SLEEPING AT Starbucks, homeless policy, bathroom drug use, all welcome. I’ve always been an appreciative patron of Starbucks, for their efficiency of process and their interesting coffee embellishments (a process that a friend calls “getting rich selling water.”) But, as far as their management approaches go, not so much.
And, the latest effort to attempt to defuse the Philadelphia situation by proving how “racially sensitive” the company is, by opening its doors (and washrooms) to everyone, is sure to come back and bite them. SBX management’s overreaction to a situation that was easily remediable in a more low-key manner is certain to go down in the university business course history books as the overreaction of the century – or how not to react to a crisis. Perhaps Howard Schultz will want to read what I (and others) have written about chaos management – there’s an art as well as science to the practice of the management of chaos – and it’s definitely not one that embraces a “fly by the seat of one’s pants” approach. The WSJ recently quoted a (former) patron of SBX who was saying, “Their coffee is strong but their management is weak,” and proclaiming that he would no longer patronize the company. With so many new coffee house options out there these days (see my previous post concerning SBX gearing up to fend off strong competition) patrons will simply find other opportunities for sipping their coffee. SBX has now had to recant their first, overreactive statement of saying “All are welcome, anytime – whether they’re buying or not” and amend that statement to “All are welcome, but no drug use and no sleeping.” Wow – what an advertisement for SBX! One also wonders if they were even listening to themselves say those first words – stopping in but not buying is not a business practice – it is a homeless shelter practice, as another former SBX customer put it. And I don’t know of many well-heeled people (those who keep SBX in business, by the way) that would be fond of dropping in to a shelter to secure their morning’s coffee or dropping by in the afternoons with their children in tow to get their various coffee mocha machada what-evahs. Thus, I would guess that most customers of SBX in the larger cities (where the situations will be more acute) will simply opt out of SBX and opt in to a less altruistic company – one that knows why they are in business. And, in the coffee business, that business purpose would be . . . to sell coffee. And a bit of goodwill, of course. But, not “goodwill,” first, and selling, second!