Reverse Virtual Interview®
With Howard Schultz

Well, we were perusing the November 16,1997 issue of Parade magazine and came across more Starbucks arrogance and silliness. And before you Starbucks lovers who would trample our right to have negative opinions of $tarbuck$ coffee on the Internet start hopping up and down accusing us of reading Parade magazine as if it were indicative of our taste in coffee, we would gently remind you that your personal god, Howard Schultz, chairman and CEO of Starbucks, thinks enough of Parade magazine to weasel his way into their issue on "What America Eats." But we digress. Also included are statements made to the Washington Post in an article which appeared in the October 11, 1997 edition of the Raleigh News and Observer entitled, "How Schultz Built Starbucks."

Where shall we begin? Howie gives us much food for thought:

Howie: "The specialty coffee business is growing about 20% a year. I'd like to think that we've had a lot to do with that by educating people over the last 26 years about what coffee should taste like." [emphasis was Howie's]
Starbuck's Free Speech Campaign: What coffee should taste like? SHOULD? Now we know where the arrogance exhibited by the Starbucks clerks comes from: straight from the top. We'll ignore the total stupidity in claiming that burnt and bitter coffee tastes good. But we can't ignore the arrogance in claiming that burnt bitter coffee and ONLY burnt bitter coffee is the way coffee should taste. And to call this "education" (as if Howie knows what a good cup of coffee tastes like) is more arrogance.

Howie: "We're not in the fast-food business, not in the commodities businesss, not in the business of filling bellies."
SFSC: We think Howie has put his finger on it. Starbucks is indeed in the fast-food business. Fast-food coffee. We like the sound of that. Poor quality and limited (very limited) selection. Sounds like fast-food to us.

Howie: "We want to fill souls. Good coffee provides instant gratification at many levels."
SFSC: Howie, we don't want our soul filled. We just want a good cup of coffee that doesn't taste burnt and bitter. We agree that good coffee can provide gratification. So, when ya' gonna' start serving some?

Howie: "Supermarkets have been wanting to sell our coffee for years, but we waited until we had the innovation we needed--special vacuum-sealed bags--to ensure the same quality as the coffee in our stores."
SFSC: Oh, Howie. You left yourself open on this one. Vacuum packaging has been around for decades. What took you so long? We've been getting our Gevalia coffee in vacuum-sealed bags for years, and our Gevalia coffee tastes nothing like the burnt bitter coffee you serve in your stores, so we don't think that this "innovation" will help the coffee you sell in supermarkets taste like it does in your stores. We think you are going to have to keep on burning those poor little coffee beans if that's what you are really after, although why you would want to repeat your mistakes escapes us.

Howie: "We have cracked the code to develop the first extract that captures the taste of coffee but has a long, stable shelf life. It's the key to our future, because it's going to allow us to reinvent what coffee can be."
SFSC: So, Howie, this extract you say tastes like coffee? If you can develop an extract that tastes like coffee, why can't you serve something in your stores that tastes like coffee? Oh, silly us, we keep forgetting. You think that what you sell in your stores DOES taste like coffee. We wish you luck on reinventing coffee, but we think that to pursue that kind of philosophy is certain failure. People have been drinking coffee for centuries and it hasn't really changed all that much. Anything that you will come up with is certain only to achieve a fad status. Companies that rely on fads are OUTTA' HERE! Bye bye, Howie!

Howie: [Howie calls himself a "Coffee purist."]
SFSC: Er, we don't think so, Howie. Would a coffee purist over-roast his beans, burning them and thus destroying their flavor? We don't think so.

Howie: [Howie recalls his initial reaction to Frappucino as "kind of froufrou."]
SFSC: We kind of agree and kind of wonder why you didn't kind of go with your first impression.

Howie: "I don't want to build processes and structure in a company where an idea like Frappucino can't happen."
SFSC: We certainly wish you had.

Howie: [Howie repeats the silliness about wishing to give people the chance to drink great coffee.]
SFSC: Howie, we are still waiting for that chance from Starbucks. We've had the chance with other companies, why not yours? Why aren't you interested in giving people a chance to drink great medium-roast coffee? You've gobbled up millions and millions of dollars from the fools who think your burnt over-roasted coffee is so wonderful, why aren't you interested in gobbling up billions and billions (sorry, Carl) of dollars from the fools who aren't interested in a fad or your marketing wizardry and simply want a good cup of coffee? Jeez, Howie, this article in the Washington Post says that more and more MBA-types will be parading through your office with "the idea of the month". We'll give you "the idea of the freakin' century" and we'll do it for free! Serve good coffee that isn't burnt and bitter in addition to what you serve now!


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