Epic Battle For Raspberry Syrup Ends With Starbucks Apology And Gift Card

Andy and his partner would just like some raspberry syrup in their Iced Venti Raspberry Soy Mocha, but in the midst of a change from old raspberry syrup to something called “juicy” raspberry… chaos at Starbucks. The use of juicy raspberry before the “juicy raspberry” promotion was simply not allowed. Attitudes were copped. Customers were offended. Business was lost. Apologies were issued. Gift cards were mailed.

This is an epic struggle for raspberry mochas, people. Epic.

Andy writes:

Ben and Meghann-

I won’t get into the story of how this came about, as it is all in the email that I sent to Starbucks. With the problems that I had, I decided to send my email to Howard Schultz, and the rest of the executive team. I received the response from Micelle Gass, Senior Vice President of Category Management, within 24 hours of sending the email on a weekend.

I realize this is long, but I wanted to paint a picture, rather than do the usual “I spend a lot of money with your company …etc.”

Dear Mr. Schultz,

Let me begin with some background on my partner and myself to paint a picture of our dedication to your brand.

I will begin in 1997. We became Starbucks fans over Caramel Sauce Lattes. We began by going to your stores about once a day. You know how these things go, that didn’t last for long. Eventually it was twice a day and maybe three times on the weekend.

In October of 2000 we moved to Shanghai China. A Starbucks had recently opened in the Portman Ritz Carlton, the first Starbucks in Shanghai. I did not work in China, however my partner did. We would both taxi to Starbucks in the morning, he would get his Iced Grande Caramel Sauce Latte and I would get mine. He would then go off to work, I would stay, read and get to know the Chinese baristas on their breaks. I still speak to one of them, however he no longer works at Starbucks. I would then go home and some days would make my way back for lunch, and every day I would meet my partner there after work, for yet another drink to catch up on the day. Some times we would go back for a quick decaf drink after dinner.

In July of 2001 we moved back to the United States. For the first few months we were living at our respective parents houses and would meet at Starbucks and spend time there. Soon we found a house on Eastlake to rent. With no Starbucks near, we would travel to Capitol Hill.

In June of 2003 we began a search for a house in the Seattle area. One of the deciding factors that our Real Estate Agent was advised of was that a Starbucks would need to be close to our house. We ended up finding a perfect home in the Westwood area of West Seattle. A Starbucks had recently opened in Westwood Village. We were in heaven.

Soon after moving my partner realized that he was lactose intolerant. So he had changed his drink to a Iced Venti Soy Raspberry Mocha. This has been a constant drink for at least two years now. Starbucks became more a part of our lives as we were now in a permanent place in our lives. We began to be very close with all of the baristas and enjoyed their company every day. Jan, the Managar at your corporate location was the manager at Westwood before heading there. (She is fantastic, which is why we remember her.) Another favorite of ours, Nori, has recently been working in the Partner Contact Center. We would be sad, but happy, to see our favorite people move up within the Starbucks organization. We have been invited to different going away parties many times for certain partners that have moved on. The first people that we showed our new puppy to was our baristas at this Starbucks. The first people who got the tour of my new MINI Cooper was our baristas at Starbucks.

In 2004 we got a new neighbor in our cul de sac directly across the street from us. She is a Starbucks employee and is one of our good friends now.

Now, after this long and winded introduction, I will get to the issue at hand. About a month ago, we were informed that Raspberry Syrup was going away and will be replaced by a new syrup called Juicy Raspberry. My partner had been getting at least one Iced Venti Soy Raspberry Mocha, most of the times, two, every day. He was to say the least very disappointed. Well, the current Stock of Raspberry syrup had went away and we were assured by our local store that Juicy Raspberry would be in soon. My partner was concerned that the new Raspberry would be more acidic and a bit more tart than the old syrup. As soon at our local Starbucks received the new syrup, they were jumping at the chance to tell us as we walked in the door. Especially the manager, as he was worried that he would loose our business if this specific syrup was not to our liking. Having tried the new syrup, my partner thought it was okay and would miss the old Raspberry syrup, but would have to do with the Juicy Raspberry. This is where the trouble starts.

We live in West Seattle and he works in Redmond. So in the morning, he would frequent the Starbucks near us and in the afternoon we would go to a Starbucks in Redmond. Both of these stores had served him Juicy Raspberry, no questions asked since they have sold through their current stock in Raspberry Syrup. Up until last Thursday.

He happened to be early taking his carpool partner to the ferry, and thought he would go through the drive thru Starbucks in West Seattle off of the West Seattle Bridge. He asked for a Iced Venti Raspberry Soy Mocha. The barista said that they were out of Raspberry Syrup. He then inquired if they had any of the new Juicy Raspberry. The barista faltered a bit and said that they were not selling it yet. He then said that other Starbucks were selling it to him and she then asked, what I am guessing was a superior, if they could sell it. This person said no. After being asked if he would like another drink, he responded no, and continued on his way. Later that night, we went to the Starbucks that we normally go to near our house in Westwood Village. We told one of the shift managers there about his experience and she offered to call and find out why that happened. We really weren’t too worried about it, but she did call and one of the supervisors or managers at that store said that they were not to sell it until the promo began later that month. That was somewhat understandable, however since the original Raspberry Syrup was discontinued, it made sense to use the new Juicy Raspberry as a substitute.

The next day, last Friday the 8th of June, he went to a Starbucks in a QFC in Redmond. He asked for his normal drink, an Iced Venti Soy Raspberry Mocha. The person taking his order informed him that they were out of Raspberry. He then asked if he could get the Juicy Raspberry. She checked with the barista, who was the Manager she said that she could not give it to him until the launch date. He said that other Stores were allowing him to have the Juicy Raspberry Syrup. She said that for all she knew, he “…could be a secret shopper for all she knew and she could get into a lot of trouble.” My partner then mentioned to the cashier about Starbucks “Just say yes” Policy. (Now this being the hometown of Starbucks, a lot of people know a lot of people that work for Starbucks and for as often as we go there, a lot of times we know more about the Starbucks policies and drink recipes than the newer baristas that are working these stores.) The Manager then butted into this conversation and in a very condescending and rude way said “Thats just not an option. I cannot do that.” Then turned her back on him and neither of these people offered him another drink. He then left and went to Tully’s across the street, the first visit to a Tully’s in 7 years.

Later that night after he got home we went to our Westwood Starbucks and come to find out that the person at the other West Seattle Starbucks just off the West Seattle Bridge had told the District Manager (Peter) who then talked to the Shift Manager at Westwood and told her that under no circumstances are they to sell the Juicy Raspberry. Under the “Just say yes” policy, I would imagine that if there is a new syrup that is conceivably replacing an older syrup that had been discontinued, this new syrup could be used to appease a customer.

I realize that this seems to be a lengthy letter and a bit of an effort over a syrup, however, when Starbucks has been there for us when we were half way around the world, there for us when we needed to get away from our families for a break, there for us to catch up on each others day, the baristas are there for us to make our day a bit better and make us laugh, we feel that Starbucks is a large part of our lives. I guess that you could say that we are your target customers. But after this whole thing with the Raspberry/Juicy Raspberry Syrup, it has been very frustrating and I feel that I need to tell you that we are looking at other options for our coffee source. Wether that be Tully’s, a more independent chain or simply purchasing a Jura Capresso machine and making our drinks at home.

What I would like to see happen is that the Juicy Raspberry be able to be used before the said launch date. Thats all. Not a large request and something that will keep two Starbucks junkies happy and to not have to go to Tullys. We would also like to see a more fruity flavor available, something along the lines of a Cherry promotion in the spring to coincide with Cherry Blossom festivals around the world. Just a thought.

Thank you for your time and I hope to hear from you soon.

    Her response:

    Hi Andy, I am extremely sorry to hear of your challenges with the Raspberry syrup. I lead the product efforts and it was surely not our intent to have this happen. I am following up immediately with my team when I get into the office tomorrow to ensure the stores know it is ok to use the new syrup, there may have been some confusion.

    Thanks for letting us know of the situation. And again I apologize for the situation. May I get your address to send you a Starbucks Card?

    Regards,

    Michelle

I am incredibly pleased with the response that I received from her, it it exactly what I wanted to hear!

Thanks!

Andy

We’re glad that Andy got his syrup and gift card, and that Starbucks clarified their policy, but what’s up with everyone power-tripping over syrup? Andy should not have had to write the sequel to War & Peace to get his drink.

Was George W.B. running the counter? “I’m the decider, I decide who gets raspberry syrup!” Oh well, we’re happy for you, Andy. —MEGHANN MARCO
(Photo: Superchou)