Trouble Brewing?

When Starbucks shuts down for retooling, maybe we all can learn something.

A few days ago the Starbucks chain closed its stores for three and a half evening hours in order to retrain its staff. This was the result of a growing disaffection across the country by customers who complained of long lines, cluttered menus, and expensive coffees that do not live up to the Starbucks claim of quality.

Add to that a sense that baristas seem unwelcoming and insufficiently excited about the artistic side of making the perfect cup of coffee. And at $2.75, a cup of Starbucks coffee better be close to perfect. (Full disclosure: I am not a Starbucks regular.)

I was out of town on the night of the Starbucks time-out, and I noted that the store across the street from my hotel closed down promptly at 5.30 p.m. Lights out; doors locked; baristas gone. A few doors down, the Dunkin Donuts outlet offered shaky and irritable coffee-seekers a 99-cent (special!) substitute: a genius of a marketing counter-punch.

A small national conversation has swirled about the Starbucks evening-off. Bloggers ...

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October

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