The news recently reported Starbucks has been experiencing stagnant sales and that there would be corporate layoffs. Why is that? Is the brand too ubiquitous? Are people just bored with the drink menu? What is happening?

In a closed Facebook group about Starbucks, a member posted the above link. There were tons of responses, so many of which talked about the price point of beverages and the inconsistency in the drink and experience.

These were the kinds of comments I saw:

I think sales are lagging because of quality & consistency problems. 1 out of 4 handcrafted espresso drinks I buy are made wrong. I used to spend $500-800/mo as a daily drinker. Now I find I only go 1-2 times per week. I’m getting my coffee fix in different ways now (home, micro-roasters, other coffee shops, etc). I’m no longer brand loyal to Sbx.” – CoreyAnn

“They eliminated good drinks and their prices are pretty steep” – Michelle

A lot of the new products lately seem kind of haphazard…like that cold brew almond protein shake drink thing, (insert drink here) with whipped foam on top, etc. Prices have crept way up too, a featured venti drink with almond or soy milk is over $6 now.” – David

“I commented many moons ago that the introduction of the Roastery was going to irreparably damage the Starbucks brand. The bifurcation of attention on two entirely different concepts has taken focus off of the regular stores that earn all the money to pay for new multi million dollar shrines to the origin of the company in Italy.” – Christian

I too don’t go to Starbucks nearly as often as I once did. I know my thinking about my diet started to drastically change after reading the book, “The Dorito Effect.” I started to ask myself, “Am I just consuming empty calories?” The more I asked myself that question, the less I wanted to order anything from the Starbucks menu. Even with the syrup extract revamp of beverages (this is still in the testing phase in limited locations), I don’t see myself ever becoming a daily Starbucks customer again. Most of the offerings are empty calories. And as to just black coffee, I can buy whole beans and make an excellent cup of coffee in my own kitchen to take with me on my way to work in the morning.

By the way, the book The Dorito Effect doesn’t advocate one particular diet. Personally, I now think a vegan diet focused on whole foods is the healthiest option, but I fully recognize lots of people will disagree with me on that idea.

I still get very excited to see some of the coffee innovation happening at Starbucks. The Whiskey Barrel Aged Guatemala is a good example of that. The consistency of beverages and experience is still really pretty good at the stores I visit, though I don’t know if that is because all my regular stores are within a stone’s throw of the Starbucks headquarters (not literally speaking, but very close by.)

Starbucks once said that the Starbucks Experience was the “secret sauce” of the brand. I think the Starbucks Experience has gotten weaker over the years I’ve been writing this blog. Even my own experience with the headquarters has drastically changed, I’ve stopped asking them for much of anything because it seems like nobody has any time for coffee connections, questions, and experiences. Just as the store level partners don’t have time to connect with customers, it’s my impression that neither do the partners in the Starbucks Support Center. In 2014, I had the privilege of seeing the “pilot plant” at the corporate headquarters. That kind of experience – let’s pull back the curtain and have some fun – seems to be gone. It doesn’t seem to be personal: Starbucks employees are time crunched at every single level of the business.

I’ve used a lot of words to say that for the overwhelming majority of Americans, the prices are high at Starbucks, the drinks aren’t healthy, and it might be that the experience isn’t what it once was.

Am I off the mark? What do you think? Starbucks, please prove me wrong.