Sunday, February 28, 2010

Starbucks Is Bad At Math

On 2/15, a the Starbucks on Montrose in Houston, I bought a drink for $3.84 using the card 6046 0431 9760 6044. Then, my friend arrived.

The guy who sold me my drink told me, when I tried to buy my friend's identical drink, that the card had been "killed" -- that I needed to pay more for the drink than was on the card. So I handed him a $20 bill and told him to put the change on the card. Because there was some money charged on the card before I handed him the $20, the change should have been MORE than $16.16. I was not given any change except the card, and I didn't get the receipt (the clerks were talking with a customer and I didn't want to interrupt; I assumed the card had been charged as instructed).
The next day I tried to buy a drink at the Starbucks at the intersection of Buffalo and Westpark. I was told that the card was empty. EMPTY! It had to have over $16.16!

When I called about this, the friendly and understanding customer service assistant said she'd sort it out by sending me some coupons. Coupons aren't cash, so I can't spend them where I want if I grow dissatisfied, and they won't qualify me for rewards so they're not the same as having my card reloaded, but enough coupons could put me in an acceptable position. It sounded fine. In fact, I felt sufficiently appreciative of her effort to solve my problem that I spent extra time answering a little survey to make sure her supervisors understood she'd taken care to understand and offer a plausible solution to my problem getting shortchanged while reloading a card.
But today, I opened the envelope with the coupons. I was baffled. Knowing that I was buying drinks that cost $3.84, the customer service associate – who knew I'd been shorted change from a $20 – sent two (2) drink coupons. Unless I'm buying $10 drinks, this is the worst math I've seen in ages.

With math like this at the home office, or with customer service like this to make sure regular customers get as irritated as possible, one fears for Starbucks.

I'll watch carefully to see how Starbucks sorts this out. I can always buy people a drink someplace else.
UPDATE: Starbucks also can't code a feedback page that works, either. The evidence is that "submit" doesn't work when, in a text window claiming to accept 2600 characters, it refuses to submit the form when there are 2217 characters remaining:

UPDATE II: Starbucks' page for submitting ideas is broken, too. Clicking to submit an idea (like "Starbucks could buy a calculator") yields an instruction to sign in. However, there is no sign-in window even after you click to sign in. Nice, eh? So I fished around to send the webmaster feedback on the broken card-reloading-page feedback form. The result was amusing for a page dedicated to receiving feedback on technical issues on

Given these execution issues, I'd wonder about Starbucks as an investment thesis even if the company didn't appear besieged by high-volume commodity vendor competitors.

1 comment:

Doc M said...

I had the same problem with their contact forms; I would submit a bug report, but their website department relies on the same forms :P

Maybe when they realize they haven't had any new complaints in a while, they'll fix it. *sigh*