Starbucks

Hello dear reader(s)!

I only speak from my experiences, and as such, I understand that it may be different at the Starbucks that you go to, and that the policies I mention may not have been that of corporate, but rather just our store and the district.  

I don’t hate Starbucks.  I really don’t.  I would go with an independent shop 9 times out of 10, however.

Let me start with the good.  

Food Safety

I have heard that Jack in the Box is an extremely safe fast-food type of restaurant after the deadly E.coli outbreak.  I don’t think they have anything on Starbucks.  Could food poisoning still happen?  Of course.  But honestly, and this is corporate wide, Starbucks tries really, really hard to prevent it.  Let me tell you about QASA.  QASA is an independent organization that gives “surprise” inspections to the stores with standards about 9,000 times more strict than any health department.  We’re talking OCD standards.  When QASA was coming, everything had to be spotless, everything was at perfect temperature (not just within range), all the thermometers were calibrated, any broken equipment (even if it had no effect on food safety, such as a broken bottom shelf where no food was placed) was taken out of commission.  You could not stand on the floor mats (to keep your feet and back from falling apart) at the bar (the machine area) thus defeating the purpose of having the mats.  That was corporate, and they tried really hard.

However…  Managers and District Managers did not get as high of a bonus if their stores got a low (or God forbid failed) QASA score.  So, despite the fact that most of us did our best to maintain QASA standards all of the time…we knew that unless we were the first store in the district to be hit with an inspection…we would be tipped off by the DM or another store’s manager.  

So naturally, things weren’t ALWAYS perfect.  On the whole however our store (and I believe most stores) do their best to keep as close to the standards as is practical without a dedicated cleaning dash.  The pastries are expired at a certain time, and we will literally have to refuse sale on them even if we haven’t been able to toss them and turn the case over yet for the afternoon batch.  One guy came in at 2:01 and wanted an expired bagel as of 2 pm.  I’m not kidding, one minute afterward.  My lazy-ass co-worker had not turned it over yet (we usually did it at about 1:45).  I had to tell him that was the last bagel (there was none in the afternoon batch) and I couldn’t sell it to him.  1.  Minute.  Later.  He was pissed.  I got screamed at.  I told him it was for safety and apologized that it was still in the case.  It was the one time my manager backed me up.  Of course, no action was taken against my lazy-ass co-worker for not cleaning out the case, but I’ll get to that.  Another issue our store (and every Starbucks I’ve stepped foot in) had was the cold food case.  Because it is accessible only from the front, it means the employees have to come out from behind the counter to check the temp, and remove expired product.  Given the staffing, this was never done as often as it should have been.  I don’t trust the cold food case.

Convenience

They are everywhere.  They have drive-THROUGHS (hahaha).  They have $20,000 machines that speed up the brewing process pretty well.

Training

Employees receive training.  So much so, that former employees who still get drinks there still know the call order.  (It isn’t hard, think cup grabbing, pulling shots, and then follow the boxes on the cup.)  Whether they choose to exercise that training is another matter entirely.

Consistency

This.  You go to a Starbucks in Seattle, and you are going to get the same tasting white mocha as you do in Los Angeles, Tallahassee, New York, Atlanta, Raleigh-Durham, Cleveland, Las Vegas,…etc.  Provided the barista listens and comprehends, it will be the same.


Now the not so-good

Pay.  I can’t not work at work.  But many people can and do.  At some rates, it is almost justifiable.  Minimum work for minimum pay.  Especially when the lazy tenured are never disciplined.  Still couldn’t slack-off, but I did get burnt out and left as soon as I thought I had another opportunity.

Tip-sharing

I am against this anywhere.  Despite what Congress has passed at the behest of businesses and the IRS, tips are not wages, they are gifts for exceptional service.  Sharing my hard-earned tips every week with the lazy-ass co-workers I had (not all of them) was a slap in the face.

Raise capping on structured reviews

This is too common everywhere.  Work 90 days, and you get a review for a possible raise (Always a month or two late, of course).  “And guess what Josh, in those 90 days, you have done 5 times as much as anyone here, so we are going to give you the maximum raise we can, of 3%.  And that POS all of the customers hate?  Who is slow, who can’t make it through a single shift without crying, but has been here for 3 years, and happened to be here at a time when the Lead positions were open, (which you wouldn’t even be eligible to apply for based on your tenure, even if one were to open up)?  She makes twice your base pay.  Oh, and since she is a Lead and gets 8 more hours a week on the schedule than you do, she also gets a larger tip share.”

Weak management

When policies matter until questioned or a scene is created and then collapse…there is no policy.  I can’t count the number of times my manager went back on something when confronted with someone complaining.  Unless she was in a particularly bad mood she would bend to whoever was the loudest.  Being buddy-buddy with the District Manager didn’t help because they would regularly cover for each other.

Quality

Unnecessary sugars, fats, and preservatives in anything added to the coffee itself is simply a way to make flavor cheaper.  I make my own white mochas at home, and I can tell you they have about 1/2 the calories of theirs.  Plus, even though they strongly deny it, Starbucks over-roasts their beans.  (That is opinion here, because what is over-roasting?)  This is done primarily with their espresso since over-roasted beans take less to make the coffee seem stronger, and the bitterness is usually covered up with additives like milk and syrups.  A dark roast doesn’t mean burnt.  Proper coffee makes you use more (which is good for us caffeine junkies) and provides better flavor meaning the sugary syrups (or powders) or sugar itself does not have to be as sugary to cover.  You taste the coffee.

Their trademarked frozen coffee drinks

This should be a rare treat, if at all.  In the Summer, we had those custom blender type machines running non-stop for the same customers every day and their kids (not just the non-coffee ones either).  They are so very high in calories and sugar and everything not nice.  A McDonald’s milkshake is a healthier alternative and you KNOW how I feel about them.

My store’s policy on tattoos, artificial hair color, and piercings

This is a coffee shop.  Does it matter if the person serving you coffee has ink injected into their body or purple hair?  Even at automated coffee-ville, there was still an art to making good coffee, and one should expect the artists to be artists.  I have been to stores in Seattle where the baristas were inked and pierced, so I don’t believe this was corporate policy but our manager always insisted it was.

I’m not saying Starbucks is evil.  I took the job there after the economy tanked and nobody else in the area had any jobs to offer because I didn’t want to continue taking unemployment (even though I was still eligible for many more months and was actually making more on unemployment).  That in turn, helped me to find progressively better jobs when the economy began to recover faster than those who sat on unemployment and wouldn’t take anything “beneath” them.

They are convenient, and if I mistakenly run out of coffee supplies, I will still occasionally pop into one close by for a quad, venti, coconut milk, no whip, white mocha.  But, if I had a close independent coffee shop on those days, you can bet I’d go there instead.  And if I am nearby the one in town I love, and want a coffee, I am going there, even if there’s an empty Starbucks drive-THROUGH directly across the street.

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Author: Josh Wrenn

Cancer survivor, wanna-be artist, musician, author, and all around good guy.

10 thoughts on “Starbucks”

    1. The next time you are over this way (because you know where that is), you should let me know and I’ll tell you where to get the best coffee that is actually better for you than a skinny vanilla (even though the skinny syrup is sugar free).

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Hi Josh!

    Many moons ago I took a job at McDonalds, because I was desperate and they were hiring. I had a good time, maybe because I resigned to the fact, and boy, the stupidity of some of the people who work there… It would make you cry, but I rather smile. What I’m trying to say is: I understand what you’re saying. You took a job that was available because you didn’t have one and you needed one – you tried to make the best of a bad situation and I can only applaud you for that 🙂

    Secondly, you might find it interesting to see what we consider a “good coffee” – it’s a guideline because in the end it all comes down to personal reference. I would loce to hear what you think! https://atouristsguidetocoffee.wordpress.com/2015/02/14/what-makes-a-good-coffee/

    Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

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