Ahoy, “My Starbucks is Better Than Your Starbucks”


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Tale of Two Coffee Shops

Good friend Ruby Gualberto from LA forwarded a fun Facebook post. She shared the story of Dr. David DeKriek. David is an audiologist at Fidelity Hearing Center.

Yesterday, DeKriek had an interesting Starbucks experience in Cerritos, CA.

In David’s words:

“The parking lot at Starbucks was empty this morning and there was a note on the door stating they were closed. 

starbucks closed

Bummer… As I curiously peeked through the glass, one of the baristas waved me over to the side door where she had my Venti Iced Coffee ready for me. 

Starbucks David DeKriek

No charge. My Starbucks is better than yours.”

David and I connected to chat about the experience. It looks like this wasn’t a one-off experience.

“Hi Stan. Just last week I posted about a coffee shop that couldn’t get it right. This Starbucks though always gets it right. Not necessarily my order but everything. They are friendly, thoughtful, professional and a part of my day that I look forward to.”

I pressed David further about the other coffee shop. It turns out he was in Las Vegas,

Va Bene“The other coffee shop was Va Bene Caffe in the Cosmopolitan Hotel. The girl was quite amazing in how short her attention span was. I ordered a large iced latte. Easy. She repeated it then made a chai tea latte. When I told her I wanted an iced latte, she came back with a hot latte. Someone else ended up making my drink. The next day, I ended up with the same girl taking my order (out of the four girls behind the counter). I thought she would have remembered me and my order from the day before because of the extra interaction but I made an extra effort to speak loudly and clearly thinking that perhaps there was a true language barrier or my California accent was foreign to her. She repeated my order perfectly “large iced latte” and then proceeded to make a chai tea latte again. I don’t know what the real problem was but I was more entertained by her ineptitude than bothered by the few extra minutes it took to make another drink.”

Dr. David again went back to comparing this experience with Starbucks,

“Starbucks on the other hand is almost always a good experience, no matter where I go. Of course I know the staff at my local store but I feel just as invited at any other location. They must do a great job with their hiring process.”

Lessons from a First Mate

Few people know the origin of the name Starbucks. Starbuck was the first mate of Captain Ahab in a little novel called Moby Dick. According to founder Gordon Bowker, they were looking for words that started with “ST” and someone suggested an old town between Mount Rainier and the Cascades named Starbo. According to Bowker,

“As soon as I saw Starbo, I, of course, jumped to Melville’s first mate [named Starbuck] in Moby-Dick. But Moby-Dick didn’t have anything to do with Starbucks directly; it was only coincidental that the sound seemed to make sense.”

110131_BB_STARBUCKSLOGO.jpg.CROP.original-originalWith a name of a sailor and symbol of a siren (mermaid), you’d think they might call employees “CREW” members. Instead, Starbucks refers to its employees as partners.

Click to watch video on being a “PARTNER”

According to their website, “Being a Starbucks partner means having the opportunity to be something more than an employee.” It’s obvious that the company places a great emphasis on their employee partners. Allowing them to grow as a person, to develop a career and to give back to their community.

They also share in the success of the company. Partners are awarded stock in the company based on length of employment and how many hours they’ve worked.

These happy engaged and rewarded partners create happy enthused customers like Dr. David.

Starbucks appeared in both the Purple Goldfish and Green Goldfish books numerous times. They are a Purple Goldfish Hall of Famer (see slideshare). Here’s a handful of my favorite examples:


Purple Goldfish #351 – When the line gets really long, it’s common for one of the staff to come out with a tray of complimentary samples of the latest and greatest beverage. A nice treat while you wait in line.


Green Goldfish #92 – A free pound of coffee each week for employees. Got Keurig? That’s OK, you get a box of K-cups.


Purple Goldfish #663 – Slowing down to deliver a consistent customer experience. Submitted by Veronica Fielding, “GLUE [Giving Little Unexpected Extras] is a great acronym for something that will continue to become increasingly meaningful to the marketers that want to make a difference. GLUE comes to mind when I think of Starbucks telling its baristas to slow down to help ensure a consistently wonderful experience. It was applied right around the time I was starting to notice the experience disintegrating and so was noticed immediately as the experience was GLUEd.”

starbucks-green-goldfish-insurance-benefitsGreen Goldfish #93 – Starbucks offers full healthcare benefits to eligible full and part-time partners. All employees (yes – even part timers who work 20 hours a week) are eligible for health insurance benefits. In addition, the Thrive Wellness Campaign inspires Starbucks partners to take advantage of wellness opportunities and lead active, healthy lives, which, long-term, will help sustain comprehensive benefits at Starbucks. 


Purple Goldfish #5 – When you purchase a 12 or 20 ounce bag of Starbucks coffee at the grocery store, you can bring the bag to Starbucks for a 12 ounce cup of Joe on the house. A nice little extra from the Seattle based company. Not only a nice gesture, but a smart one as well. If you are coffee drinker like myself, there is no worse feeling than waking up with an empty bag of coffee in the house.  Caffeine is an addiction and you need your fix. This offer gets you a cup of Joe and conveniently let’s you buy that next bag of ground coffee.

Who gets treated better at SBUX? Employees or Customers

Last month, Micah Solomon wrote about Starbucks (SBUX is their ticker symbol) in Forbes.com. He shared a conversation he had with an employee in Seattle. The employee asked,

“Do you think Starbucks takes better care of its employees, or of its customers?”

Micah didn’t have an answer for him. And, it turned out, this was the point of his question,

“I’ve worked here a long time, and I’ve thought about it for a while. And I just don’t know. I think Starbucks cares about, and takes care of, both groups. I think it’s equal.”

I tend to agree.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Here is Ahab (Gregory Peck in 1956) talking to first mate, “Mr. Starbuck” about the great white whale:

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Republished with author's permission from original post.

Stan Phelps
Stan Phelps is the Chief Measurement Officer at 9 INCH marketing. 9 INCH helps organizations develop custom solutions around both customer and employee experience. Stan believes the 'longest and hardest nine inches' in marketing is the distance between the brain and the heart of your customer. He is the author of Purple Goldfish, Green Goldfish and Golden Goldfish.


  1. According to my favorite comedian, Louis Black, the end of civilization as we know it will be when there is a Starbuck’s directly across the street from another Starbuck’s. He may be right. Been to Manhattan lately? They’re everywhere! For Mr. Black, his eureka moment came in Houston, TX: http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=Louis+Black+the+end+of+civilization&qpvt=Louis+Black+the+end+of+civilization&FORM=VDRE#view=detail&mid=AC44217D35ABEA6B07A6AC44217D35ABEA6B07A6


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