Skip to main content

Starbucks’ cup runneth over


As most of my friends and colleagues can attest, I’m about as close as one can come to being a bonafide Starbucks junkie. (Yes, I even have my own Starbucks debit card!) So what I’m about to say may come across as heresy to my fellow coffeehouse aficionados.

You see, as a person afflicted with a regular two- to three-drink-a-day Starbucks habit, I’ve not only mastered proper ordering protocol (my indulgence, for example, is a “Triple Tall Americano With Extra Room”), I even know how to beat the system, having recently replaced my tall Americano with a “Grande Americano In a Tall Cup,” which happens to be both cheaper and stronger!

The one system I can’t seem to beat, however, is the systematic degradation of the overall “Starbucks experience.” If that’s a concept you’re not familiar with, let me take a second to refresh your memory.

About 10 years ago, when all the rage on the trade-show circuit seemed to come from in-store marketing experts tossing around endless platitudes about Starbucks, it was much easier to buy into the idea that Starbucks was selling an experience, not just a drink.

Alas, those days are long gone.

As Starbucks management recently admitted, the tough financial situation that has reared its ugly head may have something to do with overexpansion. You think?

Caught up in a comp-store sales obsession and intent on driving shareholder value, Star-bucks has indeed been growing at a blistering pace. For example, the company added more new stores in 2007 than it had in its entire portfolio by the end of 1997.

As plain as the nose on founder Howard Schultz’s face, such an obsession with rapid growth has suddenly become the company’s Achilles heel—serving as a prime example of what happens to a retailer that loses track of its original mission.

I, for one, can’t remember the last time I walked into a Starbucks and felt like I was chillin’ in a hip coffee house environment. To the contrary, today’s Starbucks, with its high turnover rate and lack of attention to detail is about as far from its roots as any time in company history.

As addicted as I am to my routine Starbucks caffeine fix, every time I drop three bucks on a cup of coffee, I can’t help but feeling that my long-lost Starbucks experience is now nothing more than a fast-food chain dressed up in fauxwood veneer. And slowly but surely, that veneer is wearing thin.

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds