As the great Obi-Wan Kenobi once said "I felt a great disturbance in the Force...as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced."
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Some of you might have missed the memo from early July, but 600 of Starbucks' stores are about to close. This amounts to nearly 9 percent of of the total of 7,087 stores that the mega-chain operates.As we all know, caffeine is the fuel of the IT worker. Admit it, we're all a bunch of junkies, whether its that $5 tall skim milk cappuccino with a quadruple shot (my personal crutch to help me get through a particularly difficult day), Green Tea Lattes or even chaining Diet Cokes. Without that simple C8H10N4O2 molecule, all the enterprise systems in the world won't stop every overworked tech worker from falling asleep at their desks. If I was a James Bond villain or a seriously twisted anarchist, endangering the world's coffee supply would be top on my list of things to do in order to bring about world chaos. Note to Osama: Don't get any weird ideas, man. I'm just a freaking tech columnist.
So Starbucks is feeling the crunch of the recession. Yes, you got it right, this is a RECESSION. Full blown, people are losing their jobs, people can't afford basic necessities recession. Not "We might be entering a recession". We've been in the midst of it for a least a year now. Major corporations like Starbucks have a lot of money in their coffers to ride out bad times, but even giants like those are fully aware of what the mind-boggling costs are of running a huge retail store network like that are, and have to make some hard choices.
So if your local Starbucks is closing down, what do you do?
Well, for starters, I'd think about supporting your local mom and pop businesses. Whenever I travel, I seek out the independent coffee roasters, that put a lot of care into their businesses and take pride in their work, many of which support sustainable and Fair Trade coffee growers from 3rd-world countries. It isn't that Starbucks doesn't deliver a decent and consistent product, but after a while, you get tired of the sameness and want something different. I also find the Starbucks dark city roast to be somewhat on the burned side, which brings out the more bitter elements of the coffee. This is apparently what most consumers want, because when they briefly went to a milder roast, it didn't do as well. Starbucks coffee is also ridiculously overpriced. I mean, really, what should a regular triple shot cappuccino actually cost? $2.50?
I also see this as an opportunity for IT shops to improve the quality of their coffee in their break rooms. I mean, what would it actually cost to set up a "coffee club" where you bring in one of those decent automated Keurig coffee machines with different flavors, or a pod-based easy-cleanup espresso machine and share the cost among a group of people, or contribute based on the honor system? Keep your IT workers happy with good coffee and keep them at their desks.
And if you're an independent coffee roaster, if you haven't done it already, set yourself up with a Cable Modem/DSL line and free Wi-Fi for your customers. Starbucks charges for it and it always makes me think twice about going into one when I know I need my email and Frappuccino fix.
And for God sakes, Corporate America -- Mini Moos do NOT have an unlimited shelf life, ok? When they curdle in coffee, it's time to get new ones.
If your local Starbucks is closing, what do you plan to do about it? Talk Back and let me know.