Starbucks – Thrashing the Customer Experience to Death?

So in the UK we like to keep ourselves to ourselves.

Its coffee, not my friend. Except when I’m hungover.

We queue patiently for our coffee, we then order our coffee (assiduously avoiding the terms ‘Tall, Grande & Venti’ in preference to Small, Medium & Large) then we say ‘No, I don’t want anything else’ and then we pay.

Then we wait a bit for the coffee to be made and then we either sit down and drink it or we walk off and drink it on the move (In the UK we don’t ‘order to go’ we ‘take out’).

Fine. And I like Starbucks because a) they do the best coffee (mine’s a Medium Caramel Latte – spot that – we spell it caramel, like we spell aluminum, aluminium – I love the way English words are spelled differently depending on where you are in the world) and b) the staff are usually Eastern European and they don’t mess about.

Until now.

Now these very same no-nonsense staff are going to ask me my name. My name? Why for God’s sake? Do they want to make friends? Are we supposed to be building some kind of relationship in the 3 minutes it takes to order a coffee?

I want a drink, not a ‘natter’.

Apparently Starbucks has been at it in the States for years. They write the customer’s name on the cup and then call out the name to get the coffee. What the hell? What if you don’t like your name?

What if its some 1960’s power-flower throwback your stoned parents cursed you with, like ‘MoonDog’. Or maybe you were the unfortunate  offspring of a faded popstar and you are ‘FairyBlueTinkerTwit?

Well you can rebel. Do a Bart Simpson (try Seymour. Seymour Butts). Or tell them your name is ‘God’. Or ‘Heil Hitler’. Or Ivor Biggun’.

I’ve ordered and drank at many Starbucks in the States – no one ever asked my name. Maybe it’s the English accent.

Right, I’m off to Costa Coffee – even if the caffeine levels in their coffee could raise the Army of the Dead. Actually sod it I’ll just stick with my mug of lovely Nescafe Instant.

60 thoughts on “Starbucks – Thrashing the Customer Experience to Death?

  1. Pingback: Brangelina in Starbucks « Happiness Stan Lives Here

  2. They do not ask for my name any more! Of course I am on first name basis with most of the staff including the management. But…there is another Starbucks that I frequent about 5-7 times a month. They have never asked my name. I guess they do not want to be friends! Hehe! Thanks for sharing!
    Peach State

  3. I live in the states and I avoid Starbucks like the plague for partly this reason. The other reason is that if I can’t order it in five words or less, it’s not coffee, it’s a coffee based desert.

  4. When I was in the states my Italian friend was going through this bizarre process of stating his name. After trying “Gian Matteo” he eventually gives up, comes back with his coffee, sits down, and takes a sip from his mug labelled “John”. There’s a personal relationship right there!

    • I know and I live it every day – get to know the customer. Problem is customers really do not want to be known. The want coffee (or software, or cars, or loans etc etc etc)

  5. Entertaining read! Here in the States, it seems to depend upon which location you go to. I always assumed they asked for names at the busy ones so they’d know whose drink belonged to whom.

  6. Got to admit I only went into Starbucks once. Cripes, talk about intimidating (and I’m no shy person) but all I wanted was a cup of coffee right? You can’t do it. I don’t know what all those terms are & I’m not sure I want to know. At least they didn’t ask my name, if they had I would have run out thinking they were going to announce “new, stupid old lady your “coffee’s” ready!

  7. LOL! Your opening line. “So in the UK, we like to keep to ourselves.” I think you just summed up a culture with that one. 🙂

    Yes, we are a friendly, nosy bunch, are we not? To be frank, I am quite social; though I have a well-developed, acute sense for those who would rather not chit-chat. I do understand what you’re getting at. For me, the equivalent would be my time at the gym. I once had a gentleman stop me mid-route to the weights and tell me I should smile.

    . . . . . .

    Smile? Really? Did I simply miss the stage and ball-gowns? Is there a tiara on my head? Because I don’t remember entering the Miss America Pageant.

    If only we had thought bubbles lingering over our heads at all times . . .


    • I work with and for Americans! But you’re not all the same. There are those that will ask you how you are at 7.30am on a Monday morning (Well how do you think I am???) but there are those who are exactly the same as us Brits (cynical, world-weary etc etc)!!!

  8. really? I have never been asked for my name (in Canada)- What if you don’t want other people to know your name is Sarah and you are at starbucks every morning at 8 am ordering your caramel machiato? I would not like that at all. Though, I suppose it might be a fun way to just become the name I have always wanted to be. Sylvia or Gwenevyr … it might be entertaining to always have an alter personna everyday depending on your mood.? great post! 🙂

  9. So true! And why do some stores ask for my phone number to process a transaction? I don’t want a relationship with them, I just want to buy whatever. It’s all marketing! At least with Starbucks, I can say the service is consistently friendly, although the perkiness can be a bit hard to take if I’m overdue my first cup of coffee

  10. Under the Data Protection Act, any department holding your personal information must have adequate security measures in place… Make sure that Starbucks employees shield your name with their hands while preparing your beverage and that ALL trash bins they provide are locked. Call me paranoid, but these are our rights people!!!

  11. I agree with you. Why do they need to know names? It’s a ploy to start a “relationship,” which bothers me when I am not in a conversational mood. Starbucks started a wonderful lifestyle trend which made coffee a true taste adventure. Now we have many coffee emporiums (emporia?) to choose from. Ha! Thanks for stopping by my blog and “liking.”

  12. I lived in Eastern Europe for a few years some time ago and I still occasionally buy a can of Nescafe for the memories. Also, one of my ‘favourite’ things to do is to spell words the ‘English way’.

    I’m a fan of your blog!


  13. I don’t drink coffee, I order tea. You don’t have to wait for the tea, they just hand you your hot water and tea bag and off you go. Of course, it isn’t properly brewed tea like I would do at home, but hey, it’s just Starbuck’s.

  14. I completely agree – I’ve always preferred a Caffe Nero coffee anyway, but this gives me more of an incentive to stay out of Starbucks!

    Sad I missed out on free latte day yesterday though…

  15. Excellent post.
    For clarity, I HATE Starbucks. Their regular Americano is dire by comparison with any self respecting coffee company. If I am trapped into meeting a business acquaintance in their Sandyford (tumbleweed) store, I deliberately ask the sizes. Then I ask for “a small one” and put a perplexed look on my face when they tell me it’s a tall. Then I say “No, I want a small.” Great fun. Then I ask for 50% room. This is to be sure I get a coffee that is reasonably strong. If one has ever had their ‘Croque Monsieur’ you will understand my total ire for their very being. It is a crappy bit of crusty bread with a thin slice of ham and some God awful cheese. They have a great way of heating it just enough so the cheese melts and the rest of the sandwich still remains cold from the journey to Ireland from the east midlands of the UK or wherever they are bulk manufactured and sealed in inert gas. This is all served at prices that would make a lotto winner’s eyes water.

    On the name calling thing, years ago, before mobile phones it was common enough to hear a bellhop in any hotel walking around calling for a person to come to the phone. We used to get a bit of fun in top Dublin hotels by ringing from the call box in the lobby and asking to speak to Mike Hunt.

    • That’s the guy that runs Starbucks. What a coincidence! Agree most of this but i like the little bar of dark chocolate right at the end of the queue when you think ‘I’m not going to eat any of that shit….’

  16. Oh.. I’m going to use “beautiful” next time!! Awesome!! I think it’s so that we get the right drink when it’s busy.. however.. I picked up and drank “Emily’s” coffee yesterday and spent a few hours wondering why my “low-fat” latte tasted so.. well… whole milkish!! Lol… Emily’s probably wondering why her cup says Barb!!

    • You’re right of course. When it gets busy everyone starts milling around looking for their drink. I think its just the idea of letting the personal into what should be a relatively impersonal transaction (Sorry it might just be a British thing!)

  17. Funny! I always just accepted that they did that. A Starbucks just opened on the corner of my block a few weeks ago. It must be the emptiest Starbucks on the planet because they took over a very well-worn and beloved local coffeeshop that had been there for years. They just offered an exorbitant amount of rent and the landlord couldn’t refuse, and the old cafe owner couldn’t compete.

    I think they knew that there would be a lot of East Village neighborhood hate, because it must be the only Starbucks I have ever seen that doesn’t look like a Starbucks. No ads on the walls, no bright sign (Starbucks is painted on the dark grey building in small letters), no store hours. Nothing.

    Just a whole bunch of empty tables on the inside and middle fingers from people walking by.

    But they serve a function. I’ll even own up to liking that caramel macchiato on the menu from time to time 😉

  18. Highly inappropriate, it’s not AA after all. Nero’s kept putting a red dot on the lid of my coffee, I walked around for 2 hours with a beacon of red on my already unmissable nose

  19. My daughter has a trick for this: She tells them her name is Beautiful. Can’t help but smile when they say “Hey Beautiful, your drink is ready”!

  20. I agree on the name bit. First encounter with that was in the university library. Now having a Starbucks in a public university library was a mind stretcher for me, let alone asking my name and writing it on the cup. Maybe it has to do with crowd (or student) control. And yes, cut the cute and just use small, medium, and large. Next time try Community Coffee. It’s the South’s coffee (besides Cafe du Monde).

  21. At the risk of your sensibilities, and they don’t even have to be delicate, check out the Starbucks rant from The Kid from Brooklyn. Provided you can handle a truckload of swearing of a type that would make a sailor blush and cover his ears, you may enjoy the subtle anti-Starbucks message. It is filthy, however…

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