Starbucks Baristas Nationwide Realizing They Work At A McDonald's That Doesn't Serve Burgers

Reuters says that conditions, benefits and salaries have deteriorated at Starbucks — once celebrated in the media for its happy, loyal workforce. Apparently, disillusioned Starbucks workers are everywhere you care to look.

The article introduces us to one cafe manager who recently quit after Starbucks cut costs, introduced corporate-type-stuff like scheduling software and increased the overall emphasis on product sales.

From Reuters:

The disappearing perks and the financial fixes dampened her enthusiasm for recruiting potential new partners, as Starbucks calls its employees. “I found it really sad. I was really invested,” said [the manager], who was in charge of a Starbucks in the Florida Panhandle. “I just didn’t feel proud anymore. I wasn’t in it to manage a McDonald’s.”

Meanwhile, Wall Street is happy and the business is doing well — even though, despite the cutbacks, Starbucks still spends more on heath care than it does on coffee.

Starbucks employees say work has lost its buzz [MSNBC]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    I’d say it was inevitable.

    • Griking says:

      I agree. I know that it must suck as an employee but their sales have been plummeting for the past few years. Would the OP rather that they kept things the way they were and just went out of business?

    • INsano says:

      The bylaws of corporations state that management and the board are required to maximize profits for shareholders. This is usually done by cutting corners…but hey I don’t need to tell everyone this, you’ve either shopped in this country or worked in a store here.

      Corporations are incapable of achieving balance.

  2. Muddie says:

    Comrades, throw off the chains of fast food establishmentarisim oppression!

    Good on them to act. Sucks that they have to.

  3. Jesse says:

    Unfortunately when you’re a public company, the overall loyalty is to the stockholders. Changing policies to make operations efficient and increase sales are a by-product of that loyalty.

    • zifnab0 says:

      Every company/corporation is first responsible to the shareholders. Publicly owned doesn’t matter.

      Corporations are never responsible to their employees, especially in companies like Starbucks where employees are easily replaceable.

      That said, “barista” is just the 21st century equivalent of “burger technician”.

      • Duke_Newcombe-Making children and adults as fat as pigs says:

        The difference that is missed is that when the company is publicly traded, the shareholders don’t really give a rat’s hindquarters about “employee satisfaction” or environment, they want a better quarter than the last, end of line. Either the board delivers that by any means necessary, or else.

        Privately held does indeed make a difference. Privately held means that the board, when faced with making a decision that will juice the quarters numbers and stock price short term, but harm the company long term, or affect employees in a way that will damage the brand or company long term, have the power to say no to those changes and accept status quo.

    • u1itn0w2day says:

      Starbucks needs to diminish employee pay and benefits and raise prices to pull rabits out of their a3$ when it comes quarterly report time. The stock has done well since the crash especially. The stock does not reflect what’s going on in the company.

      There’s a fine line between capitulating to shareholder whims and trashing the actual company itself. If you can’t walk that line the stockholders AND business will fail in the end.

      The only increases SBUX seems to show are increases in the European market but domestic US sales are mostly declining or flat.

    • 99 1/2 Days says:

      I think all companies like to make money for the owners, be they called shareholders or partners (that’s a real partner, not a fancy term for a beverage shlepper as in the letter above).

  4. Bort says:

    the higher turnover will cut into any savings, and if other companies are any indication, it will lead to higher hidden costs (often higher then the savings)

  5. JaySherman says:

    This doesn’t seem to be the case at the Starbucks I frequent although some employees in the company may be unhappy.

    Many of the staff at the one I go to are very friendly. They remember I’ve been there before and treat me well.

    I’ve sometimes stayed there for hours, using their free wi-fi and buy just an iced tea or coffee and they’ve never said anything.

    Most of the staff is the same so I am not seeing high turnover on the staffing side.

    They also have repeated inquiries from people wanting to work there.

    • pop top says:

      Why would they be unfriendly? They don’t want to be fired. And they’re not allowed to say anything about you staying for hours taking up space when you only bought a $4 coffee either.

      • obits3 says:

        That is why I buy a $4 coffee =) I would NEVER pay $4 for coffee if the place didn’t let me enjoy the environment. That’s why I go to Starbucks. It’s a cafe, not a fast food joint.

        • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

          I’ve actually never been to a Starbucks. Do people mostly go there for the atmosphere or is the coffee that much better than a $1.69 cup at Sheetz or WaWa or corner diner?

          • obits3 says:

            I think that the Coffee is more consistent. When I go to Starbucks, I know what I’m getting. When I go somewhere else, they might have a burn’t taste, too bitter, and most commonly: Way too hot! I would rather pay $4 for coffee and get it right than $2 and risk burning my tongue and not enjoying the rest of my drink.

            • majortom1981 says:

              Wow all the starbucks i go to the coffee is burnt and not consistant at all. My local family owned crepe places has much much better coffee then starbucks down the street.

              • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

                That’s because their “coffee” is espresso, not coffee. Espresso tastes totally different, and yet no one has seemed to catch on to this yet.

                • Crass says:

                  Starbucks serves both espresso and regular drip brewed coffee. The problem is most people nowadays order espresso drinks, leaving the pot of brewed coffee to sit for hours on the heater, thus giving it that nasty flavor.

                  • Max5695 says:

                    Starbucks brews fresh coffee every 30 minutes. They have very high standards for brewed coffee and they strive to produce the best drink every time. However, sometimes you might run into an employee that isn’t exactly putting forth the best possible effort. Most of the time, Starbucks employees go out of their way to make sure you get the best customer service possible. That is what they are trained to do.

                    • RvLeshrac says:

                      And a flock of pigs just flew out of my ass.

                      That sounds like it was cut&pasted from the “Starbucks Social Media Handbook” or something.

                      For the record, Espresso should not taste *burnt*. It should taste *well roasted*. Starbucks coffee tastes *burnt*. Even the Starbucks-branded ice cream and bottled mixed coffee beverages taste burnt.

          • Charmander says:

            A 12 oz cup of coffee at Starbucks is approximately $1.69……the $4 coffee you are reading about is probably a coffee drink like an mocha or flavored latte, and most likely a larger size.

    • backinpgh says:

      Just because they’re being friendly to you doesn’t mean they aren’t sending out ten resumes a day looking for another job. Did you also consider that most of the Starbucks employees these days are college students who need extra money, and not people who are counting on their wage to make a living? There’s a reason for that. 20 year olds don’t care about benefits or 401k, they just need a paycheck for beer on the weekend. They aren’t as likely to complain. But for people with families it’s a different story.

    • LastError says:

      If the place is otherwise empty, it costs them close to nothing to let you sit around for hours. Plus your car in the parking lot (assuming you drove) shows passing people that at least somebody is there. People don’t like to be the only customer.

      But don’t mistake people coming in looking for work to mean the place is a good place TO work. When you are out of work, any job sounds good. People are still knocking on the doors and faxing over resumes to the place where I work, which is shutting down at the end of this month. We’re about to layoff a lot of people, and yet others are still trying to see if we’re hiring.

      My point is that people asking for work has nothing to do with how good the job might be or how long it might last. It just means somebody had hope that maybe there was an opening.

  6. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    From the article: Starbucks still offers better compensation than most of its peers — even after its painful retrenchment in 2008 and 2009. Nevertheless, its roughly 105,000 cafe workers are grappling with higher out-of-pocket medical costs, lost personal days, slower vacation accrual and hourly pay that is lower than at some of its fast-growing rivals.

    It seems to me that from the worker’s experience, the love for working at Starbucks is gone because the perks went away and some of the costs went up – but this is something that most of the country’s workers have dealt with for the past two years. Higher medical costs, furloughs, loss of vacation, less sick time, and the ultimate smackdown: unemployment.

    I’m not going to throw out the “just be thankful they have a job” line but the plight of Starbucks workers isn’t really something that the rest of the country hasn’t been dealing with for quite some time. It was probably going to happen sooner or later. At least hourly employees get 401(k) plans.

    • nbs2 says:

      I work for a large government contractor. I get the same number of vacation days as a salaried Starbucks employee, and they increase more quickly than I do. Compared with their hourly folks, I’m three years accelerated from their starting point. I do get three personal days, though, instead of two.

      This is based on which is the first hit searching for “starbucks vacation”

    • Mom says:

      That sounds like my job. Higher out of pocket medical costs, slower time off accrual, cutbacks in this, that, the other. Salaries aren’t competitive with some others in the industry (but very generous compared to others). In other words, it sounds like par for the course in the current economy.

    • dg says:

      Whatever. The sooner that an employee realizes that s/he is a tool to solve a problem for an employer, the better. They need someone to make coffee and if they could get a robot to do it more effectively and efficiently that a human – guess what?

      You’re entitled to pay for work performed. The rest of it is all niceties that employers offer to try and cajole workers to work for them instead of the competition. When those niceties cost too much and eat into profits, AND you have a plethora of people willing to work for you – then you can cut out the niceties and still solve your problem.

      So ummm, why the hell would you want to spend more money on labor than you have to. There’s no reason to offer health care, or vacation to anyone. If they’re not happy, they can leave and go find another job – or start their own business.

      As for spending more on health care than coffee? Screw that noise. No way I’d go for that if I ran the company. I’d cut those costs posthaste. If the employees want to form a pool to buy health insurance less expensively – fine – I’ll help with that so long as it cuts my costs, but the days of funding gold-plated health insurance is over.

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

      Many employers are using the “just be thankful you have a job thing” to shaft employees. Some of these companies have profits that are just fine, yet they are using the economy as an excuse to give employees twice the work, cut salaries, cut vacation, etc… When the economy really recovers, people are going to leave these companies in droves, leaving them without a solid workforce and having to retrain new workers who they will have to treat well if they want to retain them in a competitive economy. It will end up costing these companies money in the long run.

      • Duke_Newcombe-Making children and adults as fat as pigs says:

        Funny that, “just be thankful you have employees” never quite works as well to our advantage, no?

  7. Anonymously says:

    If you’re going to be disgruntled, please shun the ridiculous “partners” moniker.

  8. balthisar says:

    Ugh. It’s not too hard to correctly spell “its.”

    In any case, I guess I’ve had my head in the sand. I didn’t realize that Starbuck’s employees were generally regarded as happier than McDonald’s’s employees. For all of the arguing we do here about tip jars at coffee houses, I’d always just imagined that they were common, part time, minimum-wage, fast food workers. It sounds like they’re going to be, though.

    • DewBerry says:

      Good lord, if you’re going to be a spelling nazi, you could at least check your own spelling:

      Starbuck’s employees –> Starbucks’ employees

      McDonald’s’s employees –> McDonald’s employees

      The Economist style guide says “Try to avoid using Lloyd’s (the insurance market) as a possessive; it poses an insoluble problem”. There is no way in English to make a possessive of a word that already contains an apostrophe. The same problem is posed by several other organisations’ names, and if the problem can’t be avoided, you must grit your teeth and treat them as if they are called Lloyd, Sainsbury, or McDonald:

      McDonald’s employment practices
      Sainsbury’s recruitment drive
      Lloyd’s current difficulties

  9. BurtReynolds says:

    I think the fact they get any benefits at all puts that above the average McDonalds or Wal Mart employee.

  10. benh999 says:

    Emphasizing product sales? Oh, the humanity!

    • Hoss says:

      And scheduling software! Children will die!

    • Anonymously says:

      This $5 multigrain goat-cheese muffin pairs perfectly with your venti pumpkin spice maccachino latte americano. (please buy it or the manager will beat me)

    • mmmsoap says:

      I’m assuming “product sales” means the mugs and espresso makers and terrible CDs, not the coffee?

    • IssaGoodDay says:

      Actually, I think it’s the Via that’s being pushed especially hard. From what I’ve been told, if stores aren’t making their Via goals for the day, they get a call from the District manager and have to come up with an “Action Plan” to hit goal the next day.

      I’ve waited in line for 5-10 minutes behind only two people because they spend 2-3 minutes giving their Via sales pitch and pushing samples of it to the people in front of me before even taking their orders. It’s actually ensured that I’ll NEVER buy the stuff, at least not from a Starbucks location.

  11. areaman says:

    Sounds like what is expected of the workers there is turning into a venti and the benefits are turning into a tall.

  12. ravnmcoy1 says:

    I have a friend who worked in a Seattle Starbucks get fired this month….what for you ask? Being TOO NICE to the customers and for being in a good mood ALL the time…Crazy

    • George4478 says:

      If only he’d stopped whacking off in the restroom…

    • Charmander says:

      I’m sure there was another reason. Nobody gets fired for being nice.

      Maybe he was too SLOW because he was too busy being “nice” and chatting with the customers, thereby slowing the lines.

      Maybe he was TOO friendly, asking people personal questions and generally weirding customers out.

      Some people are just kind of clueless as to how they come across to others….just sayin’.

  13. Hoss says:

    Sure you don’t get big raises and you’re expected to sell — but you do learn a new language and get to meet people that wouldn’t normally associate with you

  14. JMH says:

    Why bother redacting the guy’s name? It’s right there in the MSNBC article for anyone who cares.

  15. BettyCrocker says:

    So – the economy tanked and workers are having to deal with lower pay and/or fewer benies – just like nearly everyone else? Oh boo-effing-hoo. Join the club.

    • Anonymously says:

      When a previously awesome company becomes crappy, you mourn the loss of something great. So yes, boo hoo indeed.

  16. mandy_Reeves says:

    The Starbucks near me at Target has some awesome employees who love their job it seems. However, the one at the mall which is really teeny tiny…like you could hold your arms out to the sides and nearly touch the counter and walls…they are not so happy, and you can hear them griping and b*tching to beat the band. Probably claustrophobia from such a tiny space(fire trap if you ask me). The Barnes and Noble “featuring” starbucks coffee, ugh…these folks are so crabby…I had it with them and cannot even go in there without leaving in a bad mood

    • ArcanaJ says:

      Yeah, but that second group are Barnes and Noble employees, not Starbucks employees, so that unhappiness is due to a different corporate overlord.

      • Max5695 says:

        Target employees staff the Starbucks Cafes inside of Target stores. These Target employees are paid by Target and are not paid by Starbucks. The Target employees are supposed to follow Starbucks standards, but it is difficult to enforce.

      • 99 1/2 Days says:

        Worked for a big box retailer on a highway and B&N was in the same strip mall so they had me captive for coffee for a time. Those were the most natural looking zombies I’ve ever seen. I mean,
        S –L–O–W. Absolutely no sense of urgency. I could have taken the highway turnaround and instead have gotten the 7-11 “Sex on a beach” (F***ing close to water) they call “coffee” and I often did to avoid the bitter frustration.

  17. dulcinea47 says:

    I’ve been calling it “the McDonalds of coffee” for years.

    • A.Mercer says:

      There is a comedian named John Pinette. He has a routine where he talks about waiting in line at Starbucks. He says he goes to McDonald’s first to get a cup of coffee so he has some caffeine while waiting in line.

    • Buckus says:

      So…what does that make McDonald’s coffee?

  18. sopmodm14 says:

    att he end of the day, isn’t it just coffee ?

    still comes out the other end the same way

  19. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    Part of working at and frequenting Starbucks is the pretense. Take that away and it is just a McDonalds.

    Business would die if they converted the time wasting “grande extra hot soy with extra foam, split shot with a half squirt of sugar-free vanilla and a half squirt of sugar-free cinnamon, a half packet of splenda, in a venti cup and fill up the “room” with extra whipped cream with carmel and chocolate sauce drizzled on top” to a “Number 5 please.”

    • MMD says:

      I used to work at a McDonald’s, and yo might be surprised at the convoluted special orders people made there, too. People ask for what they like and prefer. Nothing inherently pretentious about that.

  20. Swag Valance says:

    Only about 4 years too late for said employees to figure this out finally.

  21. Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

    “Would you like cream with that?”

  22. colorisnteverything says:

    I quit going to S-bux’s very often after I found two different coffee shops that are 10x’s better. Where I came from in Indiana, there wasn’t even a starbuck’s. There was NOTHING haha. So, when you found a S-bux’s, you when there. However, here in central MO, there are TONS of great roasting companies. I make my own espresso drinks at home with a Moka Pot and am a damn good barista. However, I like to go out to study (I’m a PhD student). One place downtown is Kaldi’s in which the people are awesome, the coffee is all fair trade, and the stuff is local. The other is a local It’s A Grind. It’s a lovely shop, the girls who work behind the counter are awesome, and the coffee (and yes, we are talking ACTUAL black coffee) is amazing.

  23. JohnJ says:

    “Shareholders,…were rewarded with their first-ever dividend and, soon after, a 30-percent dividend increase.”

    Yup, Corporate Wealth is to be divided amongst Shareholders and Top Executives, only.

    The role of Employee is to live in near-poverty, while generating profits for others.

    • halfcuban says:

      In fairness shareholders are also retiree’s, pension funds, and other individuals who put their own money from working away in the hopes of retirement. So no, shareholders aren’t necessarily evil.

    • INsano says:

      20% of americans own stock. Guess which 20% they are?

      Are stockholders necessarily evil? Of course not. Is the corporate model that destroys egalitarianism and anything in the way of profit? There was an article in the times this week pointing out that the U.S. now has a higher disparity of wealth than most “banana republics”.

  24. JeremieNX says:

    Pretty much standard procedure here… Anytime there is a company that actually offers something good for low-level employees – it is always eroded away over time. Nothing ever goes in the upward direction however….

    • INsano says:

      Lots of things go upward–as in away from the majority of employees…salaries, profits, benefits, bonuses, stock options, vacations, pensions, retirements, peace of mind, job security, feelings of accomplishment, job satisfaction…

      And for some reason, Americans are the most stressed people. Interesting what a complete lack of security will do to a populace.

  25. pot_roast says:

    “The company’s largest investors declined comment for this article but an analyst for one firm with holdings, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Starbucks’ benefits are “super luxurious” and that baristas would be “better to shoosh up about it.” “

    THIS is why people want to line Wall Street stock holders up against the wall…

  26. Nick says:

    Quality at Starbucks has definitely eroded from the consumer standpoint as well and it proves that few large corporations are able to rise above their size to provide consistent and exemplary customer service and products. Anyone who says that large equals better is either trying to form a merger or lying through their teeth. But hey, as long as Wall Street is happy…

  27. madanthony says:

    They spend a lot on Heath care?

    I guess that explains the new Toffee Mocha.

  28. Onesnap says:

    Buy coffee in a small local coffee shop that roasts their own (shout out to Red Barn Coffee in Southboro, MA). :)

  29. nocturnaljames says:

    Not surprising, considering most people would much rather work at Starbucks than McDonalds, there is no need to pay people more at Starbucks. It’s also why some pilots make less than McDonalds employees, because being a pilot is a much more desirable job. Sad but true.