How to avoid a PR crisis: Starbucks

I have a confession to make: I love Starbucks. I get no end of shit for this from my coffee snob friends, but when I can’t get to our local coffee shop in Fairfax, and tend to make a beeline to SBX. Call me lame on this particular point. I accept it.

I was particulalry impressed by how the company recently handled a children’s cup recall. In light of the recent spat of recalls becuase of faulty manufacturing and lead paint, this issue really could have mushroomed out of control for Starbcucks, but it didn’t.

We had one of the cups for Melina (the little ladybug), and Sharon (my wife) was the one who discovered the recall and contacted Starbucks. In her own words:

I went to SBX for coffee, and there was a recall sign posted by the cashier about the cups and it said to go to for detailed info.

Went to when I got home and on the home page was a 800# to call. Called and a live person picked up on the first ring. Took my info, said I would be receiving a box to mail back the cup within 1 week and to mail it back and then they would send me a refund for the cup 5.95 + a $5 starbucks card for the inconvenience.

UPS envelope with box and mail label arrived about 4 days later, put the cup in the box, put the label on and mailed it. Refund and starbucks card should be here in a few weeks (I forget how many it said—maybe 4 weeks?)

p.s. I am still waiting for my stuff (on how to return) from the mattel recall months ago—I have heard nothing from them since I filled out their online form.

What is Starbucks doing right here?

  • Acknowledging the problem, and taking full responsibility
  • Raising awareness in stores and online
  • Making it easy to send the affected merchandise back and offering quality service in multiple formats (web, phone, in store)
  • Taking care of the problem FAST (& fast follow up)
  • A little extra something-something to show that they are sincere ($5 coffee card)

I know it isn’t exactly fair to compare this to the ongoing Mattel crisis, but I will anyway. We still haven’t gotten any of the information that we requested about returning affected merchandise or shippers to send stuff back, and its been close to 3 months.

Takeaway: Mattel created their current cirsis by not fully accepting responsibility, and not following through. Starbucks avoided one by acknowledging the problem and providing a high level of service to address the issue with consumers.

PS: Did I mention the last demographic you probably want to piss off is Moms?

Update: Sharon got her refund check of $5.95 today, plus a $5 starbucks card.

2 responses to “How to avoid a PR crisis: Starbucks”

  1. Glad to hear this went well. I tried to contact mother nature about the recall on babies that cry all the time but haven’t heard back. I don’t think she ever got back to you on that one either, eh? 😉

  2. And you definitely don’t want to piss off the mom at your house! Did you call Starbucks as she was on her way over there to tell her who they were dealing with?

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