Mobile or Not, Here I Come

I admit it; I’m a one-a-day Starbucks coffee addict. It’s a mandatory stop before getting to work. On days that I work out from our office gym, I stop and order at the Starbucks down the block, given the early hour. And on days that I get up and run in my neighborhood, I place a mobile order on my way to work on the Starbucks app. While mobile ordering is exceptionally easy, pickups are chaotic. The allocated store space is overcrowded and the staff is rushed, so can’t spare any interest in engaging with the mobile mob scene. You have no choice but to manhandle the many cups and pastry bags on the counter to find yours. Still, it sure beats waiting in the even more crowded in-store queue.

Last Wednesday was a home workout—or mobile ordering day. But when I tried placing my Starbucks order, my usual store was not appearing. Fully convinced it was user error, I kept closing the app and retrying, but kept getting the same result. Being totally confused—and in desperate need of my grande dark roast—I decided I’d just deal with waiting in line, so walked on to my usual Starbucks. But once I arrived, the mystery was solved—the store was closed, with a sign in the window stating it was undergoing repairs.

Undergoing repairs? What kind of repairs and why didn’t they tell us the prior day, while fulfilling our orders? Well it must have been an emergency closing (e.g., a burst water pipe) and the signage was just unclear. Fortunately, there is another Starbucks just two blocks away (isn’t there always?), so I successfully placed my mobile order and headed over. When I arrived, I was pleasantly greeted by a mobile order concierge (is this the same brand?!), who asked my name and was able to immediately tell me how soon my order would be ready.

I wondered if this was temporary, to help manage the overflow from the store closed around the corner. Just to be sure, I decided to visit this location the next day, and the mobile concierge is a fixture! Are they testing the concept in select stores? How come I didn’t know the experience was much more civilized just two blocks away? Is this really the same brand?

Looking back, what failed me that morning was Starbucks’ communication. As a loyal customer, I should have experienced the following:

  • The mobile app should have told me the location I was trying to order from was closed, and suggested that I visit another store, maybe even offering an alternative address.
  • The store sign should have read “We’re sorry; emergency air conditioning repairs today. Please visit our neighboring locations.” Then I would have felt bad for the staff and anticipated a reopening the next day.
  • And the mobile concierge? As much as I loved the service, he should have said something about this being a pilot (or whatever they’re doing) so I could determine if I want this store to be my new mobile ordering pickup location.

Regardless, I will be back again and again, as the product still trumps the other local coffee options, at least in my view. And I guess they know that. Still, I can’t help but wonder what would Howard Schulz think?

 

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The Perils of Pedals

As a city dweller, I count myself fortunate to rely on walking for my daily commute. A half-hour stroll is the perfect amount of time to organize one’s day or unwind before getting home, while enjoying a podcast or favorite playlist. It’s a relaxing and introspective experience except for one unpredictable matter—navigating the crosswalks increasingly popular with daredevil cyclists.

Now don’t get me wrong; I think it’s great that people are biking instead of driving or riding already crowded public transit. It’s environmentally aligned and promotes good health among those commuting via two-wheelers. But for whatever reason, most cyclists simply don’t obey the rules of the road. They ride through red lights, weave in and out of pedestrian traffic and zip through walkways in parks and other areas. And yet this same population demands dedicated bike lanes and free storage racks, not to mention office buildings with showers to enable transforming from the peloton to the cubicle.

I’ve wondered if it’s the impatience factor that makes cyclists feel above the traffic laws, or having to assimilate the behavior of the car they’ve just left in their driveway. Whatever the cause it’s actually rather dangerous for pedestrians simply trying to cross the street.  When rogue riders consistently run red lights, we walkers must run or freeze in place to let them swish by. Maybe it’s the helmets favored by American cyclists that offer that feeling of invincibility? (If you’ve traveled internationally, you’ve likely noted that city cycling is common, but helmets and fancy gear are unusual, with cruisers the bicycle of choice.)

On a few occasions, I’ve shouted “Hey—it’s a red light!” when a cyclist interrupts my attempt to cross the street. And once I actually got a sheepish “Sorry!” in response. That was nice but it certainly doesn’t solve the problem.

I guess it takes a lot of nerve to ride through a city relatively unprotected and competing with couriers, Uber and taxi drivers, not to mention buses and trucks. However, if you’re on wheels, you’re on wheels, so those traffic signals apply to you regardless. And if you cycle around me on your ride to work, please be extra careful if I’m carrying my coffee.

 

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City Winters: A Theory of Relativity

This weekend was our first encounter with a snowstorm as boomerang city dwellers. We were pleasantly reminded that it’s a more timid urban event, as places remain open and are quieter as it’s just the locals. With no windshields to scrape or driveways to shovel, we had free time. So what did we do during the storm?

Before the snow started, we headed to the Y, along with a significant percentage of the membership. (We think many are still in their New Year’s resolution mode.) By midday it was snowing pretty hard, but we went out for lunch anyway at a local cafe — and were fortunate to snag the only open table. I had scheduled a hair appointment for that afternoon, but of course, the salon was open as all the stylists live in the neighborhood. No emergency snow closings during this so-called Nor’easter!

We met extended family for dinner at a little place around the corner and thanks to the storm, we didn’t have to wait for a table and were able to linger and enjoy our meal and good company.

Oh – and how can I forget the wonderful realization that we didn’t have to fear power outages as in the city, all the power lines are buried.

So the moral of this story is that winter is a relative experience. I hadn’t appreciated that geography isn’t the most substantial variable; zip code matters and I’m liking my odds for the winter of 2017.

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