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THE DIMMING STAR OF STARBUCKS

Cowboy hat By Jim Hightower and Phillip Frazer - Thu., 4/10/08
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About a year ago, a stinging message was delivered to the corporate honchos of Starbucks, the mega chain of costly coffees.

The writer decried the "commoditization of the Starbucks experience," bemoaning the fact that outlets "no longer have the soul of the past and [instead] reflect a chain of stores vs. the warm feeling of a neighborhood store." He's right, of course. You go into a Starbucks these days, and the barista who used to make your cup is operating an automatic pushbutton coffee machine.

The interesting thing about the guy who wrote to the honchos is that he is none other than Howard Schultz, the founder and former CEO of Starbucks! Shortly after delivering his critique, Schultz returned to the helm, promising to restore the "customer experience."

It's not going well. He's gotten rid of the warmed-up egg sandwiches, whose smell overpowered the heady aroma of coffee, but the push-button espresso and inadequately trained staff remain. In the year since Schultz's return, Starbucks' stock price has fallen 40 percent as customers have continued to return to locally owned coffee houses.

What irony that Starbucks yearns for the image of the cool, independent hangouts that Schultz spent the last 20 years trying to drive out of business.



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Filed Under: Corporate greed