hypocritical : talking the talk without walking the walk

February 28, 2008

Starbucks retraining results, my reaction

So, I went back to Starbucks, today. For the first time in a long time. And, yes, you know me. I fell for the hype about the retraining.

And that's why I went back. Because I just had to see.

Took it. Hook, line, and sinker.

And while the cynic in me was really hoping to be able to report an "epic fail" on my first attempt, I have to admit that wasn't the exactly the case. And yet, in some ways, it was.

Now, I have frequented various Starbucks establishments for more than 13 years. I've been a barista (although not at Starbucks). I drink a lot of coffee. And I'm in marketing. Which means I have to drink a lot of coffee. (It's like a prerequisite.)

So the hype about the now infamous "Starbucks retraining" that closed down stores to bring the "partners" back to a common understanding of their roles in the organization? Loved it. Ate it up. Brilliant marketing move.

But it only becomes a brilliant marketing campaign if it actually has a pay off.

So I went back. To the worst offender of the "Starbucks way" in my neighborhood. (Please bear in mind that I have at least--at least--six Starbucks within a mile or so of my house that I could call my "neighborhood Starbucks.")

The service was noticeably better. A revived sense of politeness. A willingness to help. Chatty without being too chatty. Really a nice experience, personally.

But, then there's the thing that I actually came for: the coffee.

Now, I drink the same drink practically every time I go to Starbucks. I mean sure, sometimes I fall for the Cinnamon Dolce Crack Latte or a seasonal Peppermint Mocha. But day-in and day-out, it's a quad Con Panna that will fit the bill.

Okay. I realize that thinking of "tastiness" as one of the benefits of a Con Panna is like thinking of "weight loss" as one of the benefits of meth. I get that. But I've been drinking these things for years and years. All over the country. At Starbucks and otherwise.

I mean, I was drinking them when they were still on the Starbucks menu. So I know what they should taste like. I know what's good and what's bad.

And the one I got today? Still tasted like ass.

Now, it doesn't help that I've had a couple of meetings at Stumptown Coffee, this week. Where I've had the opportunity to have a really, really good quad Con Panna or five.

I mean, that's not really fair. That's like eating your grandma's homemade apple pie for a few days and then expecting a McDonald's apple pie to compare.

It's not fair. It's not fair to expect miracles overnight, either. But then again, I'm not generally rational or fair.

And continuing the McDonald's analogy, at least with McDonald's the apple pie would be the same apple pie, no matter where I bought it. At Starbucks, the consistency is all over the board. A million different flavors of crappy, with some bright spots of tastiness in between.

So service? Great. But coffee? May still be a problem.

So, I've now officially given up. Despite the convenience and the history. I'm done. I mean, I'm an addict, so I'll go if it's the only option. But if I have a choice? I'm done with Starbucks.

You see, there's a reason that I go to coffee shops. And it's not for atmosphere.

There's a reason that I'm willing to play the role of "completely uncool old guy" at Albina Press or Village Coffee or Urban Grind or Stumptown or Ugly Mug.

And that reason is because of the coffee. Good coffee.

And I'm willing to put up with pretty surly service to get it. Because that's why I go there.

If I can get great service and great coffee? Then you've got me.

And Starbucks, in my opinion, still has a ways to go before that happens.

But, please keep working at it, Mr. Schultz. And maybe I'll be back.

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Starbucks retraining results, my reaction

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