As some of you know, I spent nearly four years of my life working for Starbucks. I started there fresh out of high school and worked there the majority of my college days. When I first began with Starbucks I was trained on the history of the company, the culture of the company and why the company was what it was. I was paid better than my friends with minimum wage jobs, had the option of full benefits if I worked more than 20 hours, stock options, 401K, and they even gave me free coffee. For a new college student, the coffee part was probably the best perk! But my time at Starbucks was not just spent relaxing behind the counter. I worked hard. I believed in the vision of the company and what Starbucks stood for in it’s quality and customer service. As a employee it was my aim to grow the company and fulfill my duties regularly. My friends received earfull’s about how great Starbucks was and why you were a fool not to work there, at least as a side job. Yet over the course of those years something changed in the company. Something, at first, I really didn’t understand or could put my finger on. It seemed like they still held their standards in high regard, but at the same time my experience there was not the same. It was no longer fun to go to work… in fact, it wasn’t even fun to go there as a customer. My bosses kept getting weirder and weirder. It didn’t seem to matter whether I worked hard or not, the only concern they had was whether I showed up and if I could make a beverage that was pretty close to the standard. It wasn’t about a culture anymore, or even a work ethic, or even about coffee; it was about drive-thru’s, time limits, and speed. It was about relaxing on the standards and just waiting to clock out. But for me, that experience was about a year ago when I finally left the company to move on with my career. Graphic design and other ventures interested me more than coffee and so that’s the direction I went. Though there was a time when I seriously considered a career with Starbucks, I knew I couldn’t stay there anymore and continue under this new company they had created. So for the past year I have purposely watched Starbucks and the direction they are going. I have seen my stock drop to the lowest it’s been in it’s history, and furthermore I’ve been the recipient of some of the worst service in any retail business. That was until yesterday…
The thing is, I’m a Starbucks fan. I love a good Iced Tea Lemonade and Bethany loves her Caramel Macchiato. We might make our way over there a few times a month to grab our desired beverages and then be on our way. I do my best to keep my comments about the service to myself as I know the teenager behind the counter could care less about me and just wants to talk about his PS3 with his new older buddy, his boss; his boss who just got hired for his experience at McDonald’s. But yesterday was different.
For the first time in a very long time I was greeted warmly at the counter. A nice twenty-something named Dave was at the register waiting to take our order. I joked with him that I was bit tired on this lazy Sunday afternoon and he joked back that they could take care of that. I ordered the new White Tea Lemonade, and when he asked the size I course said, “Venti!” as if there was another size you could drink. He promptly wrote “WTL” in the drink box on the cup and passed the cup along to the girl who would be completing my drink. Yet while Bethany was ordering hers I noticed that my drink wasn’t being made properly. One of the best parts about being a previous employee is knowing when your drink is not being made to standard. So I quickly remarked, with a louder voice, “Can you just make sure she makes that in the shaker!?.” And this is where the story gets good. Our good man Dave quickly turned to me and said, “Absolutely, that’s way it should be made, that’s the standard!” It was like music to my ears! Then he followed that by saying, “You just got yourself a beverage on us, sorry about that, she should’ve made it correctly.” So we paid for Bethany’s drink and I couldn’t have been happier. Honestly, I couldn’t believe that Dave used the word “standard?” He could’ve said something else, but no, he said “standard.” A word I haven’t heard from a Starbucks employee in a while. But I watched Dave further. He walked over to the girl and re-explained to her that she needs to be making the drinks to standard. He was kind and firm, just as any good Starbucks “partner” (as they are called) should be. But stay with me, it doesn’t end there. Bethany and I received our drinks in under 3 minutes, which is the Starbucks standard, and found our way over to clean table in the lobby. After a few short minutes I noticed our new friend Dave coming around to pick the place up. He wasn’t in a hurry and he wasn’t trying to rush out the door as the next shift-lead was coming to take his place. Dave was actually taking his time, picking up straw wrappers from the ground. He put the used newspapers in the appropriate rack, swept the floor, refilled the condiment bar, fixed the merchandise on the walls, and even walked outside to repeat the process as needed. It was the picture perfect lobby clean up and spot on to standard. I spent the entire time there talking with Bethany about it and how we couldn’t believe what we were seeing. So we enjoyed our beverages for a while and left the place with a smile. Though I didn’t say it out loud there was only one thing left for Dave to do, and that was to clean the windows of the doors which get covered in hand and finger prints. And would you believe it, as Bethany and I were driving away there was Dave outside the door with glass cleaner and paper towels making the glass shine.
You see, Dave is the future of Starbucks. It’s guys like Dave that make my experience more enjoyable, that make Starbucks the “third place” that it was once was. Dave didn’t know I was watching him or even that I had any idea of knowing what he should be doing, but he was just doing his job. He was first taking care of me as a customer, and secondly taking care of the future customers in that store by taking care of the store itself and making sure it’s “like new.” It only took one employee to restore my faith in that company which I never thought could happen. Listen, I don’t know what the future holds for Starbucks, but as long as they keep hiring more Dave’s, my money is with them. So here’s to the future of Starbucks… May my drink be worth every $3.15 I spend on it.