We’ve been through a lot, you and I. But it’s time for me to see other brands. It’s not you, it’s me. No, that’s a lie. It’s totally you.
You swept me off my feet in my early 20’s and taught me how to love coffee – for that I will be eternally grateful. Late Saturday mornings in Chicago. Stolen afternoons in Washington D.C. Even in Indianapolis – back before they actually had a Starbucks – I made do with brief encounters with you at Barnes and Noble whenever I could.
I adored everything about you and people were sick of hearing about my brand crush. I devoured Howard Schulz’s autobiography, Pour Your Heart Into It, as a brand manifesto for how to delight customers and make a a difference. You created a cherished “Third Place” for people to gather – and when I began working for myself, you were right there by my side, hosting meetings and giving me a comfy place to work.
Others tried to make me hate you. Especially when I moved to Seattle (I was thrilled to live in your hometown!). They scorned you as a mass market sell-out, a bland factory coffee line for people who didn’t know better. They scoffed at your hipster lingo, your (in their eyes) sub-par quality. “No, but I love them!” I would scream. Starbucks delivers everything they promise and that’s why they are so great. They deliver a convenient, cozy and consistent experience. And the Seattle Starbucks locations were flawless models of efficiency, service, and experience.
I held you up as my Prince Charming of a Brand Story.
But then, I moved back to the San Francisco Bay Area and something changed. You stopped delivering the brand benefits I’d come to know and love.
Every Starbucks in the Bay Area let me down – on the Peninsula to be exact. At first, I thought it was a fluke. Had to just be one store. So I tried another. And another. Same story: long wait times, non-engaging baristas, even inconsistent latte quality. I witnessed your baristas being surly, brusque and downright rude sometimes. Then you started warming up pastries – and nearly scalded my tongue. Why were you being so mean? I thought maybe, since we weren’t in Seattle anymore, you just stopped trying to impress Corporate visitors who might pop in.
Still I kept defending you. I tried to communicate with you. Reaching out on Twitter several times, you gave me radio silence. Other brands like Virgin America and Nordstrom respond back, but you, you just gave me the cold shoulder.
My loyalty is worth more than this, I thought. So I started dating around. And every time I went somewhere else, I felt like they valued me and my time more that you do. They delivered my latte hot, fresh, and fast. It tasted better. The baristas smiled at me. They seemed like they had their acts together.
And then, the kicker. Peet’s started offering almond milk. Oh, how could I resist?
I tried to get you to change. I tweeted several times to ask if you’d please carry almond milk. No response. I even asked the baristas in store and they said they just couldn’t do it.
I think that was the final straw. I’m a valuable customer and waiting inordinately long amounts of time on a brand who says its fast and convenient just to get bad service, a burnt tongue and inconsistent latte quality – on top of not being able to get the milk I want – is not something I’m willing to stand for any longer.
So I’m leaving you, Dear Starbucks. I emptied the last cent on my Starbucks card and I now frequent my neighborhood Peet’s as well as an indie coffeehouse I discovered.
Oh sure, I’ll call you for a quick hook up now and then. You do make a great gift card. And when I have no other option, I’ll see if you’re around. But to be non-committal, I pay cash instead of reloading my Starbucks card – so no need to give me any more free drinks on my birthday. We don’t have that kind of relationship anymore.
I wish you the best, Starbucks. I really do. You’ve done a lot of good for a long time. But a brand has to be consistent to be brilliant. (Tweet this!) If you feel like changing – at least in the Bay Area – and being the brand I fell in love once again, give me a call sometime.
Photo credit (edited): Siti Fatimah on Flickr
Got a brand you’d like to break up with? Jot down your brand Dear John letter in the Comments below and vent away!