Custom Cars vs. Lattes (A Cautionary Tale)

by Smartie on May 5, 2010

Hey small companies, small businesses and solopreneurs! Pull up a latte, it’s time for a Smarties Cautionary Tale!

My husband and I hit the Starbucks in our ‘hood pretty much every Wednesday night. It’s our mini-date night, where we are two whole hours without the kid, and somehow we always end up there to grab a coffee. (OK, really the somehow is me and my insatiable lust for coffee.)

Tonight we headed over to Starbucks and ran smack into a “custom car show” in the parking lot (I live in the ‘burbs, where the Starbucks have parking lots, and drive thrus). This was a real custom car show, in that it was organized by some dude and there were tables and a sound system blasting some old school Heart (gotta love Jersey). Of course, there were custom cars, although the custom could be easily debated.

This car show blocked off the back entrance to the parking lot. They blocked the narrow lane in the parking lot that goes infront of the building. They took up the majority of the parking spaces.

So, basically, it was hard to get into the Starbucks lot and if you wanted to park, you were shit out of luck. Since we were indeed shit out of luck, we hit the drive thru, where the poor cashier screwed up our coffee order because she could not hear the customers over Nancy Wilson belting out Never.

This poor employee looked completely frazzled by the scene around her. She said that customers were getting yelled at by the car people for trying to move cones so they could park and come into the store. She said she had been screwing up orders at the drive thru all night because she couldn’t hear over their Greatest Hits from the 80s.

When we asked who had the bright idea to schedule their parking lot for a custom car show every other Wednesday for the entire summer, she said she wasn’t sure but that she thought it was her manager. She explained that the manager probably thought it would drive (heh heh, drive, get it) more business to their location.

The core customers couldn’t find parking. The core customers were confronted if they tried to maneuver around cones to get to empty parking spaces that were apparently being saved for the custom cars. The core customers were blocked from entering and exiting the lot from two different directions. The core customers also received poor service because the employees could not hear their order.

So, basically, this particular Starbucks decided that in the interest of drumming up new business, they would alienate their core customers.

It is also important to pointed out that I did not see one custom car show participant holding a Starbucks cup or entering or exiting the store. Looks like the drumming up business part wasn’t really catching fire with this particular crowd. After all, they came for the cars, not for the coffee.

As a solid Wednesday night customer, I am going to try to keep track of the nights this car show invades their parking lot. On those Wednesdays, I will hit the Dunkin Donuts instead. It’s just way less hassle.

I am not sure Corporate HQ knows that they have a custom car show parked at one of their New Jersey locations every other Wednesday for the entire summer. This could be a case of an over zealous manager “going rogue.”

Since Starbucks prides itself on “user experience,” I hope they would be mortified to known that this particular location was turning their core customer experience into a car wreck.

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Follow Friday: 07 May 2010 – 2am
May 7, 2010 at 12:05 pm

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