Star of the Bucks
Working at S-bucks for the last four months has been quite an experience. One of the cool parts of it has been the inside look at the direction the company is heading and their attempts to stay (via)ble…you’ll get that in a second. I mean, I don’t get really cool inside info, but a little more than just sitting in the hard chair sucking down the juice all morning like I used to do. Here are a few thoughts on what I’ve seen. Note, this is my opinion, not the Bucks, as will become clear.
- It seems like they’re grasping for anything that might work. Shortly after I stared we were rocking the New Age Eastern vibe and pushing the tea lattes. Now we sell about four of those a day. After that we were “returning to our roots” and pushing the bags of beans. We sold a lot because we had people donate them to the troops, I don’t think people bought any more for themselves than they normally do. This week we have begun the revolution of the coffee industry with Starbucks version of instant coffee–VIA (thus the play on words earlier). We watched a peppy video that told us how these little packets would change the world and bring peace through quick coffee. (I will say this for the Via, it’s better than you’d think. It’s not fresh brewed like the company line, but it is pretty good. Worth a try at least.) The thing is, all this pushing of something different every couple weeks doesn’t work for a couple reasons. 1) It makes us look confused. Is tea the next big thing, or good old coffee, or instant, or rhubarb bars (hurry in, only for a limited time)? It seems like we don’t know. 2) It annoys the customers. People don’t want to be told to dump their triple grande two pump extra hot half decaf soy vanilla latte for a london fog latte. Some of them let us know that’s the case. I get that we need to try new products, but the things Starbucks was built on–great coffee and a great atmosphere–get lost in the process, and I think that hurts.
- Mixed messages are hard to reconcile. I really believe they care about customer service. They know it’s essential to continued business. We get stories of both good and bad customer service on a regular basis that we have to read through and think how we’d handle things. At the same time, the bottom line is we need to make money, understandably. So we also are constantly challanged to move people through more quickly and there’s no way you can have even a one-minute conversation with a customer unless it’s totally dead. I understand, but it’s hard to have it both ways. I think they do their best to try and address both customer care and efficiency. This tension is also seen in the recent cutting of employees and hours, but the expectation of improved efficiency and no dropoff in production.
- Tipping is appreciated. Before working at the Bucks I would always think, “I’m paying freakin four dollars for a drink. Why would I tip?” But as with many other industries, the people working in the stores aren’t exactly raking it in. I don’t expect anyone to tip, but you remember the people who do, and you appreciate their generosity.
Well, that’s it for now. So try some Via (only in Chicagoland). Most stores still have some samples, it may not bring world peace, but it’s worth a taste test at least.