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The Gift of Starbucks

There are few companies that I can honestly say walk their talk. I believe one of those also happens to be one of my favorite places to visit: Starbucks Coffee. Not every Barista Partner at every Starbucks location is as friendly as I would like them to be, but as for service, if not perfect, they are at least very good. As for their "talk", here is a paragraph that is posted on the Starbucks 2007 Annual Report:

There are few companies that I can honestly say walk their talk. I believe one of those also happens to be one of my favorite places to visit: Starbucks Coffee. Not every Barista Partner at every Starbucks location is as friendly as I would like them to be, but as for service, if not perfect, they are at least very good. As for their “talk”, here is a paragraph that is posted on the Starbucks 2007 Annual Report:

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The bottom line
– We always figured that putting people before products just made good common sense. So far, it’s been working out for us. Our relationships with farmers yield the highest quality coffees. The connections we make in communities create a loyal following. And the support we provide our
baristas pays off everyday.” I would agree.

I admit it, I love Starbucks. Their product, their service, the ambiance of their stores (I get an immediate lift just walking in the door and receiving a hit in the face from that heavenly aroma – every time!) and the green apron-clad smiling faces behind the counter. There have been many
instances at many Starbucks stores that my wife (another Starbucks lover – the biggest in the world perhaps) or I have experienced special treatment that surprises the most optimistic of expectations. I have had to wait an extra few minutes for the coffee to brew, and with an apology from the person behind the counter, have been handed a free cup of fresh coffee. This has happened at least three times to me.

My wife, Duchess, and I were in a Starbucks in Los Angeles shortly after visiting her dying mother. After handing us our drinks the barista asked my wife how she was doing (not knowing her or her mother). Duchess said, “Oh, I’ve been better. My mom isn’t doing so well.” The barista came out to our table with a plate of “special coffee cake” and politely said, “Eating something good always makes me feel better. I’m sorry about your mother.” We were both moved to tears by his compassionate generosity.

They are not always perfect. I was in a Starbucks in a north San Diego county town I do not often visit a few weeks ago. I ordered my usual (a Grande Vanilla Latte) and headed down the road savoring the smell for just a few minutes in my car before I slowly sipped my first sip. To my dismay, something was wrong. Either the milk had soured or the vanilla was rancid.

I called Information on my cell phone and asked for the number of the store. They connected me to a delightful sounding barista whose name I have since forgotten. I explained what had happened and she said, “Oh my! Please come back immediately.” I told her I was already too far away
and I only wanted to tell her so this would not happen to the next customer who may order a similar drink. She said, “We pride ourselves on getting your drink right. Please come back any time and we will make it up to you.” I said, it was unlikely it would be soon, but I would remember.

I happened to be near that same Starbucks store just the other day and remembered the cheerful promise. But, why would they believe me? I didn’t even remember the person’s name to whom I had
spoken to those many weeks ago. I walked in and told the lady behind the counter my story, and she was making a Vente (larger than a Grande) Vanilla Latte before I even finished my story. She apologized for my inconvenience and handed me my free drink with a smile. Okay, maybe they are perfect.

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Those, and many other, pure customer service acts are the kinds of things that endear people to a company and/or product. As long as we live, Duchess and I will patronize Starbucks for those acts of “…putting people first” What can I say, give me a cupof Sumatra, a warmed scone and a smiling barista in a green apron and I’m happy. Ahh, life’s small gifts.

DJC