Starbucks charged rescuers for water.
September 26, 2001 3:40 AM   Subscribe

Starbucks charged rescuers for water. This is the kind of thing that makes me really sick, even if they appologized after.
posted by HoldenCaulfield (59 comments total)
I hear they charge for coffee too.
posted by MarkC at 4:33 AM on September 26, 2001

New Yorkers should boycott the bastards as should other Americans who are incensed by such exploitative money grubbing. I make my own coffee and filter my own water. UMC (upper middle class) coffee shops suck. Anyone wonder why Starbucks was a target in Seattle now?
posted by nofundy at 5:03 AM on September 26, 2001

You can't buy PR like that!
posted by crunchburger at 5:13 AM on September 26, 2001

The story says this happened shorty after the attack... at which point there's no reason to believe anyone really knew what was going on, or the magnitude of the catastrophe. Sounds like someone was afraid of losing their job by giving away $130 in bottled water. That's not an unreasonable assumption, does it? So the president of the company has personally apologized, the money has been refunded, free apology goodies have been dispersed, and Starbucks has been giving away free water and coffee to assist the rescue efforts since the attacks?

Awkward and embarrassing, sure, but not exactly the worst thing to happen on Sept. 11, is it?
posted by techgnollogic at 5:14 AM on September 26, 2001

To my understanding it is illegal to refuse water to someone if they have it (stores, restaraunts etc.) not bottled of course, but tap. At least that's the law in Canada.
posted by HoldenCaulfield at 5:15 AM on September 26, 2001

Surely the rescuers explained quite clearly what the water was for techgnollogic?
posted by HoldenCaulfield at 5:17 AM on September 26, 2001

"It was a misunderstanding with Starbucks,'' .
what part of 'we need water to treat victims of the terrorist attack thats just destroyed the WTC' do u think they misunderstood?
posted by monkeyJuice at 5:40 AM on September 26, 2001

I'm sure some none-too-bright "second assistant coffee engineer" just lost his/her minimum wage job. Yay.
posted by Optamystic at 5:44 AM on September 26, 2001

This is an indictment of the individual who demanded the money. It doesn't make Starbucks evil. Duh.
posted by ParisParamus at 5:48 AM on September 26, 2001

Could be the coffe-monkey so afraid of being reprimanded for giving out free water they charged 'just in case'. The rules in these places on employee perks and freebies are pretty strict. Got to preserve that 85% profit margin...
posted by Markb at 6:14 AM on September 26, 2001

Live by the dollar, ...
posted by pracowity at 6:38 AM on September 26, 2001

Are Stabucks really UMC? Either I just got a big promotion to UC or climbing the social ladder has lost a lot of its appeal recently.

(Bossa is by far the best place for coffee in Leicester, IMHO, if anyone wants to know...)
posted by andrew cooke at 6:48 AM on September 26, 2001

I don't know if this is more indicative of the company's philosophies, or of narrow-minded retailers who repeatedly fail to operate outside of dictated policy despite extraordinary circumstances. More than once I've been faced with a situation that needs correcting and some pinhead behind the counter who refuses to deviate from the program. Contact with a manager instantly resolves the situation, so it makes me think these people are scared out of thinking on their feet and find it safest to just parrot policy. Silly, shameful, and just one of life's little burps.
posted by holycola at 6:48 AM on September 26, 2001

Do you really need a reason to boycott Starbucks? I mean other than crappy, overly expensive coffee?

Hell, I've been boycotting Starbucks for years. Hasn't done much good, I don't think.
posted by dogmatic at 6:51 AM on September 26, 2001

dogmatic: me too... not much good at all... oh well - I'll stick to Tim Horton's, as always...
posted by Haveed at 6:59 AM on September 26, 2001

One of the problems with a good economy is that fast food jobs end up getting filled with people who, for the most part, would probably be unemployable otherwise. Good thing we don't have that darn 'good economy' problem to worry about anymore! As it is, there's no brain activity at work behind that counter. The employee in question probably had no idea what the World Trade Center was in the first place. Starbucks does have some crazy strict rules that pretty much require the counter help to be brain dead zombie robots -- at least the bigwigs stepped in and made it right after the fact.
posted by spilon at 7:11 AM on September 26, 2001

Starbucks is OK if you like a pint of milky froth on top of a teaspoon full of gritty water for £1.80. If you actually like coffee go to Spain or Italy.
posted by Summer at 7:13 AM on September 26, 2001

Oh for god sake. I haven't heard of other events like this and considering the generosity of so many people and companies post 9.11, couldn't this be a small glitch?

I have no clue how I would react in that event. Chances are that nothing like this ever happened before to anyone in front or behind the counter. Somebody made a mistake. bet that most people weren't thinking too clearly after that, including the Starbucks employee.

If anything, you can be sure that this won't happen again.
posted by heather at 7:21 AM on September 26, 2001

This is really going to get in the way of their proposed "World Trade Center Memorial Starbucks Supercenter" at ground zero.
posted by hotdoughnutsnow at 7:22 AM on September 26, 2001

someone recently wrote an essay in defense of starbucks (in general, not on this issue). anyone know where it is?
posted by o2b at 7:31 AM on September 26, 2001

Aside from being expensive (if purchased as a drink in their stores), I think their coffee is damned good. I just buy beans and make it myself, because their beans are not more expensive than most other decent coffees, Chock Full O' Nuts notwithstanding. I consume a quadruple of their espresso every morning and have no complaints, besides my new ability to grind beans with my teeth.

Their espresso is delicious. It's the McDonald's syndrome as well: you know what you are going to get. And I can't say that it's all that bad.

dogmatic: I didn't know you even drank coffee.
posted by adampsyche at 7:39 AM on September 26, 2001

Among the "Things I Like About Not Working For
The Jolly Green Coffee Giant Anymore
" to which spilon linked above: "I will never have to sell another Kenny G Christmas album". All the other reasons are superfluous.
posted by tippiedog at 7:44 AM on September 26, 2001

On the morning of September 12th, I saw two EMS workers carrying an enormous tray of "grande coffees" out of the otherwise closed Starbucks on Greenwich, across the street from St. Vincent's Hospital. The tray was so big they had trouble getting it into their truck. I have no doubt that it was donated.

In the chaos of the 11th, charging for the water was an individual's mistake in judgement -- not an example of corporate greed, and it certainly has nothing to do with whether or not "Starbucks is evil."
posted by edamame at 7:47 AM on September 26, 2001

adam: I drink coffee. Just not eight cups a day like you. I prefer gevalia.
posted by dogmatic at 8:19 AM on September 26, 2001

``It's totally inconsistent with the kind of behavior we would have expected from our people, so it has been very upsetting to
learn of this,'' Smith said in an interview with The Associated Press.

No, its actually EXACTLY what they teach their employees. Charging three times the price for everything
is the Starbucks way.
posted by brucec at 8:22 AM on September 26, 2001

nuke em
posted by newnameintown at 8:26 AM on September 26, 2001

anyone know what a wet (whet..????) latte is and why is it skinny..??? maybe this is a uk thing.
my knowledge of coffee begin's and ends with the two coffe lovers on tv.. will they ever get it together???
posted by monkeyJuice at 8:26 AM on September 26, 2001

Skinny is skimmed milk. That's all I know. The man from the ad is now in Buffy the Vampire slayer so I think we can presume he got ditched.
posted by Summer at 8:41 AM on September 26, 2001

If you actually like coffee go to Spain or Italy.

I'll just drop by on my way to work. Thanks for the idea!
posted by kindall at 8:42 AM on September 26, 2001

No probs. Glad to be of help.
posted by Summer at 8:48 AM on September 26, 2001

coffee is just rank, it even stank when I had some in Italy, drink tea instead, thats a proper drink..
posted by Mossy at 9:48 AM on September 26, 2001

In the chaos of the 11th, charging for the water was an individual's mistake in judgement

How can it be a mistake in judgment when employees who work behind counters are not permitted to make judgment calls in the first place? It's a binary thing; it's either in the employee handbook or it isn't, and if it isn't you can't move until you get three managers' signatures and that teeny little register key. What kind of person is going to buck the system to give away what probably amounts to a week's salary?

If you didn't know how big this was, if you were just a kid working a lame coffee job, would you have been brave enough to risk your job over it or would you have tried to save your ass?
posted by stefanie at 9:53 AM on September 26, 2001

I had two friends fired from a 'joe muggs' cafe because the cup they used to sample the drinks they served was bigger than the one they were suppose to use.

No correcting, no warning, just gone.

I'm all for picking on big bad coporate starbucks, but I don't really find fault here.
posted by justgary at 9:58 AM on September 26, 2001

Even if the indictment is merely for "the height of poor form and bad taste" they and their employees are guilty. Sometimes you just need to have the balls to do the right thing--regardless of company policy. And any local manager still has the option of calling their headquarters and making the situation known to them so that that 'policy' can be temporarily suspended for the duration of a given situation. It ain't complicated, it's just common sense and courage.
posted by Tiger_Lily at 10:23 AM on September 26, 2001

Poor judgement is the only thing they could be guilty of and as others have pointed out we don't know what they knew of the situation.

We don't even know if a manager was there or maybe had stepped out.

And I'm sure that the minute the manager said he/she needed to call 'headquarters' they would have given them the money. They had no time to wait.

If I were 19 years old and struggling to pay for school and a place to live on minimum wage I could easily see myself protecting my job, especially if I didn't realize exactly what the situation involved is. It would have nothing at all to do with a lack of 'courage'.

Hindsight is 20/20. A cliche but in this case fits perfectly.
posted by justgary at 10:51 AM on September 26, 2001

One of the problems with a good economy is that fast food jobs end up getting filled with people who, for the most part, would probably be unemployable otherwise.

It may be a problem for you but not for the person who would otherwise be on welfare or starving or worse, living off of spam.
posted by euphorb at 11:14 AM on September 26, 2001

Metafilter: Sweet mother of God, we love to slam Starbucks.

posted by owillis at 11:36 AM on September 26, 2001

There's currently a Starbucks at Worldwide Plaza on the 49th St. side of the corner of 49th and 8th (not to mention the ones on 43rd and 8th, and 47th and 9th)

On the 8th Avenue side of that exact same intersection - literally around the corner of the same building - there is a sign announcing that they will be opening a new Starbucks. I'm told that they will not be closing the first store, either.

I realize this isn't exactly on-topic, but I've been wanting to vent about this for quite some time.
posted by Sinner at 11:50 AM on September 26, 2001

Midwood Ambulance Service President Al Rapisarda said he received a hand-delivered reimbursement check -- and a personal call from Starbucks president Orin Smith -- after reports of the incident became public.

naturally, "...after reports of the incident became public" are the key words in that sentence.
posted by double+good at 12:16 PM on September 26, 2001

This is an indictment of the individual who demanded the money. It doesn't make Starbucks evil. Duh

The most recent story about this makes it seems that the people had to pay for the water, word got out about this in news stories, and then Starbucks issued an apology. Keep in mind that the water buyer also tried calling Starbucks about this and wrote to the CEO on Sept. 17th. The top of Starbucks could have acted faster, but didn't.
posted by gluechunk at 12:16 PM on September 26, 2001

The 19 y/o behind the counter certainly heard the BOOM as did everyone else. And then seeing EMS personnel rushing into the shop demanding water should have been ample evidence that it was an emergency.

double+good said "...after reports of the incident became public" are the key words in that sentence. I couldn't have put it better myself.
posted by HoldenCaulfield at 1:06 PM on September 26, 2001

It's almost a Kitty Genovese story in a way. Even if we look at this from an individual-oriented standpoint, just how brain dead do you have to be to recognize an obvious tragedy and not help out in the most charitable way? Damn Starbuck's for sitting on this issue for so long. Damn Starbuck's for enforcing these rules on their employees. And damn the heartless zombies behind the counter for charging for water under the circumstances with such a patently bullshit "I was only following orders" Nuremburg defense.

The whole of Starbuck's can roast in a fiery hell ruled over by Cthulu. Not that I'm feeling vengeful or anything.
posted by ed at 1:34 PM on September 26, 2001

A vicious rumor has it that a new Starbucks menu will feature 'cafe sec' w/ a glass of hot water on the side for $1.50. Shameful!
posted by martk at 1:38 PM on September 26, 2001

If you run any kind of a retail business, you simply do not want your employees getting the idea it's ever okay to give the merchandise away without the express consent of management. To have any other policy opens up the door to all kinds of abuses, which can cost you a ton of money in the long haul. So some poor wage slave was afraid of getting in trouble if they broke the rules. Playing it safe is not a crucifixion offense, for Christ's sake.
posted by kindall at 1:56 PM on September 26, 2001

But kindall, they heard a BOOM!!!

Anyone trying to scrape a living from 7 bucks an hour should know that when you hear a boom it's time to cut back the prices to 0.

Damn these kids for not having a complete comprehension of the situation and acting accordingly in a matter of minutes.

No one from mefi would have ever made such a mistake. Cause, you know, there was a boom and most here are all knowing.
posted by justgary at 5:22 PM on September 26, 2001

One other thing: it's not like the kids who worked at this Starbuck's were guarding Fort Knox. This was simply bottled water. And it seems pretty clear to me that they wouldn't have been fired for giving it away. Besides, rationally speaking, for seven bucks an hour, what incentive is there to guard the merchandise?
posted by ed at 6:55 PM on September 26, 2001

for seven bucks an hour, what incentive is there to guard the merchandise?

Seven bucks an hour wouldn't even get me out of bed, so I'm the wrong person to judge what people would do for that. %)
posted by kindall at 7:33 PM on September 26, 2001

Yeah. Damn Starbucks. And while we are on it, how about those rescue workers who were involved in looting? Can we talk about that? Oh I'm sorry. Its just not as fun to bash if Strabucks is not involved.

Gimme a break and read the post from techgnollogic.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 7:08 AM on September 27, 2001

Bah you people are too easily manipulated. Ok sure its $3.10 for a grande latte but think of the goodness this cup of coffee will do for you. And what better then to drink this glorious cup of coffee in a nice plushy red chair with chilled tunes amongst a half dozen other believers of coffee and the way. Face it, what you’re really angry about is the fact we haven’t nuked anyone yet. This article was out to bake starbucks and get the less minded folk to rally in rage against the evil of America!! Hilarious. Sure its expensive coffee, some people like it... obviously with 3000 stores on the planet someone likes it eh? Back off junior boy, a partner done wrong out of whatever, didn’t get a clue, I doubt on the day it happened he had a 40” TV on the bar showin him the play by play blows of the event. “He should have known!!” Ya ya.. Easy to say. Anyways its already clear the bux did offer loads o coffee and more, and ok yes one store, one partner charged for something and then the company apologized but even still you want blood. We have to make them pay!! All those Arabs, coffee drinkers, those people that wear funny hats... nuke’m!!
posted by drock at 9:04 AM on September 27, 2001

And it seems pretty clear to me that they wouldn't have been fired for giving it away.

Obviously, you've never worked at starbucks, or someplace similar.

It is clear, NOW. Now that the whole situation is known it's clear they wouldn't have been fired. But under normal circumstances you wouldn't believe how easy it is to be fired for something of this ilk. You're speaking with the advantage of hindsight, something these kids did not have.

Besides, rationally speaking, for seven bucks an hour, what incentive is there to guard the merchandise?

There are many situations (ie working yourself through school; single mom working to feed her kids) when 7 dollars might as well be your fort knox, where 7 bucks an hour is plenty of incentive to guard the merchandise. People need to eat, pay bills, etc. ect.

It may come as a surprise to some, but not everyone working can so casually throw away a job where they're living paycheck to paycheck, even a mininum wage job, and survive while looking for another one.
posted by justgary at 9:12 AM on September 27, 2001

justgray - Is it my problem that this woman has a kid (example)? You seem to be forgetting that 7 dollars an hour is practically nothing. Ahem.
posted by HoldenCaulfield at 1:12 PM on September 27, 2001

A follow up on the Starbucks story, from the company's CEO.
posted by owillis at 3:03 PM on September 27, 2001

Is it my problem that this woman has a kid (example)?

No, it's not. That's why she's at starbucks working her ass off serving you coffee. Now if she were laying at home collecting government checks you might have a gripe.

So your point is?

You seem to be forgetting that 7 dollars an hour is practically nothing. Ahem.

Compared to what? It's all relative. If that's all you're making then at that time it's much more than nothing.

There are plenty of people trying to 'make it' on 7 bucks an hour. As you can probably guess at 7 bucks an hour they probably have very little savings, so it becomes even bigger.

I'm sorry, but unless I'm misinterpreting your point you seem to be amazingly shortsighted.

Maybe you're rolling in dough. Not everyone is. As hard as it is to believe some people might enjoy working at starbucks. At the very least, many people can't afford to throw away a job without another one lined up.

Not everyone is like you.
posted by justgary at 3:22 PM on September 27, 2001

My comment wasn't meant to offend you, and apparently it did as your response to it seemed pretty defensive and at the same time aggressive. Personally I am not rolling in dough and I don't go to SB, ever.

If the workers at SB feel their time is worth 7$/hr then what can I say? Maybe it isn't I who is shortsighted, but those workers at SB when they were still in HS and thought "Oh to hell with marks, I'll get by somehow." And where are they now? I have no pity for these '"monkeys" that serve coffee as their last resort. You shouldn't either.
posted by HoldenCaulfield at 4:27 PM on September 27, 2001

I'm not offended, and I didn't mean to come off as agressive. I just think you have a generalized view of a typical starbucks employee that is obviously narrow minded.

Not everyone working there is a 'slacker'. Not everyone working in a low wage job is there because of 'low marks'. Some are working through school, some working to go back to school. Some are supporting families. Maybe they do have a degree but because of the job market can't find anything in their field. I could name others, but what's the point. You have simplified a minimum wage employee into your own little definition complete with the reason they're working at said job.

You think they're all monkeys, so that says a lot right there. It's obvious you look down on anyone in a 'service' postion and that's fine. Each to his own. However, many lawyers and doctors have helped pay their ways through school working late hours at mcdonalds and burger king.

There can be dignity in any job, if you do it well. True, working at starbucks is not a dream job for most. Many are working there to make ends meet while trying to better themselves. For many working at starbucks is one of several jobs. Not everyone has mom and dad bankrolling their college tuition. But while they're trying to 'better themselves' that starbucks job 'can' be important.

I could go on and on, but nothing will change the way you look down on people with certain jobs. Besides, this is really off topic, so let's just agree to disagree.
posted by justgary at 5:35 PM on September 27, 2001

posted by HoldenCaulfield at 4:44 AM on September 28, 2001

How did you get so cynical holden? Just curious.

Do you group everyone into neat little categories? I use to work at a coffee shop. Not because of my 'marks', but because I had to work myself through school and I didn't want a shitload of loans waiting for me upon graduation. Most of my co-workers were in the same situation. People who serve coffee as a last resort are only a fraction of the workers at such a store. Most are on their way up, many up and beyond whatever level you're at.

As anyone who has worked in the service industry knows, it's always easy to tell who looks down on the employees and who doesn't. Many high level professionals (doctors, lawyers, professors) treat service employees very well. Why? Many know what it's like to work up the economic ladder. The ones who obviously had a superiority complex were fun to laugh at and great entertainment. Especially since many were only a step above the service industry themselves. I'm sure most, unhappy with their positions, fed their egos by 'looking down on the monkeys'.

You don't offend me either holden, you amuse me, and I think your attitude is a little scary. Just remember, many of those monkeys you look down on now will undoubtably be looking down on you in the near future.

What will that make you?
posted by dantheman at 6:43 PM on September 30, 2001

It's almost a Kitty Genovese story in a way.

Um....I think 1960's references on Metafilter need more explanation than this. No everyone here is 38 years old!
posted by ParisParamus at 8:21 PM on September 30, 2001

Not sure how Starbucks became the big, bad evil of the world -- sounds like maybe we've become too spoiled. Anyone who's ever lived outside a metropolitan area can attest to what it's like having Waffle House as your only coffee option. (Not that their waffles aren't superb.) Yes, Starbucks is a bit pricey, and their corporate culture is irritating to say the least -- but why all the whining? Just seems like there are much bigger fish to fry than Coffee Kingpins. What about rampant media consolidation, the ever-widening disparity between rich and poor, airline bail-outs? Ack! If you don't approve of Starbucks, don't go there. If you really don't approve, throw a cinder block through their window in a huffy-puffy rage. But don't lose sight of the issues that really deserve our attention.
posted by KelDogs at 8:57 PM on September 30, 2001

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