When Starbucks Needs to Stand Alone

I really want to like Starbucks. I enjoy their coffee, I respect their stance on social issues, and for the most part I appreciate the friendliness and competence of their employees. Yet certain locations in the Capital District seem hell-bent on making me hate the company. There was this incident, where I was ejected from a store because I didn’t have a Starbucks drink in hand. I forgave and forgot, but now comes another bad experience.

When I heard that a Starbucks was opening in the newly-revamped Price Chopper behind my house, I did a little happy dance. Prior to this, the closest location was on Wolf Road, and I try to avoid Wolf Road if at all possible. While the signs indicate that the new store is open and ready for business, do not be fooled. They are not ready to serve people, as evidenced when I tried to order a decaf salted caramel frappuccino. They scrambled for the “recipe” then realized they did not have the salt or the caramel for it. I asked for a decaf mocha frap at that point, which they also had to look up. I repeated that it was decaf, then averted my eyes so as to make things less uncomfortable while the drink was made, looking around at the ruckus going on in the front of the store. Loud crashes and the pounding of hammers accompanied the morning. It was not the first time I wondered at the wisdom of keeping the store open during a complete renovation.

As they brought my coffee to the register, I asked one last time if it was decaf (this sort of forgetfulness has happened in the past, and my co-workers will agree that it bodes well for no one if you get me hyped-up on caffeine) at which point the woman all but shrieked and said she’d forgotten. She handed it back to the other person to make again, and said she would ring me out while we waited. Of course, not one of the Starbucks registers was working, so we went over to the deli area to settle up.

Now, I don’t mind a snafu or two, particularly in the early-days of a just-opened store, but having had absolutely every part of this simple transaction go wrong, they clearly weren’t ready to open. I wouldn’t have bothered if I’d known what an ordeal it was going to be. And since the store renovation has been going on for over a year, a few more days to properly train employees would not have mattered. If you’re going to pretend you’re open, at least be ready for, say, a paying customer.

A friend who knows more about the company advised that I seek out free-standing stores unaffiliated or attached to other companies or locations. He may be onto something, as the incompetence I experienced at the Price Chopper-housed kiosk reeked of Price Chopper service. That particular store is notorious for dismal customer service – this is the one where the ceiling was leaking rainwater onto merchandise one night and when I told the only person I could find I was met with a shrug and indifference (and a mental note to not buy any frozen goods in that section of the store.)

I’ll try back in a couple of weeks, and keep my snarky Tweets to a minimum – Price Chopper is likely sick of reading them. In the meantime, I strongly advise that you get your Starbucks fix elsewhere.

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