The Starbucks Brand is a Promise [Open thread]

The Starbucks brand is a promise.  Of course every great brand is a promise.  I am having some trouble producing a lot of content right now (I’m working from a very slow netbook, which is slowing me down and makes it slower to work with images) and I thought we could have some fun just talking about what Starbucks means to us.

Please tell me what Starbucks means to you, and what your Starbucks experience is.

A brand means that you have predictability to what you get.  So if you hear the word “Crest” you might think of toothpaste, and definitely if you hear the word “Sharpie” probably a pen comes to mind.

One of the dangerous things a brand can do is just slap their logo willy-nilly everywhere and then people start to get confused about what the logo really stands for.  Is Starbucks a place for coffee? I previously wrote about Starbucks Popcorn: A brand can get away with throwing their logo on other items to some degree but if it isn’t done with great caution it leads to brand dilution.  That’s okay if the brand is okay with that transformation:  People will  forget what the brand was built on. When people hear “Nordstrom” they don’t think of a place that just sells shoes (that’s how it started) and even when you hear “Eddie Bauer” many people don’t make any association to a goose down jacket, but that one product was the start of the Eddie Bauer brand.

For Starbucks, the brand promises great coffee (and I am including espresso beverages in the word “coffee” here though usually when I say coffee I just mean brewed coffee.) and a great experience.  Starbucks tells you what they promise: Your drink should be perfect every time.

More than that, there are numerous implicit promises:

Your experience will be uplifting.  You can come here and take a break from your job or rest from your busy day.

Your experience may have some surprise and delight in it.  This is critical. Baristas who are forced to follow a scripted routine can’t surprise and delight a customer.  I thought about this last Thursday, as I definitely had a ‘first’ in all my years as a customer.  A young barista gave me an “Involved” card.  I nearly cried. I walked in and the barista said, “you know what Green Apron Cards” are? – He said it more as a statement than a question. I said yes.  He gave me the “inspire” card. That was a great surprise.  In all honesty, that means a lot more to me than a coupon for a free drink.  I’m very touched.  True, all baristas have to be working together as a team to make great things happen, and there must be protocols to create some predictability to the experience, but they’re not robots and can’t act like that. Each and every baristas must be vested with the discretion to find a way to make a customer’s day bright.  I realize that many customers just want to hurry in and out and get their coffee, but a fixed script or the inability to act freely is what would instantly turn the experience into, ‘would you like fries with that latte?’

Your baristas should be knowledgeable.  This is critical, and unfortunately in my experience, an area that needs great improvement.  I hate to say not nice things about Starbucks, but these days there seems to be little emphasis on being knowledgeable.  I have witnessed countless episodes where barists could not explain the registered card benefits to the customer standing in line ahead of me.  I have met tons of baristas who are unaware that ANY registered card may be at the “Gold” level of MyStarbucksRewards and receiving gold level perks.  During brew on demand phase, I encountered many baristas who didn’t understand why an Americano is not the same thing as brewed coffee. The concept that brew method and kind of bean affects the flavor of the drink seemed to be not well-known. In Clover stores, I’ve watched baristas struggle with which growing regions are associated with which coffees, though this is important to properly program the Clover machine.  Fundamentally, Starbucks needs to pour a lot more effort, money, and labor into training.

Actually, being not being knowledgeable can be overcome by being genuine and honest.  Last week I was at a Starbucks late in the evening at 7th and Pike in downtown Seattle, and ordering a beverage with vanilla syrup.  I handed him my old black card to pay (my 10 percent discount has long since expired, but it is registered and has Uncle Howard’s autograph on it, so I continue to use it) and the barista gave me a total.  I think I said something like, “well that’s not the real total because it will take off the Vanilla charge.”  The barista was confused.  It was clearly the first time he had seen the black gold card and he didn’t understand that it too would have all the perks of My Starbucks Rewards. Rather than trying to bluff his way through the situation, he just looked at me with very genuine eyes and said that he was new, and then he listened with open ears as I explained that any card may be used to receive the benefits of My Starbucks Rewards.  Now that is a great partner.  In all honesty, I don’t care usually if a partner isn’t very knowledgeable if they’re nice about it: If they have sort of a curiosity to know more. Unfortunately, it’s human nature to feel defensive when one feels like he or she doesn’t know enough for the demanding moment, and that interferes with being geniune and a good learning process.


Just as a reminder, I am still looking for partner pics to feature in an upcoming blog post.  I realize this is difficult and probably overly ambitious for me.  Most people don’t like to show off pics of themselves! Here’s the blog post – Please read it!

Looking for the faces of Starbucks partners: Real people, real partners


If you are new to the blog, I recommend reading some of the following previous blog entries:

Starbucks chalk art – winners – Seriously, everyone loves this blog post.  It’s a celebration of creativity and shows off the talents found inside of Starbucks.

Collecting Starbucks Cards and Howard Schultz’s autograph – This is another fun blog post. Lots of people collect these cards and so I show off my small collection of cards, which includes Howard’s autograph on a few of them.  I keep a sharpie with me at all times ready to ask Howard for his autograph yet again!

First and Battery Starbucks Card (Twilight Card) – This was never one of my most popular blog entries when I look over my analytics but I love it.  This Starbucks Card sits inside thousands and thousands of Starbucks stores, and it has a story to be told.  It’s a real and beautiful Starbucks store.

Starbucks Cafe Verona coffee – This also never was a hugely popular blog post in relative comparison to others, but I love this one.  For me, Verona has often been a “go to” coffee for me, and this blog post gives an interesting little history of the coffee.

The Starbucks at 1912 Pike Place – According to my google analytics, this was a pretty wildly popular blog post which came as a surprise to me.  It just goes show you that sometimes we take for granted what is right in our backyard.  Since I’m in Seattle, going to visit 1912 Pike Place isn’t a big deal, but I underestimate that this is an important pilgrimage for many people.

Starbucks Espresso Excellence – Two Years Later – Remember when Starbucks closed all their stores for a ‘hard reset’ of espresso training? This blog post revisits that experience.

Actually, not to sound too egotistical, but if you browse the “archive” tab, you’ll find tons of amazing blog entries. Wow. This blog really kicks ass! Okay, I know I shouldn’t say that and sorry for the vulgarity!


I need to apologize for the MANY typos and spelling errors in this blog entry. I know it’s very bad.  This stupid, slow, little net book doesn’t even have Word installed on it. I give up. I’ll fix the typos later. Normally, I’m much more careful than this sloppy blog post.


And now it’s your turn … What promises do you see and hear in the word “Starbucks”?  What does Starbucks promise YOU? This is an open thread: talk about anything Starbucks-related.  I know that over on other blogs people are talking about the return of Salted Hot Chocolate, and the new Toffee Nut Sauce which will be a thick sauce like a mocha sauce.  Right now there is a toffee nut syrup, but not a toffee sauce.

I suppose I could have renamed this blog post, “The power of the Green Apron Cards” because that’s what it is.

(I got the “involved” card from a partner, and had the others laying around but didn’t come as special gifts with a note on the back. The only card I’d been missing (I think), was, in fact, “involved”.)

Thank you Molly of Seattle  Custom Framing for help with the photos.

Related Posts



    To paraphrase President Bill Clinton: “”There is nothing wrong in Starbucks that can’t be fixed with what is right in Starbucks.”

  • Phil

    Great post. I had the opportunity to go to the FIRST Starbucks in June. Starbucks means an idea/brand that someone believed in soooo much that it’s not a Global Icon! I love it. No matter how many times I say, “Damn it! It’s sooo expensive” I can’t stop going because I believe in it. :)

  • Phil

    mean to say “now” instead of “not”. Sorry.


    I think Starbucks is stretching their promise the same way they stretch the interpretation of the First Amendment.

  • Pam

    To me, Starbucks means a decent cup of coffee (hopefully something other than Pike Place) and some tempting baked goodies. That’s it.

  • Sebastian

    Starbucks means so much to me…

    1.) It means perfect quality products that are served to the customers. Sure, when I hear and see the word “Starbucks”, I know that there is a place where I get perfect quality of food and coffee. I don’t have to care about where the products come from, how they were made and if it is worth eating or drinking them.

    2.) And this is standard all over the globe. In a Romanian Starbucks as well as in a Chinese Starbucks. So it means standardization to me. But this should also be the goal of any other world-brand, like Subway, Burger King and so on…

    3.) It means a well environment to relax…Starbucks to me is like a second home. When I hear “Starbucks”, I don’t think of stress, of rush or anything like that. This is different to other companies. I think of big comfy chairs, warm colors and a pleasant atmosphere.

    4.) It also means happy and always good-humored staff, so Barista. I think that is VERY different to what I think of other service companies. Starbucks is known for having really motivated partners all over the globe. And this is so special nowaydays. I know just a few companies that have so friendly, motivated and always smiling employees who really convey the companies philosohpies to the customers. And this is so awesome. This makes a customer returning to a coffee house…he gets anywhere around on the world and he comes to Starbucks and experiences this awesome staff. This is very important.

    5.) Starbucks also means to me the connection of local community/culture with the brand. This is, again, very special about it. You can go to any Starbucks in the world and always have this touch of local culture and tradition that flows into the store. You really don’t see that so much at other companies. There is local art displayed in the stores, local coffees sometimes, City Mugs or other things. Great that Starbucks focuses so much on this topic. So you always have the standard besides of local culture. I love that!

    There is much more that Starbucks is to me…but I think that is it for the beginning…:D

  • denise r.

    Well ….this is a big one. To me, “Starbuck’s”, overall means comfort. Comfort from the coffee or drink, comfort from the store and its atmosphere……comfort from anything maybe NOT so comfortable in my life at any given moment, a safe haven of sorts. All that includes my coffee or drink made and tasting exactly as it should. (at least eventually;) It means my friendly relationships with my regular baristas and our conversations. It means the conversations I have with people I see, other customers, whom I sometimes never know really much about but we talk talk talk.

    I think all of the above was part of what totally disheartened so many of us when PPR came out as force-fed. That whole experience and failed b.o.d. (non) policy was just stunning. (still stunning, I guess) But at least we got those x# of weeks of BOLD emphasis and also now have the ‘pour-over’.

    I have, a few times in the 20+yrs that I’ve been going to Sbux, gone in as some sort of emotional wreck, for whatever reason. And, no matter what store I was in, the baristas were always comforting, in many different ways. One would hope that’s just the best of human nature, but, I have seen it many times in play at Sbux.
    Of course, I am mostly ignoring any ‘unpleasant’ Sbux experiences. We’ve all written them to death in msi and elsewhere. We know what they are and hope to fix them, with whatever way we can.

    So, basically, in a word, that’s what Sbux = to me, ‘comfort’. Hopefully those of us who believe in what (altho lofty?) Sbux ‘believes’ in, will keep fighting to maintain the standard.

  • purple1

    Melody wonderful post!!! What is an involved card? I have never been offered one. What does SB mean to me? Overall, it is a place to relax and meet people on a regular basis. We have made some nice friends with the local SB we go to and enjoy chatting about different things. For the most part, all the baristas are friendly and find time to chat. I think the brand has changed over time and the quality control needs to be looked into. I also think the customer has to be number one. This has changed. I would continue to go because I enjoy the people, but I think there needs to be more of an effort to make the SB a community place.

  • denise r.

    Melody: just wondering why my post (bit of it) shows up on the side with that “=#8221” or something. I went back and looked to make sure I didn’t type that (could’ve happened). just curious…..

  • Melody

    @Phil – Welcome to the site! That’s a great first post here and it is amazinghow it is such a global icon. I always call it a universal language. @Purple1 – That green apron card was the first time I ever got one! They are like thank you cards and are intended to be given only from partner to partner.

    Something funny on the topic of green apron cards: One of the supervisors in my office heard about them, and somehow knew about them and decided to come up with a similiar thing to give to attorneys when they do something extra special. So if you’ve had to cover someone else’s cases, or had an extra difficult case to manage, you might find a “get out of jail free” card in your in box. It’s about the size and shape of a green apron card, but has the monopoly character on the front, and then room to write the thank you on the back. On the back of these little green apron cards, there is room to write a note of thanks.

  • Steve

    What a nice blog Melody…you certainly have a plethora of information. As to what Starbucks means to me I guess in a word it would thave to be TREAT RECEIPTS. Hay that’s two words. Love those treat receipts!

  • Pam

    @Sebastian — You bring up a point I forgot to mention: comfy chairs. Most of the Starbucks around here no longer have them. It’s all pale wood. Why? Of course, I prefer the comfy chairs!

  • purple1

    Oh gosh I so agree that the comfy chairs are so nice and there are so few left in stores. They are being replaced by chairs that are so uncomfortable to sit in. Perhaps, the objective is that SB does not want customers to stay too long in the stores?

  • Sebastian

    Oh! You live in the U.S.? I can imagine that…I thought of Germany and Europe when I brought up this point. I know there are (and I really don’t know why) little differences in comfort and seating at Coffee Houses between the markets.
    In Europe we have many more big comfy chairs and armchairs in our coffee houses than I have seen in the origin, the United States. What makes me really wonder why?!
    I can imagine Starbucks has some kinda different customers Germany, Austria and so on than in the U.S., but I think all people connect big cozy chairs with Starbucks…so that makes me wonder.

    @purple1 Perhaps u are right…Starbucks has a much different status in the U.S. than in most other countries. It is well-known, you find it everywhere….in Europe, Starbucks perhaps needs this atmosphere much more to attract customers right now. Because it is “newer” and more rare to find. But this could change too in a few years.

  • Michelle

    I love that a barista gave you an involved card Melody. As I said on twitter, it seems like the perfect card for you!

    @Pam & @purple1 – The comfy chairs in my store are disgustingly dirty and cleaning them doesn’t help. I imagine this is why there are less and less of them around. I heard from my DM and RD two weeks ago that the chairs in my store are going to be replaced which makes me VERY happy. But, they’re really expensive, so I can see why the decision not to replace them might be made.

  • CD

    What Starbucks means to me has changed and fluctuated over the years. I was originally attracted to coffee made the way it was supposed to be made and served in a more classic fashion (like European cafes). I stayed because of the experience. The idea of a “third place” means something to me.

    To be sure there have been ups and downs over the last 18 years. I keep coming back for the same reason I arrived 18 years ago – the coffee. While the coffee standards have changed a bit over the years (I really miss the la Marzoccos), the Starbucks roast still makes a great cup of coffee.

    To be honest, it is the experience that has suffered the most over the years. In part, because of sometimes too-high expectations, but most frequently, from decisions made by the SSC. The removal of comfy chairs (especially when they are replaced with plastic chairs) is but a symbol of such a decline. Recent cuts in labor and the emphasis on immediate promotional performance have really exacerbated the decline.

    That said, when Starbucks gets it right with both coffee and experience, they get it right. You are fortunate to live in Seattle, Melody as it seems like you are more likely to get both done right.

    I truly enjoyed my time at the Heritage store (1st and Pike) as that is a store that gets both right.
    The baristas are top-notch and the drinks are well made. While it’s a tourist area, the store really does serve as a third place. The large community table really plays a big part of this experience. Throughout the day, its use changes. In the morning, it’s a meet-up location for local tours and a place to spread out the daily newspaper. In the afternoon, it’s a great place for parents to spread out and provide a snack for their infants and children. And then in the evening, it serves a completely different purpose – a game table for day laborers to enjoy a game of dominoes at the end of the work day before heading home. All over a cup of coffee. Really good coffee.

  • Nathan

    What Starbucks means to me? What comes to mind is high quality coffee and how it brings people together. Unfortunately, a lot of the COFFEE aspect of Starbucks has been lost over the years.

  • Ashley

    AWESOME post!

    To me Starbucks is a place to go when I really need to get something done. For some reason, the atmosphere is exactly what I need to focus and knock things off of my to-do list. It is also a place for me to basically create my own drink. There are so many options and I LOVE COFFEE so it works out perfectly. :)

    Love your blog, as always!!!

  • Sebastian

    Awww!!! The WiFi at Starbucks!! How could I forget…this must be mentioned! 😀
    WiFi is VERY important to me…this was one of the main reasons for me to go to Starbucks some years ago, when I was not really a “coffee-enthusiast”.
    I think Starbucks did the best step with bringing the internet to their coffee houses and expanding that even to free WiFi nowadays. I know SO MANY people around that come to Starbucks with their laptops and love surfing the web besides drinking their coffee. Me too…I am an inernet-addict, Twitter is always with me…I always (!) bring my laptop or iPad with me to Starbucks.
    What’s also great was the step in 2007, when Apple and Howard introduced the iTunes Music Store at any Starbucks in the U.S. market. Starbucks is kinda like Apple…it is hard to go to Starbucks without seeing an Apple MacBook during your stay, and it doesn’t matter in which country you are. Starbucks is an Apple-magnet (and I love that, too…). So this step was also very well. Now we all could also see which song was playing in the coffee houses and browse it right on our devices and get it via iTunes. This is just incredible! A big step further to a well and pleasant residence at Starbucks.
    But unfortunately there are also cons…I don’t know so much about the relationship between Apple and Starbucks, but I think I have heard some days ago that it would have cooled down a little bit. Even today, 3 years from their introduction of iTunes in the Coffee Houses, many stores in the U.S. do still not offer that and this system is not installed everyhwere. So perhaps both sides have hoped for a better success of that…what would make me wonder. :(

    What I don’t like too, is that the WiFi options are very different from country to country…some countries, like the U.S. and Germany do offer free internet to everyone right now, but there are so many that just have very expensive Hot Spots like Belgium, France and more. I experienced that a lot. Starbucks should make that free option possible for everyone, also for countries with licensed stores and partner operating companies.

  • Michelle

    @Sebastian – I’m just guessing, but I imagine the free WiFi that went in recently in Canada and the US is free due to partnerships between Starbucks & the internet companies that supply it. I doubt highly that they pay for the service. So to put it into stores that are licensed and countries where they don’t have a major presence would be difficult as they don’t have those relationships built there. I’d think this would be especially hard for licensed stores as they are essentially run by the comapny who owns them and not as hands on by Starbucks. I guess it’s just a matter of building those relationships. How large is their presence in Belgium & France? They may have other, larger, more pressing concerns there now and will work on the WiFi thing in due time?

    @Melody – This trenta cup concerns me. Not because it’s new and different, but because it’s big and therefore some of our drinks that are already filled with fat and calories will be even worse for you. In fact, even if you have a latte made with Skim Milk…that’s a lot of calories just in milk! I am on WW, so think of everything in terms of points…that’d be 8 points and 2 days worth of milk servings… Somedays I only eat 8 points for dinner! Our society is already unhealthy, do we really need to provide a drink that’s so large it could contain as many calories as an entire meal? (though probably a venti white mocha is already there.)

  • Nob

    There is unlike of the recognition about the Starbucks experience in Japan yet. Many of the misunderstanding are “Fashionable”, “cool”, etc. The product of Starbucks coffee Japan Ltd has many things for college girls. It’s one of the characteristics of Starbucks Japan. But Starbucks must not do the development only for regionality, and Starbucks Japan must have original dignity. The Starbucks experience that Starbucks Japan offers has distortion.
    First, Starbucks Japan must have a website communicating with a customer. Because users must help with good evolution of Starbucks.
    We must help with Starbucks innovation in any countries. It’s sake of our Starbucks experience reinforcement.
    Starbucks is a non border place for me. Starbucks offers place of ease to me even if I am in Japan even if I am in Pusan even if I am in Seattle. Starbucks users do not need the nationality.

    The long English comment is hard work to me. hmmmm.

  • Sebastian

    Yes, this could be…Belgium is a very small market (just 5 stores), but France e.g. is Starbucks-operated…so I don’t understand that.
    I heard from friends that have been to Malaysia and other nations that their WiFi would be free too…so I don’t see a concept in there.

  • Nob

    “WiFi options are very different from country to country” Exactly!
    I have to report it about Wi-Fi of Starbucks Japan. Starbucks coffee Japan Ltd enables the Wi-Fi use at all branches by end of this year. But it’s not free.

    I’m interested in one hot topic. It’s LEED store in the world.
    Fukuoka and Kyoto have the LEED store in Japan. I want to know it of other countries. I want Starbucks to announce the place of all current LEED stores.

  • Sebastian

    So how much is it per hour or day?
    Is it operated by a cellphone company? In Germany it used to be operated by T-Mobile…so for me it was always free, cuz I have an iPhone-contrqct with T-Mobile.

  • merryncole

    I like that when I travel, I can stop at a Starbucks anywhere and know what I’m getting. When I go to other coffee shops, what I order depends on who’s making it. If it’s a shop I’m not familiar with, I pick something and hope for the best.

    Around here, the Starbucks don’t feel like a third place to me. I go there often to read a book and have coffee, but if I really need to get some work done, it’s often too noisy and crowded to get any real work done.

    I think some of the local baristas try to embody the Sarbucks ideals, but not all of them. It makes it a different experience every time I go.

  • Pam

    One thought occurred to me of how my perception of Starbucks as a brand has changed over the years. Prior to the introduction of the Pike Place blend (and I really don’t mean to be on a rant about Pike Place. Geesh, I can always go somewhere else, or make my own. It’s not all about me. I know, I know!) I used to wonder about what the store would be serving when I got there. So, there was that part of the experience — walking up to the counter to see the colorful artwork and the surprise(!) blend of the day. (Of course, I was always hoping for Verona.)

    So, yes, the experience has changed in that I already know what will be there. No more happy surprises, although the “bold” promotion was very nice.

    @Michelle — I was wondering if maintenance was the issue. Interesting that the comfy chairs are still in other countries. Are people neater in other countries? I know some countries crack down on littering more than the U.S. does.

  • purple1

    There are times when the partner is off and a drink you always get doesn’t taste the same. It happens. Re the comfy chairs. I know one issue a couple of the SB stores in this area have faced is that there are sometimes some homeless people that sit down in the comfy chairs and stay. Depending on whether the manager is on the floor or what partner is there and if the homeless person is combative, then they will ask the person to leave. It varies by location, time of day, etc. Maybe that is another reason SB is getting rid of the comfy chairs.

  • Nob

    Yes, those Wi-Fi is offered by cellphone companies. NTT EAST and NTT Docomo and Soft Bank. NTT is a company privatized from the government management. Soft Bank has a dealership of iPhone in Japan. There are very many ways about the contract price. The vast kind of contracts list gives me a headache. LOL
    Oh, Starbucks Japan forbids outlet use to laptop users. We cannot get a power supply at Starbucks. When my laptop battery is poor, I go to Tully’s coffee. I go to Starbucks after giving power to battery. LOL
    Can you get it in Starbucks of your country?

  • denise r.

    In some of our remodeled stores around me, those ‘comfy’ chairs are being replaced by equally as comfy chairs, only instead of that fabric which really…..those were horribly way too ‘dirty’ and hard to keep clean….they’re leather (or fake leather). Very comfy, and very much cleaner. I think they really had no business ever putting those fabric covered ‘comfy’ chairs in any kind of food establishment. But these new ones I am referring to are popping up all over Chicagoland stores.

  • Jenni B

    Awesome… thank you for this post, Melody. :-) The promise that is central to the Starbucks brand is what led me to work there. Sadly, I came onboard just as Starbucks seemingly started to lose focus of their mission in favor of the bottom line, a couple of years ago. Starbucks is first and foremost about coffee – it’s right there in the mission statement, although it’s even clearer in the old mission statement: “To establish Starbucks as the premier purveyor of the finest coffee in the world while maintaining our uncompromising principles as we grow.” But coffee is not JUST coffee. Coffee is the subtle flavors and aromas that you get from a good French press (or Clover brew :-) ), especially paired with a complementary food item. Coffee is the region of origin (and yes, it makes me sad as well that baristas these days can’t tell the difference between a Latin American coffee and an African coffee and an Asian/Pacific coffee), and the geography and the farmers and everything that goes into producing those wonderful little arabica beans. Coffee is the roast, the delicate balance of time and temperature that perfectly brings out those hints of berries or spice or cocoa. Coffee is the smile on your barista’s face, the “surprise and delight,” the third place. Coffee is sitting back, relaxing, and enjoying the cup that is the end result of everything above. Coffee is such an experience, and unfortunately many baristas have lost that vision and have failed to communicate it to our customers. But THAT’S what Starbucks is to me.

  • Lena

    When I think of Starbucks I think of somewhere I can always count on getting a mediocre coffee. I never get anything amazing there, and sometimes get a crap one. Here in New Zealand, we have such a good coffee culture that Starbucks trails in behind the others. It’s also much more expensive than elsewhere! Maybe it’s different in the US where coffee has mainly been awful percolated/drip coffee, but here the main form of coffee is espresso based beverages, so we’re not as ‘into’ starbucks as many places overseas

  • Sebastian


    Woooooooow!! Always super interesting what we learn at Melody’s Blog…:OO
    This laptop thing is totally okay here. Everyone does it and Starbucks even wants it. In new sore they put power supplies under each seat. I cpuldn’t imagine without.

  • camspi

    Oh dear, I’ve been meaning to comment on this post forever and a day ago.

    Starbucks to me has always been about a human connection. With this human connection I’ve been introduced to fabulous coffee, but mostly, it’s about the relationships I’ve created via the Siren.

    In elementary school I remember my aunt always talked about Starbucks. She was a flight attendant and traveled to more spots with Starbucks than the Dallas area. During Christmas she would talk about lattes and frappuccinos, and I even remember hearing her explain what bold coffee was. When we exchanged presents, everyone gave her mugs and Starbucks cards. This was also about the time email became popular, and to this day she has “SbuxGirly” in her email address.

    In middle school I noticed a lot of Starbucks pop up. When my family went to one, I’d get caramel frappuccinos. But I remember just being totally confused about what I was drinking and rushed by my parents and baristas. I didn’t get it at all. There was a really nice Starbucks at the town square we’d visit. Christmas time was the best because it was so warm inside the Starbucks and there were a couple nice comfy chairs. I also remember staring at the packaging of Christmas Blend and just thinking how cool the place seemed. I think I even tried a vanilla eggnog latte at the recommendation of one barista (who I later worked with a few times). It was very good!

    In high school my friend Brittney (@TheCoffeeNinja on twitter) had a crush on a barista at a local Starbucks. She would go in A LOT. (Like, we would ditch class a couple of times to go! We were bad!) It started with frappuccinos and eventually tried cinnamon dulce lattes. I would sip them to try, and loved them! I loved going in with her because I got the VIP treatment. Everyone knew who she was. They called her “B-Cav” and would talk to her about what was going on, what music she was listening to, etc. It was especially neat when we were invited to watch the store manager perform in a band at another coffee shop in nearby Fort Worth. We thought we were so cool.

    The summer I graduated High School and was preparing to go to Nacogdoches, Texas for school, I applied for a job at a licensed Starbucks in a mall. In all honesty, that was a horrible experience. This Starbucks was run by HMS Host, and they expressed no sincere love for the heritage and coffee for Starbucks. The training was below par. I was scheduled ALONE during very busy periods of time. We would run out of product consistently. My coworkers were not held accountable for things they should have gotten in trouble for. There was a complete disrespect towards former Starbucks management by the people from HMS Host. There are a million and one things that were not right, but had the Starbucks sign drawing customers in with false promises. I really had no respect for the company after working at that particular licensed location.

    When I moved to Nacogdoches, I applied to a coffee shop called Java Jacks. Java Jacks is an honest to God coffee house. They received green coffee in burlap bags and roasted their own coffee on a beautiful roaster. It was AMAZING to just watch the owner roast the beans and explain what was happening. And the coffee was good. In that day I still was putting cream and sugar in my coffee, and didn’t understand the nuances of flavor… but even when you don’t know all that… you still know a great cup of coffee. The owners knew everyone in town and were very involved in their community. We had art shows and music. I was taught how to make delicious foam. It was a great job! Down the street, however, a Starbucks had just opened up in this tiny town. There was a complete us vs. them attitude. We were in competition with them, and we were far superior. My experience of working for a badly run licensed Starbucks made it that more relevant for me. Java Jacks trumped Starbucks in every way.

    Unfortunately, I had a horrible semester. There were a lot of personal problems I dealt with, and I moved back home. Without a job, I applied to Starbucks hesitantly. I actually was called within a week after dropping off my application, and got hired on the spot of my interview. The manager (who is still my manager) seemed like she sincerely listened to what I had to say in my interview, and it was just really cool that she seemed so passionate about Starbucks. It brought my back to my aunt and my friend Brittney who had great Starbucks experiences!

    I went back to school that semester at a closer college to home and things went really well. I was asked to become a shift supervisor after about 4 months on the job. It was neat to be considered a “leader” with some of my peers. I just started to learn what leadership really meant. I think leadership is one of the greatest things I’ve taken away from this job. A year after getting hired, I was completely in love with Starbucks. I had sipped the kool aid! I came in to work an hour early every shift and drank a french press and studied. I loved learning the names of new regulars. (Walter, Colleen, Sharon, Jane, Kevin, Jim, Jason, etc.) I expressed an interest in becoming a coffee master, and my manager OKed it. I finished all my required black apron duties within a month. I L-O-V-E-D learning about coffee. It was completely awesome to learn about the farmers and what our company does for them (loans, health clinics, fair wages, etc). This is when I began viewing the company in the bigger picture. This was one of the biggest companies in the world, and they were doing things the right way. They provided health insurance for their part time employees (Anybody read “How Starbucks Saved My Life”? So good!) I read about the passion of the company and its heritage in CSR reports my manager showed me, and in books like “Pour Your Hear Into It” by Howard Schultz. And I saw myself in that puzzle of a company. Although I’m just a shift supervisor, I’m an integral piece of the puzzle. I was the 10 ft. from the coffee. I was a person wearing the green apron that represented the company.

    And now its been 3 1/2 years. I love my fellow partners. I love my customers. I love how during Christmas we’ll get cards from some of our customers that are truly heart warming. I still find myself amazed by how well my coworkers know everyone who walks in. I love our coffee. This year has been neat because I’ve seen a lot of connection happening online. I’ve met partners from all around the globe who have the same pride about this company as I do. Its amazing to have that kind of connection. Its been a good ride so far. I see myself developing as a leader even more. There have been bumps with how the company has been run (mostly lack of labor)… but I love what I do!

    Wow. What a long comment. Thanks for reading if you made it this far! And thanks Melody for asking this question. I’ve always wanted to write down these things about my aunt and friend Birttney.

  • Melody

    @CamSpi – I love your comment. And this year has been amazing. Starbucks for me hugely about the connection as well as the coffee, and it HAS been an eye-opening total in awe experience of being able to connect with people all over the world through twitter. It makes the corporation seem very small when you realize that people everywhere are drinking the same coffee as you, and you’re connecting with other fans all over the world.
    And I love the story of the flight attendant aunt! Very cool!

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