April 10, 2007

First, the Bad Starbucks Background

We as a couple have a fondness for Starbucks. You know the place, the ubiquitous coffee chain that now covers a quarter of the retail landscape in many cities? Yeah, I thought so.

Well, we have cut WAYYYYYYYY back on Starbucks. Budget and bad experiences at "our" Starbucks (the one between our house and my work that only requires crossing the street to stop at) have led to that decision. If it was just budget, I think we would have cut modestly back and continued our wayward ways.

It wasn't. Bad service, bad drinks and bad personalities combined really pushed us out of our Starbucks. We took all three in moderate to major doses from time to time in the 5 years we went on a regular (read 5 times a week regularly, 2 drinks-quad ventis for part of that time-we don't eat out often, buy clothes, go to movies, we share a car-that sort of thing).

We patiently waited out training new folks. We flinched modestly but knew Tuesday was the crazy lady picking up 28 different drinks for a meeting 40 min away. (no Starbucks near her then, and she liked to treat her employees, the closer Starbucks refused the order) We sighed when the Chamber had their meeting across the parking lot.

We drank bad drinks from new baristas. We drank bad drinks from baristas we loved but who didn't make a fabulous drink. We had sticky cups, defective lids, defective cups. We had defective machines spray us on our side of the bar. We stuck through the baristas with attitude problems. (They usually didn't last long...)

Why? Because we dug the "Starbucks experience" Yep, its corny. But, the core values, the customer service, the decent benefits for employees, and yeah, a drink that I (generally) could count on being the same every time, really made it the place for us. Mostly the people though.

We knew the baristas, their friends, in some cases families, their majors. We learned when they were engaged...and when they broke up with their girlfriend. We were that kind of regular. Now we aren't. We broke up with our Starbucks-a sad break up, but a necessary one. (3 + weeks of really bad, at times undrinkably burned coffee that we waited 10-20 min for with no line-not good, esp after mentioning it to floor managers and knowing THEY knew there were serious issues.) We miss it. We miss the coffee. We miss the people.

We have shopped a few Starbucks in town. There is the one a bit of a drive, that was my old Starbucks (suited more to my life as a SAHM w/little kids).

There is the drive thru one equal distance from our house as "our" (ex) Starbucks (OES for short from now on!). (wrong direction, drive-thru too tempting since the parking lot rots and we ARE on the way to work-a fine cup of coffee but no real relationship-though an old manager from OES works there and it is nice to see her.

One near a high school, actually not bad but in a big space, that gets noisy and busy if we linger a bit long and not really on the way to work.

There is the downtown Starbucks. It is between the kid's school and work, so on days we drive them, if we stop for coffee we will go there. It WAS my Starbucks for the years the kids were in preschool because it was close to the preschool. Since they graduated (years ago now) we only go there sporadically. It is a fine Starbucks.

So, we have all these fine Starbucks in town. No one in this house is going to die of Caramel Macchiatto deprivation. One or two mornings a week we get coffee. But...we miss it.

I have wondered what we were missing, since we DO have these nice, fine, Starbucks in town. We have even recently been to Starbucks in other cities. Cities where the coffee was excellent. The service was to the rule. But something...felt missing.

I started to wonder was it like a breakup and you wonder what attracted you in the first place? Was it like a marriage and the shine wore off but it still was comfortable? Was it just that Starbucks had changed?

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