Why Starbucks IS The Undisputed King of Coffee

19 02 2008

Apple fan-boys, suburban hipsters, and even my fellow friends alike may disagree with me on this one, but when it comes to coffee + productivity, the 800 lb gorilla takes the bananas.

The company recently announced they will be providing FREE wi-fi to anyone with a Starbucks card.

This is huge. The sole reason why many college students don’t study at Starbucks is due to the fact you need an expensive T-Mobile Hotspot account to get online. $6 a day my ass, thats two, five pump light ice white mochas.

Now, I’ve always been happy with Starbucks, maybe because I’ve been pampered with my company footing my wi-fi bill, but aside from the technology, Starbucks has refined and solidified customer service.

Let me tell you a story about a local coffee shop in my area, no names will be mentioned, because despite the horrendous customer service, I still have my support for budding entrepreneurs.

I have been going to my local start up coffee shop, since high school for about seven years. They catered to the young crowd with contemporary paintings on the walls and the soothing electronic sounds of new-Radiohead while serving coffee on double punch Tuesdays.

All was well until poor customer service took its toll.

I remember an elderly lady walked in with a Starbucks travel mug and wanted to fill up with some good local coffee. What happened next? She was refused coffee and service because she was sporting the Starbucks brand. I understand that brand awareness is key, but c’mon, your local coffee shop will never make it big like Starbucks so why not go for the quick buck at least? The woman obviously enjoys or would like to try your coffee so why not use that to win a returning customer. Minus one for poor service.

My friends and I, who had been loyal customers for 6 years got the boot when a few additional friends dropped by for no more than 10 minutes without ordering a drink. I understand they are trying to prevent the “what would an indian do” scenario but returning customers who have brought in additional friends to drink sub-par coffee, equivalently priced with Starbucks’ premium offerings, should not be treated like that. Minus two for poor service.

The final draw came last year. Starbucks was closed late at night, and my local coffee shop offered extended night hours. I had to crank out some code over coffee so I figured I’d take advantage of the free wi-fi. The oh-so-not-beloved coffee shop decided it would issue a password to get online, printed on the receipt of my purchase, cool. While sipping on my white mocha for a few hours and doing my work, I was interrupted by the barista to be informed that I needed to make ANOTHER purchase because I had been using their wi-fi for over two hours. This wasn’t stated anywhere on my receipt, or anywhere inside the shop. Minus three for poor service. I decided this was the last time I would do business with them.

Now that Starbucks offers free wi-fi, coupled with great coffee, and excellent customer service, there is no need to support the local coffee shop. All they had going was customer service, and when you lose that – you lose the relationships that keep change in your pockets.




4 responses

20 02 2008
Pete Daniels

Hate to say it, but Starbucks consistently serves the worst coffee in this town. Indigestable burnt black tar. This is not simply my opinion, this is Starbucks policy.

What am I talking about? Let me explain. Starbucks has a lot in common with McDonalds (in terms of their business model). People don’t go to Starbucks for great coffee, they go there for a consistent cup of coffee. Much like people go to McDonald’s for a consistent burger. Not great, but you know what you’re buying, any Starbucks or McDonald’s that you walk into around the globe, make your order, it should taste just like the last time you were at a Starbucks three states away last week. It’s a very important part of how a company like this makes its money.

Okay, but does that necessarily mean bad coffee? Yes, it does, and here’s why. There’s a lot of variance in the coffee roasting process. Things from how long you roast to the particular roaster that you’re using all have an effect on the finished product. Coffee roasted in one roaster will taste different from coffee roasted in another, identical roaster. Starbucks gets around this by (you guessed it) burning the living shit out of their coffee beans. That black shiny stuff on top of your cup of coffee? That bitter taste in the back of your throat? Yeah, real coffee doesn’t give you that.

That having been said, I’m sorry you had such a sucky experience at your local java hut. But don’t let that consign you to crispy burnt coffee for the rest of your life. Life’s too short to drink bad coffee.

PS: Why is this filed under “Ubuntu?”

best wishes-

21 02 2008

Sorry, to disagree with p. daniels, but Starbucks makes the best coffee around. I like my brew dark and strong, the fruit of a heavy roast. Nothing else, McDonald’s, Dunkin Donuts, Caribou, Seattle’s Best (probably a not-so-close second) seems to satisfy.

And I, too, am doing a quiet happy dance within upon hearing the news of Starbucks’ new partnership with AT&T. I have always love the ambience and, yes, damnit!, consistency of Starbucks. The bared teeth antagonism of so many Starbucks detractors has always puzzled me. Just go somewhere else. For me, my experience has been pleasant and I can think of many times (like when the lid on my Starbucks mug was defective and an employee at a different location replaced it with a new one without batting an eye) when the service was exceptional.

It is unfortunate that some smaller shops don’t realize that customer service is vital. I had a counter person at a local, organic shop berate me when I told her I favored Starbucks. “Why would you like Starbucks? Unless you enjoy drinking pesticides.” Yeah, making me feel like an idiot is a great way to win me over.

Good thing there’s a Starbucks on nearly every corner.

30 05 2008

Pete – perfectly said. Starbucks could probably brew their sludge with incinerated walnut shells and achieve the same “flavor”.

18 09 2008

This was a strange post.

I must say I am biased because I don’t Starbucks. Two reasons –
1. I don’t like their coffee (just a matter of taste).
2. Can’t stand the pretension of their sizing scheme. Whenever I do go to a Starbucks, it is always a petty pleasure to order a “medium” or a “large”.

Anyway, it is a little strange you dislike free internet with (devious) purchase requirement but are okay with paid internet because your company foots the the bill. Not sure how that is better customer service. Also, not that the Starbucks card requirement is very different from a purchase requirement, anyway.

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