Starbucks Makes It Personal


"I went to the Starbucks at the [redacted] campus today in between classes to pick up a drink. I was in a pretty good mood and I left the store with my drink. On my way to class, I noticed that the Barista had a better name for me. (See the picture attached). I have no clue what made the person write that. I wasn't mean at all. I don't think I'll be going back. That's too bad for Starbucks since I usually go 1-2 times per day. I'll be taking my business to Peet's Coffee.” - "Why Did Starbucks Write "Big D*ck" On My Drink Cup?" on The Consumerist.
This weird instance of customer service is part of a Starbucks campaign that is rapidly going pear-shaped online. It started with the brand giving away free lattes in exchange for customers telling the barista their first name and continued with Starbucks staff  still merrily writing customer names on cups but with frequent  misspellings leading to a host of comedy sites springing up like, or my personal favorite, “The Starbucks Name Generator.”
The earlier example of name-calling (and it’s not a one off) shows that even the staff aren’t taking it seriously anymore . . .
Many marketing publications — who perhaps got their interviews before the campaign went live — are praising the company's intentions of “personalizing” the brand experience, but surely the online response from consumers in terms of brand perception and reputation have made this one a bit of an own goal.
Even worse, has Starbucks proven that big brands can’t “do” personal?



Dear Starbucks,

At first, when you asked me my name, I was confused and taken aback. (I had not yet had my morning dose, you understand.) So I mumbled my name and stepped aside so the ever growing line of thirsty politicos could order theirs and go about plotting the downfall of something, political entity or other. Finally, with caffeine now in my system, I deliberated and I deemed myself miffed by the experience, but alas not enough so to avoid seeking out a convenient latte in the morning.

On the following day, I found myself in somewhat of a hurry. I’d just received a couple of urgent emails on my blackberry and I was expected in the office for a conference call. No worries, I thought, this should not take long…

Starbucks: Can I help you?
Me: Yes, grande soy latte, please. (See, I even used your lingo!)
That will be $5.14. May I have your name?
Me: Oh, uh, sure. Carrie.
Starbucks: Mary?
Me: No. Carrie.
Starbucks: Oh, Carrie. Is that with a C or a K?
Me: C.
Starbucks: C.e.
Me: No. C…a..
Starbucks: C.a.r.y.?
Me: No. C.a.r.r.i.e. (to all of your waiting behind me, you now know the spelling of my name. Aren’t you thrilled?)

I look at my watch and then at my blackberry.

Since there is no one else waiting for a latte, I grab mine as it is placed on the counter. C.e.a.r.i.e. Great.

While sipping my latte and listening in on a conference call that would be unaffected by my immediate death, I started to wonder what about this name thing made me uneasy… But I could not put my finger on it.

By Friday morning I had decided it was stupid, poor policy meant to portray a sense of community where no community existed. Annoying! I walked into my local Starbucks and took a stand.

Starbucks: May I have your name?
Me: I’d rather you not.
Starbucks: Oh, but I need it for the cup.
Me: I don’t think you need it.
Starbucks: Well, it’s Starbucks policy.
Me: It’s bad policy.
Starbucks: Well, can I have your initial?
Me: No.
Starbucks: Well, I need to put something on the cup.
Me: Why? Will you not serve me my coffee unless you write something on the cup?
Starbucks: Well, no.
Me: Then can I just have my coffee?
Starbucks: (looks left, looks right, oh shit there is no one to help me!) Okay.

As I leave the store with my unnamed beverage in hand, I can see the baristas tittering in a little group. Yes, I think, what a wonderful community. I feel so at home. (Actually, I feel more like I did when I was 15 and realized that the means girls weren’t so cool after all.)

When I take a swig of my soy latte and I am blasted with some repugnant, foreign, sweet nastiness I can’t help but think the whole thing ironic.

You see Starbucks, I have been going to the same store, where the same baristas have been serving me the same beverage for nearly two years, but they have never taken the time, initiative or interest in learning what I drink. And now they want to know my name.

What is it you are thinking? Oh, maybe they deliberately gave me the wrong drink? What? Cause I was a bitch? An annoyance? A bother or bad customer? Yes, go with that. That will help defend the name thing!

In parting, dear, overly sweet Starbucks, forget my name. Just give me what I pay for in a prompt, courteous manner and we can all go on our merry way. Okay?


Anonymous (‘cause I wanna be at 8 a.m.!)

I just to share my funny

I just to share my funny 'Starbucks name' story that happened this morning.

When I get asked for my name for the cup, I never give my own name. I don't need the whole store knowing my coffee preference and it is strange to give one's name and then not get the other person's name in return.

So this morning I gave my standard when-I'm-at-Starbucks name, Karen, and the barista said "Thanks Erin". No point in correcting her, it's not my name anyway. I remembered this post and had a good chuckle. And what is even funnier, I have a Gold Starbucks card with my name on it that I used to pay every morning. You think the barista would look at that and then write my name on the cup and end the transaction with "Have a great Sascha".

As an ex-Starbucks employee, I actually thought the need to put the name on the cup was to properly identify a customer's drink when it gets really busy in the store. I'm also a marketing professional so I can't believe that I didn't pick up on the fact that Starbucks was trying to make my experience in the store more personal. Clearly that initiative failed for me.

When I worked for the company, if I had a customer who came in frequently I would make sure I learnt their drink preference and that then provided them with a personal experience. Learning someone's drink preference is a lot more sincere than writing a name on a cup and then forgetting it 5 seconds later. I totally agree with your comments above about learning my drink preference first and then we can move onto a first-name basis.

Perhaps things have changed since I worked for Starbucks, but learning some personal details about a loyal customer should always be part of a company's customer service.

My 2 cents for the day!

I have an unusual name

I have an unusual name 'Oonagh' and so I have also had interesting experiences with Starbucks naming. However, on a whole, I think their service is incredibly consistent. I feel comfortable going into a Starbucks because I know I will get a couple of things that I need - a friendly smile, a question about my name to make me feel like more than just a $$ and then a great cup of Coffee.

Starbucks have done an excellent job of customer engagement and have built a global brand based on quality product, customer experience and effortless visual branding. There will always be websites posted that negatively point @ anything successful. It is what it is.

If I was in that situation with regard to the unpleasant name put on my cup, i think would have written a note to Starbucks. I am sure they would swiftly remove the elements that are going against their brand. It is difficult to maintain consistency across a global operation like that. Rather than jumping on the band wagon maybe give them a little insight. Or, let them know that their customer engagement actually slows down your day and request that they look into whether or not their customer really value this. I am sure they would appreciate the feedback. Also, i think they put a name on the cup for more than just engagement. It is functional. Most of their coffees take time to make and so they need some way to alert a line of people that their 'lowfat latte' is actually theirs and not the person before them. Perhaps, a number would work better. But, then people would feel like a number and less of an individual. So their Naming is actually - Function + Engagement.

Starbucks, have inspired many with their incredible brand recognition, customer engagement and consistency. I think excellence is the norm not the exception.

Nice to see some balance

Thanks Oonagh. I think it's just as important to see when people want to stand up for a brand and praise them. I don't drink coffee so am yet to experience how they deal with my name, roll on summer and the frappucinos for me to find out...

Naming convention

When asked my name at any establishment (restaurant, etc) I give something gender neutral and simple, like Billie or Danny, neither of which are my real name.

As for the things people whine about: Starbucks, I have little sympathy for the amount of money people pay for the cr*p that company serves as coffee, not to mention all the sugar-filled, whipped and frothed beverages. Perhaps Starbucks is to blame for this attitude. They have created a coddled customer base. You all deserve one another.

I brew my own coffee in my own kitchen. It is both less expensive, and it cuts out the cr*p of dealing with standing in line at the yuppy McDonalds.

get the name right

That's pretty funny Darika. Of course one of the first things I learned in marketing was the importance of data quality. If you get your customer's name wrong they won't be your customer for much longer. Someone should tell Starbucks that.

Stop Mumbling

Most of the time, I find it so difficult to get a name. Either because one mumbles, one is on the phone, or one has a name I haven't come across before (so i ask them if they mind spelling it).

I always try to remember the face, then the drink, then the name when it comes to a new store with new regulars. (what good is remembering the name if you cant remember the drink)
I feel having your name on your cup gives you that personal joy when you receive it, much like a Christmas gift tag or what not. It's the little things.
Also, we don't care if you don't want us to have your name. It's policy but not meant to harass you. We've nicknamed a nameless customer Cher at my store (she loves it and sings to us now every morning :) .

Useful and interesting which

Useful and interesting which we talk about with you so i think so it is very useful and knowledgeable. I would like to thank you for the projects. I am tiring the same best execute from me later on as well. Personal Finance Advice

business voip systems

I Like your blog,will sharing this with my friends, excellent work.
business voip systems