I want to go into a little bit of explanation as to why I have this love/hate relationship with Starbucks, in general, and Howard Schultz in particular.
Here are the reasons why I love you and what you've done:
+ You have changed our culture, giving us a place to hang out in - your stores are warm and inviting (if not a little generic now), a place to work or kick it for a few hours.
+ You've given us strong (if not a little too bitter) high quality coffee and espresso.
+ Your drinks are (mostly) consistent. I know that when I get my Americano in the morning it's going to taste pretty much the same.
And this is why I have problems with you:
- You've gotten too large. Too large too fast. I think there was something special about Starbucks years ago but having one on every street corner has diminished that special feeling I used to get walking into a store.
- You've tried to tell me what books and music I should be listening to. You don't give me a good selection, you're not speaking to me anymore, you are speaking to the masses.
- Your publicity stunt of closing down the store for 3 hours of training was just that, a publicity stunt. I don't appreciate this conniving behavior.
- I don't trust that your "back to basics" memo that got leaked out to the press was genuine.
- You tried to be a McDonalds with those breakfast sandwiches. I liked them (esp the pepper bacon one) but you just keep adding to the menu. Glad you are taking these away (well, half glad).
Why I am torn:
~ Because now you are making a concerted effort to make me like you again. Can't fault you for that. You are going back to basics. Your coffee does taste better. I see the baristas dumping the old coffee that's been sitting there.
Finally, here's the article I read about you in Conde Nast's Portfolio
. It's a long ass article people (12 pages).
Here are a few of my favorite excerpts:
“We’re not this young, beloved, entrepreneurial enterprise anymore,” he concedes. “We have to do business in a different way. And now we’re being tested, for the first time.” That goes not just for Starbucks but for Schultz himself.
Only last year, Schultz told talk-show host Charlie Rose that Starbucks was “fairly recession-proof.” The economy had dipped before, but Starbucks had always managed to be what Schultz likes to call an affordable luxury. But this time the economy is in a tailspin; the housing market has collapsed; the price of the two fluids most vital to Starbucks’ health—petroleum and milk—has skyrocketed. Fewer people are walking into the same Starbucks stores than last year. Never before had that happened, even when Starbucks was opening new stores virtually on top of old ones.
In January, Schultz, who’d ostensibly handed off day-to-day control of the company in 2000 to go off and think grand thoughts, had resumed the reins, replacing Jim Donald, who had been C.E.O. since 2005. The day after he returned, the stock shot up more than 8 percent. But it was a short-lived jolt, a corporate doppio espresso. In late May, the price hovered at about $18 a share; 20 months before, it had been nearly $40. A flurry of initiatives—what Schultz has dubbed, with characteristic grandiosity, his “transformational agenda”—hasn’t yet helped.
“He’s literally trying a do-over,” one Starbucks executive tells me. “He wants to go back to the point where everyone was happy and everyone loved us and then make a left turn instead of a right.”
Schultz’s office is on the eighth floor of the Starbucks Center, a gigantic former Sears warehouse with a mermaid at the top, in industrial South Seattle. Outside, to the left of the sprawling rail yards, is the port through which comes a large part of Starbucks’ coffee; 352 million pounds of it were imported in fiscal year 2007, which ended on September 30. This is not the only incredible statistic. There are, for example, nearly 16,000 Starbucks stores, in 44 countries. (In the next few years, Starbucks will continue its growth overseas—particularly in places like China.) Nearly 50 million people enter those stores weekly. Last year, they generated almost $10 billion in revenue.
Schultz’s life has changed drastically since he came back. Mornings, he works out early, and he takes regular bike rides with his wife. He’s lost more than 10 pounds and 10 percent of his body fat in the past year. He’s at headquarters by 6 or 6:30 in the morning and typically stays there until 7 p.m. After dinner at home, he continues working or talks to Starbucks people overseas. Schultz stays away from his office on Saturdays, but he’s there on Sundays. On weekends, he reads emails from employees, who have his address. There have been 9,000 messages since January, and he says he’s read them all. “My wife thinks I’m nuts,” he says.
The economy was bad, he went on, but that must not be an excuse. Starbucks had lost its edge, he said, evolving from “a culture of entrepreneurship, creativity, and innovation to a culture of, in a way, mediocrity and bureaucracy.” Even this year’s celebrity entertainer, K.D. Lang, couldn’t ignore Starbucks’ sorry state. “I pray that everything switches up for you,” she told the audience solicitously between songs.
Schultz sprinkles words like integrity, authenticity, transparency, and truth around whatever he writes or says. Starbucks is not about business or making money, he says, but about love and conscience and creating the kind of company his parents—and everyone else’s—never got to work for.
Schultz, it may be too late for us. I will go to Starbucks to get my Americanos in the morning but not because I really LOVE Starbucks but because it's close to my house. Will I choose you over a more well designed coffee house with less bitter coffee, probably not. Not sure if we can salvage this relationship. But, please keep trying because if there is one thing I have for you, for us, it is hope.
P.S. My husband, Sam, always comes to your defense. At least you have him on your side!