Thursday, September 21, 2006

An open letter to Starbucks®

James Donald
President and CEO, Starbucks®
PO Box 3717
Seattle, Washington 98124-3717

Dear Mr. Donald,

I am writing you today with a complaint about your company. I'm sure that a company so large gets many complaints, so I'll narrow it down a bit for you.

I am not writing about the oft-mentioned ubiquitousness of your stores. When I see a new Starbucks® kitty-corner from an existing Starbucks®, I try to remind myself that this is simply your company's way of opening a new register. It's really the only thing that makes sense, because otherwise it would indicate a worry that people might not cross the street for a product which is highly addictive, which would be overestimating the American consumer. Nobody is going to accuse you of that.

I live in Chicago, home to many of your stores, and most of us learned long ago the tricks to keep your logo from being seared permanently into our retinas, like a DOS prompt on an old CRT. So having skirted that risk, the volume of your locations is not an issue.

And my complaint is also not about how badly you burn your coffee. I'm sure you were led to believe that coffee should be acidic enough to eat through paper, and many people seem to agree with you. The fact that I cannot drink your regular coffee in a ratio of more than one part coffee to two parts cream is probably some internal flaw on my part, and I've no doubt that your scientists are working on this. Changing me that is, not the coffee. Never the coffee.

I love strong coffee. Whether there are ways to achieve strength and robust flavor without scorching the life out of the product, I leave to you. Mostly I avoid your coffee and drink your espresso instead. You are pretty good with espresso.

I live in a neighborhood without a Starbucks® (that is not an invitation, just a statement: put away your development map). Seeking, sometimes, the comfort of your espresso close to home has led me to try the coffee drinks you make available to retailers.

The "Frappucino" has been available for a long time, and it is the product with which I am most acquainted (although since it is neither frozen nor cappucino like the similar product in your stores, the name puzzles a bit, but that's a subject for another day). But recently I happened upon your "doubleshot" drink, which purports on the can to be a "premium coffee drink." It is about this product that I wish to lodge my complaint.

So we're clear, the "doubleshot" is delicious. No problem there. Quite yummy. However, it retails at my corner store for $2.19 for 6.5 oz., which makes it one of the most expensive liquids in the world. I could, I suppose, reduce my personal cost somewhat by buying it in bulk at Sam's Club (where I believe the proprietor of the store purchases it) but that would force me to admit that I might drink 24 of them within a certain period of time, and would also hurt my local store. Granted, if they were gone, it might become a Starbucks®, but then where would I buy my groceries and sundries?

But even the price, I suppose, I can make my peace with. Nobody is forcing folks to buy your product, so if you set a price and people are willing to pay it, then goody for you.

They explode when you open them. That's the main thing: the explosions. Unless allowed to sit until they reach room temperature, they simply explode when you open them. The can is tiny enough that most of the blowback is absorbed by my hand, but I have had it splatter all over documents important to my work, my computer, my pets, walls and the inside of my car. This stuff is sticky, it stains, and even on my hand it cannot just be wiped off. So imagine how my poor computer feels.

I'd be grateful if you could find a way to fix this. It shouldn't be hard. Many companies serve drinks in cans, and even the most volatile ones only explode when provoked. You'd go a long way towards retaining me as a consumer if I didn't have to open your product in my bathtub.

Failing that, please send me free things. I could use a thermos, a case of the product mentioned, and perhaps some sort of dome to place on the top of the can while opening them.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am posting this letter also to my Web site, and my readers and I look forward to hearing your response.


maht wells


Anonymous said...


Congratulations on a well written complaint letter. You really stuck it to him, boyo! I'm sure you'll be recieving not only coupons for free product, but shares of stock, or maybe even a HUGE hush-money settlement. Can't WAIT to read Mr. Donald's reply. I'm sure after he's done wetting himself, he'll be dictating like the WIND!

By the way, I still haven't heard back from Dennis Miller yet. You'd think with all the time he has on his hands now he'd be able to get through the back-log. Perhaps I just stumped him. I'm sure that's it.


The Moon Topples said...


I had totally forgotten about the Dennis Miller thing.

He was probably busy then, but maybe not so much now. You should write him again and see what happens.

BTW, I'm sending this as an actual paper letter via snail-mail. It's very difficult (for some reason) to complain via their website.


Anonymous said...


I have found your blog. I really like your perspective on complaint letter writing. As I was doing my research, I have also found a great resource for online complaints: Complaint Letters. I think you will find it very interesting and resourceful

brenda said...

did you ever get a reply? LOL