Sunday, May 13, 2012

Dear Starbucks

I stop by the local Starbucks in Gig Harbor several times a week, but always on Sunday to buy three newpapers, the New York Times, the Seattle PI and the Tacoma News Tribune ("Tribune"). It's been a ritual to get the newspapers, a doppio con panna and something to eat later while reading the newspapers.

Today (5/13/2012) I was told Starbucks won't be selling the Tribune anymore because of a decision by the newspaper to make them pay for what they order than simply on consignment, meaning they only pay for the newspapers people actually buy and take back the rest to recycle the paper.

I can't argue against that to the point Starbucks needs to consider only ordering what they actually expect to sell than over ordering and returning a good number of daily newspaper. This costs the Tribune money to print and then recycle. It's not good business, so their decision is fair and reasonable to a point.

My point here is that this isn't entirely the Tribune's fault since they overprint the daily newspapers anyway with an expected percentage of non-sales, but here is where Starbucks can help the Tribune and still carry the newspaper. For one, move the newspapers stand where it's visible to cashiers.

Why? Because Starbucks has a policy to tolerate people who take one or more newspapers after buy their coffee and snack, not paying for the newspapers, and then read them. I've seen this happen at least once at every Starbucks I've been to in the Tacoma-Seattle area. It's assumed by customers Starbucks lets people take or read the newspapers for free.

Really? Really, especially the daily Tribune. I've seen people buy their Starbuck's usual coffee and drink and then after paying take the newspapers to a table and read them, and then put it back on their way out, or not as sometimes they walk out with them or leave them scattered around Starbucks and in the recycle bin for others to read.

I've complained to you Starbucks about this over the years and you've done nothing to change it. You make the Tribune pay the cost of helping your customers for your profit. You Starucks don't give your product away, so why do you give away the Tribune? What if the Tribune started giving out free Starbucks coupons or cards for drinks or food? Would you accept it?

No you wouldn't. So why do you tolerate stealing another company's product for your customers? The Tribune's decision is reasonable considering they're trying to survive when you Starbucks are doing ok? So here's the compromise. First don't over order the number of copies you expect to sell. And second,

Make customers buy the newspaper(s) they read.

You can do this with two small changes, move the newstands and make cashier ensure people pay for newspapers they take. Not hard, just good business.

Your decision doesn't change my trips to Starbucks because you're the only store in Gig Harbor which sells both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, so if I want the newspapers, you're where I go to buy it. So, here's the offer, I'll continue to buy a coffee and food if you continue to carry the Tribune.

Otherwise, I'll just buy the newspapers and skip buying the coffee and food. You can screw customers with your decision and I can screw you by doing the same. Fair trade. Good business for me. I save money not buying coffee and food and still get my newspapers, and the newpapers get a paying customer.

And you don't get a cent.

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