Working at Starbucks: first impressions.

“If you are not satisfied with the drink you’re about to hand to a customer, you have my full support to pour it out and make them a new one.”

That’s a quote from Howard Shultz, the chairman and CEO of Starbucks, paraphrased from the manual I’ve been using to train for my new barista job.

Image courtesy of jacreative

And it’s why I think this could be the beginning of a good thing.  I really appreciate that I have the freedom to make a judgement call, in a split second, on my feet.  Not only do I have that freedom, he went out of his way to express that I have that freedom.

It makes me think of an experience I had at the NC License Plate office.  I had the signatures of three different people, from all over town, expressing clearly that the car i was trying to get a plate for was, in fact, mine.  The only problem is that I had initialed on the wrong line, less than 2 centimeters from where I was supposed to.  The lady on the other side of the counter said “I’m sorry, but you’ll have to get that notarized again, and get those other signatures again, as well.”  I asked a few clarifying questions and found out that if this woman were to have allowed me to pass with my initials in the wrong spot (even crossed out and re-initialed) she could have lost her job. The government did not trust her to make a single, tiny judgement call to save hours of time and frustration for me.  Her job was slightly more advanced than a well-trained chimpanzee can handle–check, box, stamp, repeat. And that’s precisely how she was treated–it made everyone in the story miserable.

Contrast that with the fact that the CEO at Starbucks encourages me to pour money down a drain before making the person on the other side of my counter frustrated.  Not only does it make the customer happy, it makes the barista feel valued.  Which makes more money in the long run (both from that customer coming back, and from that customer sharing how great the baristas are at the High House Starbucks), which allows the company to provide jobs and benefits for more people, which literally makes the world a better place to live in. (not to mention the fact that we give people a product that they like…)

All because Howard Schultz told me to pour his coffee down a drain.