Wednesday, February 27, 2008

2-27-08: Starbucks Closes (for three hours)

Shocking news in the world of “gourmet” coffee: Starbucks decided to shut down all of its stores for three hours yesterday evening to re-train its employees in an effort to bring back customers.

I haven’t heard much about a public outcry. Perhaps it’s because every one is just so tired from the lack of coffee for those three hours that they’re just too lazy to make a big stink about it. I’d also be surprised if they did, since what Starbucks did was simply a part of a deliberate attempt to improve their quality of service. I’m not a frequent patron of Starbucks, and I’ve had very few problems in my trips to the store, but I like where they’re going with this.

First off, they’re getting back to basics. They’ve brought back the founder Howard Schultz to spearhead the company back into the forefront of their industry. They even made their baristas (doesn’t that sound like a South American resistance fighter?) take a pledge to serve perfect coffee. I like that. I’m a big fan of good customer service in general. It seems to me that this is often ignored, especially in the restaurant industry. I’m not asking for a whole lot, just smile, be polite, and look like you care.

Second, it’s funny to see how people reacted. It seems to me that most people just found it a minor inconvenience. I’d like to meet some one who was devastated by this, though. Since it was done in the evening, it obviously didn’t disrupt anyone’s early morning routine. Well, at least it didn’t affect any normal morning routine. I’m sure some second shift workers were pissed off, but how many second shift workers are Starbuck’s fans? Who cares, anyway? It’s not like there are any special interest groups out their for caffeine addicts. You’d have to be really special then. America runs on Dunkin’, after all.

The other interesting thing is all the stuff that Schultz is doing to turn his business around. One of the funniest and most ironic steps is that Starbucks will slow down the rate of opening new stores. Oh really? Now you slow down? This reminds me of a great Lewis Black bit where he says he found the end of the Earth (I think it was in Houston). He walked out of a Starbucks, looked across the street, and saw another Starbucks. Hilarious bit. Here’s the Youtube link:

Good move, Starbucks. I hope you do well, and I hope that more businesses follow your lead and shape up. Don’t stop serving Whoppers, start serving your customers.

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