time and again, in each phone call I have had with district managers and 800 customer service. In fact, I had a random barista tell me that the way I have been treated is against company policy. But more on that in a minute.
The recurring problem is that I order a valid drink, the way a barista in one of your stores taught me to order it no less, to the exact specifications I like, and I get a lecture or argument from at least 40% of the partners I encounter. What’s worse, I have found no 2 partners in agreement. This process has caused me undue embarrassment, being called out in front of a crowded dining room and bar area, and being made to feel as though I am trying to scam Starbucks out of a little cream. It is belittling, to say the least, but completely unnecessary.
Starbucks is supposed to be a place where you come to have your drink, your way, no matter how crazy, an idea that Starbucks as a company forwards, and even baristas talk about when they describe the habits of their most finicky customers. Consistency is key in a company this large and having baristas and cashiers alike even argue over this is something else.
Getting back to the random Barista, (who was actually a brand new partner), he told me, after I told him about my frequent experience, that partners are not supposed to correct customers. I have verified this with district management, time and again, yet the problem remains.
Each new location visited and new partner encountered, I flinch as I order in anticipation of which reaction I will receive. It could go either way.
The Only People Starbucks Serve Are Themselves
What can I say more about this? With everything I have talked about here, with all my experience, what other conclusion would YOU make? Is there really any other logical assumption after the benefit of the doubt has been given far beyond a reasonable length of time or frequency of experiences?
I Don’t Believe In a Full Boycott, But, Like Disciplining a Child, The Punishment Should Be Felt Enough to Correct Behavior.
Honestly, I wanted to call Starbucks patrons to action, not to boycott your stores, but to cut down on their drink consumption for a brief period to make you really feel it. I am proposing a calculated effort to withhold a specific amount of funding to your stores, one that makes you feel it more than the $12 million the media reports you claimed to have lost on this store-closing stunt.
With reported revenues of 10.7 billion in 2017, 12 million is like a lawsuit settlement payout by a pharma company. It doesn’t make a dent and is considered in the ledger, “the cost of doing business” to many executives.
The irony is that I don’t feel you deserved the media attention and the ensuing damage the behavior of those partners in Philly caused. I do, however, feel you deserve more than a $12 million penalty for how you exploited it. Perhaps a few more added zeros to that will get your attention. I am hoping patrons will send a message by cutting down for a short amount of time to without a more appropriate amount so you will learn your lesson.
My Advice to You, Howard Shultz, and Your Purported Vision of Duplicating Your Italy Experience
I have been obsessed with customer service since my first job in retail when I was 15. I didn’t feel people really got it then and I think it has become so much worse now. I see it in your stores, but it is everywhere else too.
The way to better customer service is not by looking at the non-optimum but at the ideal, and comparing it to what already is. Those cafes in Italy whose positive influence you spoke of, did not become that way because they talked to their staff about racism and common sense issues. Yes, those are important to be addressed. They are the way they are because they thrive on their clearly-defined, positive purpose and staff up with people who want to forward that purpose. It’s pretty freaking simple.
My overall advice, Howard? Stop thinking about PR for the company. How your partners treat people is the ONLY public relations there is, no matter how many “campaigns” you run. If you would just shop your own stores and look for these oddities in behavior, you can work to increase it without store closings for trainings that do not aim at better customer service. When your partners start engaging in actual customer service and follow policies you set as a standard (which need to be set in the first place) the customer experience will be better.
I have a long-standing policy on my Yelp! account and it is something which I feel reflects how people really feel when it comes to getting service. I neither write reviews that are less than 4’s or 5’s nor do I write scathing ones. The poor service some places give is all that is needed to put them out of business. Giving them attention only prolongs the process. I simply withdraw my support. I believe most people operate this way and you can learn something.
The Irony Is That You Are Making Customers Feel Unwelcome to Figure Out How to Make Customers Feel Welcome
Think before you act about things like closing a store during key hours customers rely on you to correct errors in your company. Do it on your own time, not ours.
And please don’t send me any more email letters. Stick to specials and rewards. And make your staff want to service me and everyone else in the fullest sense of the words “customer service” and we’ll all get along just fine.
Finally, please note that I have not left as a customer. I am still here, not asking, but begging you to change your ways. But my loyalty, like anyone else’s, will not last forever. My patience wears thin.
Please introvert and reflect and then try mystery shopping your stores. You may be aghast at what you learn.