What Went Down Inside Starbucks Yesterday?

So just what went on inside closed Starbucks across the nation from 5-9pm last night? According to comments on the Starbucks Gossip blog, they staff watched videos, learned how to pull the perfect espresso shot, relearned the importance of making creamy foam on top of lattes (NO EXCUSES), found out where the power buttons on the verisimos are, how to, and the importance of, cleaning, roleplayed through customer service situations, and chugged 10 espresso shots. One commenter says, “Just got back from my meeting, and I have to tell you, it was great. We went over what we needed to: espresso quality, milk quality, and customer care.” Such things pass for great after your stock drops 50%.

(Photo: gilsonrome)

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  1. smitty1123 says:

    Well, it’s nice that they are actually trying to improve their customer service. I don’t use their baristas, but I do buy their beans in the grocery store.

  2. Bay State Darren says:

    I think they just stood around and laughed at their followers who were having D/T’s at that moment, especially knowing they’d come crawling back the next day for their fix. And of course dealing with the occasional idiot knocking on the door asking, “I know all of your stores are closed but do you think you could make just one drink for meeee?”

  3. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    Such things pass for great after your stock drops 50%.

    Well I guess they really needed that meeting.

  4. dantsea says:

    I thought for certain they were going to start Phase Two of their operation.

  5. ClayS says:

    “chugged 10 espresso shots”

    Did I hear that right? I hope they got a good night’s sleep after that.

  6. batdan says:

    I was in Starbucks today for the first time in a while the baristas seemed kind of excited when I ordered a mocha and one person was showing someone who I know has worked there for a while how to make according to what they learned. They seemed somewhat enthusiastic about it and took it seriously.

    I think it was better than usual.

  7. Sucko-T says:

    This is all a marketing ploy.

    1. Shut down for three hours when most people don’t come in anyways.

    2. Let EVERYONE know we’re doing it.

    3. Wait for customers to come in droves to experience our “improved” drinks/service/whatever.

    4. Profit from it for the next week.

  8. erratapage says:

    5-9 is four hours, man…

  9. dipsy30 says:

    It’s always hard to learn how to press buttons. They need to do this more often as my local shop gave away free drinks during this trying time

  10. PinkBox says:

    @strum40: Well, honestly, they ARE that popular, and advance notice is a good thing.

    I often got a latte after work on my way home. I’m getting one today in fact.

    I’ve tried a lot of other coffee shops for that “perfect latte”, and sadly, starbux makes them taste the best. Imo.

    I use another brand for my french press at home though! :D

  11. snoop-blog says:

    i hate even saying this, but, starbucks,…..good job.

    weather or not you accomplished anything or not doesn’t matter as much as the thought behind it. more stores should close down at times to do an all out re-training.

  12. ShariC says:

    @strum40:

    Yes, it’s the old shut down the store for training, lose revenue, and have your customers who want coffee go somewhere else for their beverages (and possibly like it better and continue to patronize the other establishments) ploy to make more money. :-p

    Seriously, is there anything any chain can do in an attempt to improve that won’t be greeted with cynical analysis by people who don’t patronize them, but feel the need to read about the business and be constantly critical of it? All the people who hang on every negative story and say they hate Starbucks and never go there may find their time spent more productively doing something else.

  13. puka_pai says:

    @strum40:

    “1. Shut down for three hours when most people don’t come in anyways.”

    Yeah, because shutting down when you’re busiest is a much better idea. ALL retail stores schedule their staff meetings for the slowest possible times to minimize loss of revenue. Duh.

  14. peggyhill says:

    @BayStateDarren:

    That’s cocaine baby!

  15. peggyhill says:

    @puka_pai: or better yet, when the stores are not open yet…

  16. vitonfluorcarbon says:

    We don’t have a Starbucks anywhere close, but I have been to them. I just don’t see the buzz about this place.

    Anyway, this was probably a good thing. It unites the Starbucks workers, and shows that they might actually care about what they are doing. I know that many think that all big companies have evil intentions, but most employees genuinely want to do a good job. I doubt that they received anything more than common sense from the corporate people, but with any luck it will refocus them on their product: the coffee and the customer service.

  17. coold8 says:

    Let me tell you a few problems I see with starbucks:

    Lines (excessive)
    Breakfast Sandwichs
    The Snobby Shun from the lady behind the counter when you order a complicated drink they were once known for
    99c coffees bring in droves of the less worthy

  18. PinkBox says:

    @coold8: Haha, it is the opposite for me. The baristas have even written “Get well soon, XXXX!! :)” on my cup when they knew I was under the weather, and I do order a somewhat complicated drink. Really nice kids.

    Most lines I’ve been in haven’t been excessive either, though it depends on the time and location.

  19. walterny says:

    Great marketing. Take ordinary employee training and make it a national news event. I will bet they sold twice as many cups today because everyone wants to try the new and improved Starbucks. I know the one in my neighborhood was more packed than ever. As a guy who worked for years in the “fabricated news event” area of marketing, this one was clearly devised to convince you folks that Starbucks was making better coffee.

  20. mandarin says:

    …You see, when my father opened this store 30 years ago, he cared about only one thing: making a great cup of coffee. Sure, we may take a little longer to brew a cup, and we may not call it fancy names…I guess we just care a little more. And that’s why Tweek Coffee is still home brewed, from the finest beans we can muster. Yes, Tweek Coffee is a simpler coffee, for a simpler America….

  21. bnb614 says:

    How much $$ did they lose? What does the average store make per hour you think? That’s a lot of lost revenue. They’ll just raise the price so a glass of beans w/ water or milk w/ tea will now cost $4.10.

    I went to a store today and asked the barista if she was now trained and then the person behind me asked the same question, and the person behind her. I think it got annoying quick.

  22. DJ-Pandemic says:

    Unless during these meetings, they found how to make the price of gas and all other commodities go down, or all their patrons salaries go up, I foresee no change in their stock situation.

  23. wellfleet says:

    I worked in a coffee shop throughout college and Starbucks did and does have great espresso beans. That said, I go there at least twice a week and my drink is hit or miss. It’s either strong and heavy or brown-crayon-dipped-in-hot-water. This morning, my white mocha was half-foam and light as a feather. I gently asked them to add milk and remove the foam. It’s all about a commitment to quality instead of speed. The person who handed me the drink could feel it was too light in the hand for a mocha. I could tell it was mostly foam without even taking the top off. They should have asked for a redo instead of handing me (again) a sub-par drink.

  24. itmustbeken says:

    Yeah, all that espresso they drank during the ‘training’ contained Korporate KoolAid.

    Cross sell you slaves!! CROSS SELL!!! A CD WITH EVERY LATTE!! THEY MUST NOT LEAVE WITHOUT A CD!!!! BWWaa hahahaha..

    (i’ll stop now..)

  25. no.no.notorious says:

    +1 starbucks

  26. nequam says:

    @coold8: Ha ha! At what point does a line become “excessive”?

    Complaints about long lines (which, ironically, are really just a symptom of customer satisfaction in the first place) reminds me of Yogi Berra-ism: “Nobody goes there any more because it’s too crowded.”

  27. HaloZero says:

    Plus it was an excellent PR stunt.

  28. swalve says:

    Who cares? Why is their corporate training strategy interesting to anyone?

  29. morganlh85 says:

    It’s funny…when I worked at sbux a few years ago, none of the employees I worked with ever had a problem grasping any of the VERY SIMPLE ideas and preparing a decent coffee drink. Why do they have this problem now? It pisses me off.

  30. stanfrombrooklyn says:

    Did you all notice the Dianetics books they’re now giving away where they used to sell CDs? L. Ron has infiltrated Starbuck’s.

  31. TheSpatulaOfLove says:

    I worked for SBUX about ten years ago part time while doing contract work – 20 hours/week yielded pretty decent health insurance for my wife and I prior to our marriage. Howard Shultz was still running the ship, and for the most part, it was a great part time gig.

    I remember an occasion where a customer got upset with me because I finished her drink and realized it was not correct. I apologized profusely and began to make another for her. She chewed me out and insisted that she was fine with it. I replied:

    “You just paid $5 for a coffee – don’t you want it served the correct way?” She didn’t seem to care and huffed and puffed.

    I said: “Look, ma’am – I take pride in what I do, and when someone pays $5 for a coffee, I feel it should be done right. I don’t serve S*** – if you want S***, go to McDonald’s”

    EVERYBODY in line broke out into applause, the tip-jar was filling up and I was hauled in back by the manager for slinging the ‘S’ bomb. I agreed I shouldn’t have spoken so strongly, but the manager showed his appreciation that I cared enough to maintain consistency.

    That being said, I’ve seen a major decline in morale and service at SBUX. I blame a lot on that fruitcake CEO they just canned – It seemed to get very cold and corporate.

    One thing I enjoyed about going into SBUX was seeing the fads and diversity of people working there – and the personality that showed when they all seemed to like their jobs. That ended when they began forcing these people to wear bandages on their piercings, toning down their hairdos, etc. Frankly, I think the bandage thing was downright silly, but hey – I could care less what your personal style is, so long as the coffee is good. When you oppress, you get unhappy people and ultimately it turned a lot of these employees into black white and green robots that truly didn’t give a crap about your drink.

    Now that Howard is back in command, I hope to see the old SBUX come back, but I fear the damage has been done.

  32. B says:

    Hey, those are the three reasons I don’t like Starbucks. Maybe they’ll fix the problems and I’ll like them.

  33. Maulleigh says:

    I don’t understand what’s going “wrong” at Starbucks. I mean, every time I pass a starbucks, there’s a line out the door. I’ve never had bad service there. Never never never. I’ve only once had a bad cup of coffee. Although now that I’ve read the comments, I understand. I’ve never ordered anything but coffee at Starbucks. I don’t get the drinks.

    Yet my stock slips. Last year, I got a coupon for two cups of coffee in my annual report. This year, I only got one. *sigh*

  34. drjayphd says:

    @stanfrombrooklyn: Nope. Haven’t seen any of the Scientology porn anywhere here. Must be you.

  35. Chris Walters says:

    @stanfrombrooklyn: What? WHAT? If this is true, take a photo of it and send it to us with details!

  36. kungpow12 says:

    My fiance has a part time job at Starbucks and said that part of the program was learning that when Howard K. Schultz gets sad or down he goes into one of the original Starbucks in Seattle and breathes in the atmosphere and remembers why Starbucks was started.

    My fiance then proceeded to suggest that maybe he should instead swim in all his money like Scrooge McDuck.

    My understanding is that Starbucks is cannabilizing(sp?) their own customers because they’re opening so many stores so close together.

  37. pinkfreud says:

    @smitty1123: you’re an even bigger idiot then. starbucks are overpriced and not even fair trade grown, and taste burnt. fucking idiot.

  38. Gadgetgirl says:

    I have the Starbucks Duetto Visa, so when I make purchases and earn (piddly) bonus $, I usually grab a cookie or toffee bar for my little girl and I to split while out shopping. If I want Hazelnut, or ‘fill in the blank’ latte, I’ll brew at home.

    Gotta admit, I will be there more often when I get 2 free hrs/day (won’t be in there that long) of wifi since I’m a SBux card holder.

  39. elektrik says:

    I think Starbucks brainwashed their employees last night.
    I went there today to grab a bottle of water
    (I was trying to use up my gift card someone had bought me and I don’t like coffee).
    And the barrista was cheerleader bubbly.
    I’ve interacted with this girl once before and she is in no way that cheerful.
    That’s my theory.

  40. takeitout says:

    Yes the training was lame and pathetic. We were told that we had to deliver a quality product which by the way I already do but now customers have to wait longer for their drink.

  41. hhole says:

    @mandarin Most excellent South Park reference!

  42. Scazza says:

    Man, if Tim Hortons shut down for 4 hours in Canada, there would be mass panic and rioting in the streets.

  43. dieman says:

    Yeah, here in MN we’d just go down the street to Dunn Bros or Caribou instead anyhow. Why bother with starbucks?

  44. wellfleet says:

    @takeitout: I’ll wait the extra three minutes to get my money’s worth instead of getting a chai latte that tastes like old paint. since they started using the pods, the quality of the coffee has gone way down. plus, you can tell when your shot’s been sitting there for 1 minute and it’s dead and they pour it in your drink anyway… ick!

  45. I know exactly what happened, but I’m not sure I’m allowed to say. Let’s just say Starbucks wasn’t planning to take over the world.

  46. smitty1123 says:

    @pinkfreud: Sticks and stones Pinky, sticks and stones.

  47. marsneedsrabbits says:

    I’m not sure everyone was paying attention yesterday.

    I went to Starbucks tonight to get a coffee to combat a migraine that is brewing (don’t usually drink coffee otherwise).
    Well, a it more than an hour before closing time, and the store was empty of customers when we entered. The chairs were on top of the tables.
    As we were getting our drinks, two groups of women streamed in behind us & presumably would have wanted a place to sit & chat, but no dice.
    Luckily, we were getting it to go, so it didn’t affect us directly, but the chair thing was really un-welcoming.
    The guy behind the counter did a competent job, and the coffee (a Skinny Sugar-free Cinnamon Dulce Latte) was actually really great. Much better than expected for skinny/sugar reduced.
    Oh, and the tip jar was missing. Is that a new thing?

  48. kalmakazee says:

    I LOVE Starbucks!!

    I will start going back to Starbucks when they decide to lower their OUTRAGEOUS prices.

    Until then the only time I go to Starbucks is when I find a Starbucks coupon or if i get my hands on a free Starbucks gift card on one of them freebie sites.

  49. puka_pai says:

    @morganlh85:

    “ever had a problem grasping any of the VERY SIMPLE ideas and preparing a decent coffee drink. Why do they have this problem now?”

    I think at least in part because back in the old days, you had to actually learn how to make the drink. Automating so much of the process leads people to be sloppy about the parts they have to do. They just slap the individual parts together and so if your shot sits there for a couple of minutes, so what? Hopefully the retraining yesterday addressed this problem along with the procedure for pulling a longer shot.

    In my brief period as a barista I was better at making the drinks than everyone else in the store, including my boss. She was always amazed that I could set the milk to steam manually and keep prepping the next drinks and never overheat it. I explained that when I learned the job, you had to do everything manually and after awhile you just learn the sound that milk makes when it gets to the right temp.

  50. boobaloob says:

    I go to the starbucks around the corner every morning and get a vanilla latte — and I’d say 90% of the time I get a good one. This morning, however, it tasted like shit. Pure shit. If this is improvement, I’m done with Starbucks.

  51. BugMeNot2 says:

    I liked it better in the 80′s when everyone was just high on cocaine, at least I could justify the prices for that drug.

  52. the lesser of two weevils says:

    @hhole: @mandarin: Classic South Park reference indeed!

  53. AnonyLawyer says:

    What they needed yesterday was a lesson in customer service niceties. I ordered my grande skinny yesterday with a smile on my pre-coffee face and the woman behind the counter scowled and barked back at me that I had to specify which kind when I had just read something somewhere that the “default skinny” is VANILLA..which is what i wanted, of course. This is why DC needs a Dunkin Donuts on every corner as opposed to SB. I can’t drink SB coffee because it tastes like nuclear waste, but a good ol Medium Regular is liquid gold. Plus it makes me go number 2.

  54. bdgbill says:

    Starbucks handles lines better than any national food chain I can think of. Often the coffee guy is asking me what drink I want when I am still five people away from the register.

    Dunkin Donuts used to be great at that before they turned themselves into McDonalds.

    I visited a Starbucks in L.A. a few weeks ago that was selling breakfast sandwiches. This is an extremely bad sign. I was a twice a day Dunkin Donuts customer for years until they turned the place into purgatory with breakfast sandwiches.

  55. geekfather says:

    My guess is they are switching all stores to de-caf. Then just as US productivity crashes, our new Starbucks overlords will buy every other corporation.

  56. Me - now with more humidity says:

    kungpow12: Actyually there’s some logic to opening stores close to each other. A study a few years ago showed that people won’t cross a street to get simple things like coffee, so if there’s a Starbucks on both sides of the street, it actually increases business.

  57. sleepydumbdude says:

    @TheSpatulaOfLove: Oh the bandages over piercings thing probably explains why my employee suddenly stopped working there around a year ago. He had like 3 piercings in his face not counting his ear. I stopped going in after shortly after that because I didn’t know the name of the drink I ordered anymore. I had no idea anything about him but he remembered my drink exactly how I liked it 4 days a week for over a year. I only went on days when I worked and I knew he was working because I tried going a few other times and my drinks didn’t taste as good.

  58. morganlh85 says:

    @marsneedsrabbits: This happened to me at a store locally as well. I went in at 9pm (they close at 10pm) and all the chairs were put up except the ones already being sat upon. One guy dragged one of the outdoor chairs BACK outside so he could sit down.

    I emailed a complaint on the website and received two free drink coupons.

  59. morganlh85 says:

    @puka_pai: I TOTALLY agree. The employees now don’t seem to understand the idea of “Multitasking.” I sit there waiting for a drink thinking, “Gee, she should be getting that Frappuccino started while my milk is steaming.” But does she? No. That would require brain power.

    The automatic machines have ruined the stores. Now the employees could easily be replaced by trained monkeys, and working at Starbucks is no different than working at McDonald’s.

  60. Anonymous says:

    They are so behind the times…At most major fast food joints the idiot behind the counter just presses the picture of the medium sized drink and it fills the cup automatically. Starbucks should invest in some automatic drink dispensing thingy technology so their training would only consist of pressing the right button and more uneducated uncaring and stupid high school students could be employed there.

  61. theblackdog says:

    One of my friends who is a regular Starbucks customer said that he definitely noticed a difference in the taste of his latte the next day. He wonders if they made an adjustment to the grinders or what, but he said it was definitely for the better.

  62. maddypilar says:

    @batdan: Does this mean if I go down there and order a Mocha it won’t taste like hot water with chocolate syrup in it this time? I may actually test this out.

  63. SeaKaySea says:

    $5 for a cup of coffee in a size I cannot pronouce by a coffee jockey with made up profession name (barrista?..are you kidding me!!?) and they are wondering why they have to close stores. Not the best business model in a recession. I don’t think your paper coffee cup should be a status symbol. It’s a commodity people!

  64. ellis-wyatt says:

    I’ve only been to Starbucks 2 or 3 times in my life and have never understood why people are so infatuated by it, other than they think it’s cool and fashionable to go in there and walk around with their official Starbucks cup so everyone can see they are cool and fashionable – or not. Yeah, I could spend $4+ for coffee there but why, especially if things were so bad company-wide that they had to shut everything down for 3 hours just to teach their employees how to make a cup of coffee and provide decent customer service?

  65. AD8BC says:

    @ellis-wyatt: I don’t drink coffee much. Cheap coffee tends to be too bitter for me and sometimes tears up my gut. On occasion, I do enjoy coffee from Starbucks or Panera or some other fancy chain, and it treats me well and tastes good. I’m not addicted, though, like some are who go there 3 times a day.

  66. helios150 says:

    SeaKaySea :
    Barista is italian for “coffee artist” fucktard, explore the world more

  67. riverstyxxx says:

    Was this supposed to be the “Cartman Effect” with the You-Can’t-Come mentality? This was obviously PR to “Show the customer we care so much by closing up and making a big scene out of it”. Last I heard, most companies close up at night then open again in the morning, what’s the big deal?

    Why not just close up early and have them stay for an hour each night for three nights. After an hour, coffee servers tend to have lower attention anyway, much less three hours.

  68. doodaddy says:

    wasn’t there a story a while back that they were using automatic machines to pull espresso? This training was a pr stunt to prove to us how they no longer use those machines (as they were “retraining” on espresso machines). It also reminds you that *McDonald’s* doesn’t hand-pull anything with their new 99 cent coffee.

  69. aduzik says:

    Starbucks has no business calling their employees… er, “partners” baristas. A barista is a well-trained, highly skilled artist comparable more to a chef than a mere coffee dispenser.

    A Starbucks employee is a trained button-pusher: push buttons to pull shots. Push a button for an automatic machine to create flavorless soap bubble steamed milk. Push a button to dump thousands of calories worth of sugar syrup into paper cups. And, of course, push a button to overcharge millions of people for drinks they call “lattes” and “cappuccinos” and the worst offender, “macchiatos” that are pale simulacra of the artisan drinks after which they’re named.

    Unless Starbucks replaced every single one of those horrible fake espresso dispensers with equipment capable of producing real espresso, this “retraining” was nothing more than a gimmicky PR stunt.

  70. BARISTA182 says:

    i think training was very uplifting! on top of the fact that we really had the chance to bond as a team with out a line of people waiting on drinks.

    < starbucks does offer fair trade beans

    < starbucks coffee is not made from pods it is ground from beans daily.

    < you $4 cup of coffee is geting a ( just above min wage worker) the chance to have heath coverage for them self and there family, a friend of mine was telling me she wouldnt beable to pay the doc’s bills when she had to go in to have her baby is she didnt have there coverage. For 90% of us starbucks is a steping stone… most of us wont use the 401K or any of the really long term plans they have set up for partners of 10+. However you are helping people on the way though life. sometimes kids being away from home just making the rant payment and going to school.. they cant afford to get sick and miss work.. i can speak for my self there, thats how tight things are in CA and i dont know were i would be with out the help of start bucks and i only do this part time while going to school and working a full time job. they benefits are far greater! I really think he have our customers to thank for that!

    < Now that howard is back in the game people will see a chance for the better.

    < Most partners really enjoy there jobs,partners dont seem to stick around to there 90 check in if they dont like it there. they put there notice in way before that.