Beware the Reduction in Services

I went into my favorite local Starbucks yesterday and left disappointed. “Management”, which means from “on high” not the local manager, has decided that they do not sell enough decaffeinated coffee in the afternoons to warrant brewing it. The barista explained that I could have my decaf coffee in 5 minutes, but they do not brew it in the afternoon. “Too much waste.” she was told by the Oracle in Seattle.

What are you doing to survive the economy? I hope you are not taking it out on your customers. You better know what they value in you before your company messes with a winning formula.

In the old Starbucks (remember when they had decaf in the afternoons?), if they were out of brewed coffee, they offered you an Americano for free. My barista offered me an Americano for the price of a coffee. I am sure another edict from the Oracle. I always thought their policy of free coffee was over the top, but then hey, what’s it cost to make a cup of coffee? Apparently – a lot.

I got the decaf Americano. It was poorly made and I poured it out when I got home.

I am not a Starbucks coffee snob. I don’t have a fancy callout drink. I go to Starbucks because I like their strategy. The stores are cool, the service cheerful, the coffee consistently good or better. It’s a respite between where I was and where I will be.

This change told me a lot of things:

1. Starbucks standards for coffee exceed my tastes. If the pot of decaf sits for thirty more minutes (like mine does at home) than prescribed, it should be thrown out. Maybe I should drink at home – it’s cheaper anyway.

2. Customers that drink decaf are not core business. (I actually drink half-caff, but apparently we don’t count either)

3. Those little touches designed to win and keep my business (I always feel like a big shot customer when my cup is comp’d) don’t matter now. Does my business not matter now?

4. The higher level of service and quality have always cost me more money than going to Dunkin Donuts or McDonald’s – shouldn’t I be paying less if services are dropped? For half the price I can go to McDonald’s (or any other fastfood chain that has added gourmet coffee).

So I know the economy sucks. I perhaps treat myself to fewer cups of Starbucks now because of it. I am sure their $6 callout orders have dropped way off. But don’t they want my business when things turn around? Don’t they want my AVAILABLE business?

My advice? Keep the coffee urns full, cut down on comp’d drinks, drop the price a little, show you care by cutting your costs not my service, and thereby maintain some market share. Your coffee is not THAT much better and some McDonald’s are very nice places. But please, don’t make me go there!

Leave a comment: