Loyal No More

July 7th, 2008

To say I once was a loyal Starbucks’ customer is a huge understatement; die hard would fit better. While touring colleges, I never failed to ask the tour guide the nearest location of a Starbucks. If the school I was visiting did not have a nearby Starbucks, they were off my list. Over the top, yes, but I had to have my Starbucks fix.

And that daily fix was about much more than a few hundred milligrams of caffeine. I drank in everything about the “Starbucks’ experience.” The copious drink choices, the soothing environment, the friendly baristas who knew my name and favorite drinks regardless of which store I visited in my hometown — and much, much more. To me, any old coffee joint was unacceptable; Starbucks was my one and only option.

Recently, amid many factors, I’ve started to doubt my once unwavering loyalty to Starbucks.

For one, I can’t help but wonder what happened to the customer service I’d grown accustomed to. Gone are the days when I walk into a Starbucks and not only recognize Baristas, but receive friendly service. I’m now met by gruff employees, who don’t even recognize their own company’s lingo. When I order my favorite drink, a “venti non-fat café con leche,” I’m greeted with blank stares. I have to translate my drink into laymen’s terms — an iced coffee. What happened to that barista who taught me the proper Starbucks lingo all of those cups ago? Have I the student now become the teacher?

The rapid expansion of Starbucks has also contributed to my doubt. Starbucks’ need to have a store on every corner has taken away from the brand.

Why should I remain dedicated to a brand that has proven over and over again that their customers are merely numbers?

Part of the lure of the company’s brand was the exclusivity of being a Starbucks’ customer. In the Philadelphia area alone there are 83 stores, which don’t even include Starbucks’ 33 licensed stores.

Hopefully the recent news that Starbucks will be closing 600 of its stores is a sign that the company is trying to go back to its roots, but only time will tell.

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