Friday, August 8, 2008


Elynor and I often visit our neighborhood Starbucks for a morning cup of coffee and some people watching. After getting my coffee, Elynor usually enjoys her breakfast and some people engaging. I don't particularly love Starbucks as an organization, but I've always loved the connected feeling I get from visiting most coffee shops and Starbucks is quite convenient to our home. Elynor & I have made many friends together and it seems a great place for her to explore the dynamics of her world (and yes, it's nice to just be out of the house).

Today was not unlike others when a man walked in the front door and immediately made friends with Elynor. He commented on her "swimming pool" eyes and how she was decked out in red, white & blue (the Olympics start today!). These comments were not unlike those made by many others and elicited smiles and waves from Elynor. What was different was that this man appeared to be a little offbeat. I don't think he is homeless, but he possibly has a mental or just social disability. I've seen him around the neighborhood with others who seem to roam about and sometimes make awkward comments. But the cool thing was Elynor didn't notice any of these things (though I was a little concerned that his beard and aged look might frighten her). She just smiled at her new friend.

Fast forward a few minutes, after said gentleman has gone around the corner to get his water. While I'm playing with Elynor and making another new friend, a Starbucks barista peeks around the corner. She places a little coupon on my stroller and utters something about not knowing what just happened, but hoping everything is okay... and have a free drink next time. I wasn't sitting right next to her so it took me a minute to even process what she was saying. And then another few moments to figure out why she was giving this to me. At first I was ready to tell her she had me confused with someone else - maybe someone who's drink was spilled or food burnt. Surely someone else. But then the light bulb came on. She was referencing the aforementioned interaction. She wasn't close enough to hear or see that it was all very gentle. Likely operating from previous experiences, she assumed apologies were in order. I smiled and said oh no, everything was just fine, but thank you for checking and for the free drink.

Here's what my coupon says:
A cup should never be half empty.

We apologize if your Starbucks experience was anything but wonderful. We want to know how we can make things better and always invite you to share your thoughts with us.

The next time we see you, please enjoy a beverage, on us. We hope your next visit is better.

....Surrender card at time of redemption to receive one complimentary drink, any size.... Barista, please ring as "Recovery Cert.".... Cash value 1/20 cent.
I'm still processing this experience, but here are just a few of the thoughts swimming in my mind:

1. It's pretty cool that a company has "Recovery Certificates" ready for distribution. I even like the name - recovery. How many of us would love to have our own recovery certificates for times that we goof up? This tells me they really care about my entire experience. They can't really control who comes in or out of their business or what people say/do, but they take it on themselves when it's inside their doors. Okay, I'm probably biased because of my professional background, but this kind of thing goes a long way for my liking of a brand!

2. On the one hand I guess it's kind of nice that someone was looking out for me. And I guess there have been plenty of previous experiences (here and elsewhere) when I wish someone would have helped me out of awkward encounters. And I don't fault them for making the assumption - it was likely based on very legit previous experience(s). But at the end of the day, I am sad that this assumption was made. I know I often do the exact same thing, but I desire to welcome and love people without barriers - and I long to teach the same reaction to my daughter. In fact, that's one of the beautiful things about hanging out at Starbucks or just around our city. We have regular exchanges with people who are different than us, but deserve the same respect and love. Maybe I should give my free drink certificate to this man or one of his friends.

3. About a month ago I was in the same Starbucks with my sister-in-law, Katy, when she experienced an annoying and messy spill because the lid on her smoothie was not closed all the way. It was not at all her fault, in fact, the barista even said, oh sorry, this happens all the time with those lids. But while we endured stares, the clean up, and the sticky aftermath, we hardly received an apology, much less a "recovery certificate".

4. How is the cash value of a free drink 1/20 cent. when they charge me nearly $2 for a small coffee? And why do they need to print that on this certificate?!

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