We have two Starbucks’ across the street — three if you count the one in the QFC grocery store, though if I’m going to go into that grocery store, it’s not for coffee. (And besides, QFC has a fracking annoying dual pricing structure. For example, a half-gallon of Breyer’s chocolate mint ice cream is an outrageously high $6.99 or “on sale” for $3.29 with the QFC affinity card. Having to carry one for their stupid pricing structure pisses me off.)
Anyway, there are two Starbucks stores in the same street corner, one was formerly a Seattle’s Best Coffee. Both are busy, so I go to the closer one, located next to a Great Harvest bakery.
Much like Director Mitch, I’ve started to lose my taste for the Starbucks’ experience. If I were assigning a letter grade, I’d give them a B.
My criteria are simple:
- A pleasant environment — A primary reason I get coffee outside of the office is to … get out of the office. From the outside, Starbucks looks like it should be comfortable. It’s really not. Tables are too close together and frequented with people regularly doing business deals. When the coffee grinder or barking of the staff doesn’t drown out conversation, you can hear some interesting things. Like : “This is a ground-floor opportunity for a motivated person!”
With no refuge from multi-level marketing, the only option is to get in and out…
- Quick and efficient service – Their queueing model borders on the fomplicated. People feed into two registers. If the line backs up, it’s among a labyrinth of prepackaged coffee beans, espresso machines, and music CDs. (And now, promoting movies?) Sometimes the baristas will take my request. Or the person doling out snacks. Or the cashier. Or the person who just finished emptying the garbage cans. (Obvious marketing suggestion: do not take the garbage out the front door where customers standing in line can admire the pile.) Despite my generic order, the dilution of responsibility adds time and an occasional duplicate.
Once the orders are paid for, people cluster together near the barista waiting for their order. It’s an uncomfortable and claustrophobic corner. Adding to the confusion, coffee comes out in bursts, not necessarily in the order requested. Still, coffee production is much faster than the business transaction, or threading past the tables to the egress. Ground floor opportunity, indeed.
- A good cup of coffee – Once out of every dozen times, I get a grande decaffeinated mocha that tastes grande burnt. They’ll fix it, which for $3.55/pop, I’ve got no qualms making them do, but it’s annoying to work back through the lines. I have no way to prove this, but I think a third of the time they mess up on the decaffeination. If you’re my coworker, and I seem unusually excitable, you now know why.
One alternative is a self-contained espresso hut where one side is for cars, the other for pedestrians. The coffee was good, and I didn’t have to cross the busy, pedestrian unfriendly intersection, but it took them several minutes for them to make it. I wouldn’t have minded as much if I wasn’t standing in the rain waiting while they did it. There was no price difference, removing any economic incentive to switch.
So, Starbucks, consider yourself on notice.