Grande Skim Latte…Delivered?

I finally got around to finishing the Sunday New York Times last night and came across this story. One New York City Starbucks, just up the street from my apartment on the Upper East Side, has been quietly testing out a delivery service. For those non-New Yorkers among you, delivering coffee may come as quiet a surprise. But for those of us accustomed to getting everything from McDonalds to toilet paper delivered to our door, it seems more like, well, it’s about time.

Or is it? Even though the location’s business cards apparently urge customers to call and ask about delivery, the whole thing seems pretty hush-hush. According to the article, the manager of the location, Julie Bernard, is not supposed to talk to the press, and the official word from the bean counters in Seattle is that there are no plans to expand the service. A company marketing director was “unable” to give information about how many deliveries had been made, and an official company spokesman worried, “It’s just going to cause confusion among our customers.” Indeed, it’s questionable whether or not the service is still offered — the Times writer notes that the delivery sign had been taken down.

On the one hand, you can see why Starbucks might try and keep keep this quiet. Their success hasn’t been built merely on expensive, tasty coffee, but on the experience of its ubiquitous locations — the jazz music, the aroma, the purple velvet chairs. Yet on the other hand, this enterprising manager was clearly trying to put a local face on a huge national brand, and to, well, deliver what her customers surely wanted. What do you think? Should Starbucks protect the experiential “third place” they’ve created? Or should they encourage more managers to tailor the local experience?