Howard Schultz has admitted that he visits the Starbucks Gossip website about once a month for a read on what people are saying about the caffeine empire he leads as CEO. If last week was the occasion for a drop-in, he might be sipping an herbal Tazo right now to ease some jangled nerves.
The risk of the internet for any major consumer brand is its open nature—anyone can post any assertion or unflattering revelation, often without any third-party moderation. Starbucks was reminded of that vulnerability when someone suggested on the popular (and independent) Gossip site that “Starbucks is HEMORRHAGING management.”
The assertion came from an anonymous poster who claimed inside knowledge that management at the unit, district and regional level was bailing out “in droves” because of stagnant pay and climbing hours.
So, is it true?
Even the site acknowledged that it's a could be/could be not situation. So it invited visitors, typically a mix of Starbucks employees and avid customers, to spill their guts on the topic.
The comments were almost evenly divided between those who contended the assertion was true, or had some gripe that fit the contention, and those who said the report should be baseless; they liked or loved their jobs, and weren't about to bail. They also challenged the suggestion that pay had stagnated, sharing their own take-home history as proof. (For the record: one poster cited an income of $50,000 annually for a manager, and another pegged his/her income at $64,000.)
The believers in the assertion cited ample instances of turnover in the ranks above and around them. A number of others voiced frustration that, as several put it, a carrot had been extended to them and then withdrawn. In their estimation, the report was gospel.
“I couldn't take the lies from Sbux middle management, the constant dangling of the carrot and then (my favorite) ‘you'll get promoted much quicker if you manage two stores at the same time with no pay increase of second bonus’”, wrote a poster identified as Happier Now.
And what did Starbucks itself have to say on the matter?
No official representative hit the “Enter” button on the long string of e-mails, suggesting once again that the best way to handle a bad conversation about your brand may be to say nothing, as long as the give-and-take remains factually correct.