Friday, May 19, 2006

Starbuck's Part Two

I went to Starbuck's the other day and ordered a Grande Mocha. It was good, but there was something missing. It seemed like there was no whipped cream at the top.

You know it: It's when you get that first delicious taste of coffee, mocha, and whipped cream (and if it's done right, you even taste the chocolate syrup that they drizzle over the whipped cream, at least initially).

But as I drove along, I truly thought that--in their hurry--someone forgot to load the whipped cream. I was a little miffed, because Grande Mochas cost $3.45. Oh, well.

Today I went there again, and ordered the same drink. I even asked the girl at the drive up window whether they would put whipped cream in the drink. She said, "Yes."

And she was not lying...I was able to actually watch the guy make the drink through the drive up window and--it's true--he skimped on the whipped cream. And he didn't include any syrup at all. I was getting no love for my money.

So, why should I make such a big deal about such a minor thing like whipped cream? Because the coffee business is quite nuanced. Starbuck's is selling me more than a drink; they're selling me a delicious and pricey coffee experience. Skimping on ingredients and hoping people won't notice is a good way to send me to Tim Horton's, Romolo's, or Boston Bean (in North East).

I don't know whether this is an issue with a single worker or whether it's larger than that, but I wanted to post this comment so that word might reach Starbuck's (at the Mall) so that they could sharpen the quality control. I don't want to lose them as a espresso source.

Dr. Java


Stan Langerhaus said...

I feel for you Doctor. And I share your in disappointment. But what do you expect from some kid? Probably making minium. No ownership interest in the enterprise? What does he care, if the local Starbucks goes under, he can always get another crap job. But your desire for fine and exotic java will go wanting.

To me, this is just another sign that the transfer of the US from a manufacturing economy to a service economy is accelerating the problems of capitalism as Karl Marx predicted. Marx stated that once people stopped working for a craft and started working just for money, would be the end of community and society as we know it.

When was the last time you hired someone to do something for you and you could tell that they actually cared about the result?

DocTorDee said...

Thanks for feeling my pain, Stan. ;-)

Seriously, though, you're absolutely right. I remember my Dad telling me about his dad, who--along with his team ofr house painters--would mix their own paint, come into your house, and paint your walls without spilling a drop on the carpet.

That's how well they knew their paint. Dad said they didn't need dropcloths, although they put them down just to please the homeowner.

I realize that some of this smacks of legend told by father to son, and that's okay, because it points to the notion that, once upon a time, people in this country bragged about their work.

I've heard plenty of mill hunkies down in Pittsburgh talk smack about their very dangerous exploits in the forge. Whether it's real or made up (or a mix), it all signals a heartfelt connection to work and product as part of self.

This is where Marx comes in and the idea that craft is lost as we move from a manufacturing economy to a service economy. Wall Street likes it, though...less overhead.

At the same time, however, isn't the system working like it's supposed to? The kid has his choice of jobs and I have my choice of coffee vendors. If Starbuck's doesn't provide proper training or adequte compensation for their employees, then they will eventually suffer as Tim Horton's and Romolo's impinge on their space.

I wonder what Ralph thinks about all this.

Stan Langerhaus said...

I suppose the system (or as I and I Rastaman say "shitstem") is unfortunately working the way it is supposed to.

We have Walmart and all of its ilk so focused on margin that the concept of quality (both for the product and its employees and therefore its customers) is eliminated. I don't understand whatever started it. Seems to me that only way to fight it is to patronize our local mom and pops. THere are still a few independent coffee houses in the area.

And before anyone throws a label on me, I want to reassure you that I am pretty much a true blue capitalist. I am just getting sick of seeing the marketplace in all products getting narrowed down too to few players for real competition to exist.

Ralph said...

Sorry, I've been out of the loop for awhile. My stomach has gone berzerk on me again. Don't know what I picked up in Philly, but it's been pretty rough. As far as Starbucks goes, Dr. Java, I'm disappointed to hear of your experience. I always thought they did a marvelous job with customer service - and because of that assumed they were paying above minimum wage.

My thought on the system - "shitsam" is this: It's still free enterprise. Everybody has a choice to buy where they want to, for whatever reasons they want to. I guess I could choose to buy coffee at Country Fair or McDonald's, but I choose to spend the extra money to go to Tim Hortons or Starbucks because I like it better. When it comes to hardware, I usually go to True Value, because of better cusotmer service, but when it comes to selection, you can't beat Lowe's. If people choose to buy at Wal-Mart, Wal-Mart wins. If people choose to vote for George Bush, he wins. Now that Bush is out of favor, we can only hope Wal-Mart will soon follow. But, you can't force anyone really to buy anywhere, unless of course you have good reason for legislating Wal-Mart out of your state or community - which is another form of selection... and it all comes back to Darwin.