So in the 2.5 years since I took classes at American River College, they replaced the old Student Center / Cafeteria building with a new one. They replaced the old cafeteria with a new one replete with a Starbucks and a Subway which should have made all of the students happy. The problem is that these are not corporately owned businesses, they are “licensed” or “franchised” to Aramark the corporation that runs the school’s food services.
There are some major issues with this location which need to be addressed like the random differences in policies between this location and every other Starbucks location. Although the randomness in the correctness and a lack of consistency with the taste of a lot of there drinks is just as important. For a lot of the kids at this school, this might be the first time they have Starbucks or at the least least a very bad experience that drives them away as a customer. I have spoken with the manager multiple times and even contacted Starbucks corporate offices to let them know how I felt.
It is obvious from the length of time it takes for the staff to produce beverages combined with the transactions that they just do not know how to process that Aramark did not provide them real world training working in a production environment where they actually had to produce drinks. This manifests itself in what appears like from the outside as little to no teamwork or team direction and this actually makes the process take longer. Longer wait times in line to place their order and longer wait times after payment before their drinks are ready is eventually going to impact business. Sure, eventually the team will figure it out and a semblance of order will descend and the wait times will drop but by then they will have potentially lost quite a few customers. Students will improvise and get coffee from somewhere else, either bringing it from home or going to Starbucks or another coffee shop before arriving on campus.
Since this particular Starbucks is located in the Student Center, they really do have a sort of captive audience because very few students have the time or the inclination to leave campus to get food especially at the beginning of the semester when parking is so utterly crazy. Every Starbucks offers the benefit of free regular coffee refills if you use your card to purchase a drink and every 12 drinks you get one free. There used to be a few other perks like the ability to ask for soy milk or a flavor shot and they were free but all of those perks have slowly been fazed out at the same time prices have gone up. So when a student is surprised by the barista when she charges him 50 cents for the formerly free refill, it is going to come as a complete shock to them. They are going to get upset.
So when I contacted Starbucks with this complaint, the cheerful response from Corporate HQ was to explain that this was not a corporate store and that this location like the ones inside of Target do not always follow the corporate store policies as she explained she was sending me coupons that I did not request to buy my happiness as only the corporate world assumes it can. Not so fast Missy, I am fully aware that it was more then likely a franchise because absolutely NO corporate location would ever open with this poorly trained and prepared crew because the corporate world just does not work like this, I explained. The receipt that the Barista hands me says Starbucks on it not American River and not Aramark, furthermore the place looks like it was cut right out of a corporate store replete with Starbucks corporate logo. The last time I was there, I proceeded to ask people who’s logo it was on the wall and everyone said “Starbucks.” When I asked where they would go to complain about product or service all of them said “www.starbucks.com!” I then asked her to refer me someone above her that I could explain this situation to because it involves Starbucks corporate name and reputation as well as their brand. She responded that I was absolutely right and that she would let them know while she offered me $15 on my gift card to buy my silence.
The problem is, I need this Starbucks and I need the free refill because I want to study, hangout and socialize in the Student Center while I drink coffee. I am a poor college kid so I need the free refills and I understand the rules and the policy because I don’t abuse it. I know that if I leave the Student Center to go to a class or do some other errand that I am no longer entitled to that free refill. I usually get my refill just before I go to the class so that I have a fresh cup in the class that will last me all of class. Even if it is not made correctly and doesn’t taste as good as the one from my neighborhood store simply because I can get it once I have arrived at school and acquired parking which is a nightmare at the beginning of the semester.
Now, I do not fault the staff, they are doing the best that they can given the situation they are in and all of them have been extremely nice and cordial to me. I like the manager and realize that she is not responsible for the policies of the District Manager or the parent corporation, Aramark. I explained to the store manager the situation and the steps I had taken with this situation and that it was nothing personal although I am a little sore over some of the issues that arose. She told me at one point that Starbucks did not have Sucralose based Caramel sweetner and that all they had was regular Sucralose sweetener. I use a refillable, reusable Starbucks Iced beverage cup and on the side in between the double walled plastic is a tag made by a Barista at my local Starbucks. The tag read IV for Iced Venti and the Syrup says 5-SFC which stands for Sugar Free Caramel, which uses Sucralose for the sweetness. Finally the Bilk is for Half & Half and the IC is for Iced Coffee. Well, she saw the 5-SFC and it registered in her head, the training she had came back to her. She gave me my iced coffee for free while I watched in shocked dismay as she put ice in the cup, then poured hot coffee over the top, dumped in some creamer and pumped in the sweetener and topped it off with ice. I was to shocked to say anything and just walked away with my watery concoction.
The next time I ordered coffee and the manager was taking the order, I mentioned that the coffee should be made hours before and allowed to cool in the refrigerator before being used and she assured me that was how they did it. She didn’t realize that I had watched before and had seen exactly how she had made it which really insulted my intelligence. Either she just did not remember doing it, which is more then likely the case or she remembered and lied about it in front of her entire staff. Either way, it made me realize that I cannot trust her word and that I cannot ever trust her to make a drink for me. Ever. You see, I am going to ingest this beverage and it is cold which means it can harbor nasty bacteria so that, requires trust that I do not have. But, I will more then likely continue to patronage this location because I need my Starbucks fix.