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    Published on: January 29, 2009

    A Commentary by “Content Guy” Kevin Coupe

    To: Starbucks Board of Directors

    From: Kevin Coupe

    Re: CEO Howard Schultz

    I write these words with some level of dismay, since it should only be in the most dire of circumstances that a parent should be separated from his or her child. And, I write these words from two perspectives – that of a pundit who has spent a lot of time and words pondering your brand, and, perhaps more importantly, as an unabashed fan who has consumed more than his fair share of lattes and spent countless hours in Starbucks cafés both in the United States and abroad. I love the Starbucks brand and, like millions of other people, love the coffee, with the same kind of passion that I love Apple’s various technology products – they give shape to how I live my life, becoming more than just a coffee shop or a computer. That’s what great brands do.

    But write these words I must:

    CEO Howard Schultz must go.

    Sooner rather than later. Do it gently, do it kindly, because he is, after all, the person who had the original vision for what Starbucks became, and who nurtured it to become one of the world’s preeminent brands. He deserves respect. But do it.

    It is not just yesterday’s dismal financial news about the company that prompts this call, though to be fair, a 69 percent drop in first quarter earnings – to $64.3 million from $208.1 million during the same period a year ago – is certainly enough to give anyone pause. The company also saw its Q1 revenue drop to $2.62 billion from $2.77 billion a year ago, and same store-sales were down nine percent for the period.

    It isn’t just that Starbucks announced yesterday that, on top of the 600 US stores that it already said it would close, it now needs to shutter another 300 (200 of them in the US and 100 abroad)…and will lay off close to 7,000 employees, 6,000 of them from its network of stores.

    And, it isn’t just that it was barely more than a year ago that Schultz returned to the CEO’s job, replacing Jim Donald and, by implication, blaming him for what was then a 48 percent decline in the company’s share price. For the record, on January 29, 2008, Starbucks’ share price was $20.37…and it hasn’t gotten back to that level since. It closed yesterday at $9.65.

    It is not just these things, but it is all of them. And more.

    (By the way, it seems to me that at some point Starbucks is going to look like a really attractive acquisition target…and it gets more affordable with every passing day. It has lots of great real estate and residual brand recognition, despite all the problems. Y’think Ron Burkle might be interested in adding a coffee company to a portfolio that already includes Whole Foods and Barnes & Noble? Y’think there might be some synergies there? And then what happens to the vaunted culture that Schultz has worked so hard to nurture?)

    It is my sense that Starbucks has lost its way, and that blaming the economic downturn misses the point. After all, great brands and great thought leaders find ways to transcend these kinds of challenges, profound as they may be. They find ways to reinforce the differential advantages of the brand, and to see the challenges and opportunities for strategic innovation.

    This doesn’t seem to be happening today.

    Since Schultz took back the reins of the company a year ago, it has seemed like management has embarked on a series of tactical decisions designed for short-term fixes rather than long-term growth:

    The breakfast sandwiches smell, so let’s replace them with new ones.

    Nope, we figured out how to make them not smell. Keep them.

    Let’s try smoothies.

    How about self-service?

    Let’s try oatmeal.

    Let’s try tea.

    Let’s put Clover coffee machines in some of our stores.

    How about a loyalty card, even if we end up doing a lousy job of explaining why it is a good idea to have one…even to our best customers?

    A couple of months ago, Starbucks was making pronouncements about how it wasn't going to fight McDonald’s – which has been aggressive about expanding its McCafé business – on price. This week, not so much…and Starbucks is talking about “breakfast pairings” at “attractive price points.”

    Anybody else getting whiplash from all this?

    Read the papers, and you see that Starbucks’ relationship with its employees, at least in pockets of the country, are not as good as they should be…and that there have been a variety of lawsuits related to union activities. Some companies can get away with that kind of bad publicity, but not Starbucks…because the price you pay for being a commercial paragon of virtue is having to make sure that these sorts of problems never occur, or at least occur as little as possible.

    I suspect that part of the problem is that as problems got worse at Starbucks, Schultz’s grip of the reins got tighter…and he ignored the front lines of the company more than he should have.

    It probably didn’t make things better when the company announced that it might not match 401 (k) contributions this year and in coming years.

    And I’d be willing to bet that in the ranks, people are worried that Starbucks’ longtime commitment to providing health care benefits may be on shaky ground. (Even if it isn’t, which is what Schultz said in his memo to employees yesterday.)

    Two things tore it for me.

    One is when Starbucks announced this week that it would stop brewing decaffeinated coffee in the afternoon as part of its plan to save $400 million this year. There were all sort of problems with this announcement, not least of which is the fact that decaf is more popular in the afternoon. (There will be a lot more on this below, in “Your Views.”)

    But the big problem – the symbol that Starbucks and Schultz have lost their way – is how the change was presented. Rather than turning it into an opportunity to make stores more in touch with local consumers’ needs – being a consumer-centric organization – the company presented it as a savings initiative. It put efficiency over effectiveness.

    Big mistake.

    Which suggests to me that the statement had more to do with reassuring Wall Street analysts 48 hours before horrible numbers were released than it had to do with smart retailing. But maybe I’m just a cynic.

    And then, there was the new company jet. Sure, the $45 million jet was ordered a couple of years ago, when the future looked rosy. But by Schultz’s own admission, it was more than a year ago that things were supposedly so dire that he had to retake control of the company. The stock price is in the toilet…and still the company closed on the sale of the plane and Schultz took it to Hawaii for Christmas vacation. Sure, he paid for the trip out of his own pocket, but the symbolism stinks. And now, Starbucks is selling the jet…but imagine how much more impressed we’d be if the company decided to cancel the order a year ago. Schultz looks reactive rather than proactive. He looks tone deaf.

    (Here’s a good rule of thumb, by the way. Any corporate executive who is presiding over a company being affected by the recession should immediately cancel the order if he or she is awaiting delivery of a corporate jet. At this point, private jets are the kiss of death for corporate credibility. Just ask the big three US car companies or Citigroup.)

    This is not a diatribe against Howard Schultz. He should be lauded for his vision and service to the company. He should be praised for the fact that he was willing to give up his million-dollar-plus salary and work for a dollar a year while getting the company back on track. But it is time for a change, to someone who can think and act strategically rather than tactically.

    Who could replace him? Well, I’d think long and hard about bringing Jim Donald back. I have it from reliable sources that he still has a lot of support within the company’s Seattle headquarters, and one of his greatest skills was mining the stores for expertise and passion. He understands the importance of not being bigger than the front lines. But if not Jim Donald, there must be other great retail minds out there who would be interested in rescuing a great retail company from its own worst instincts before it is too late.

    The bottom line is this. The current leadership at Starbucks is hurting a brand that does not, after all these years, really belong to them. It is a brand that belongs to me, and millions of people like me, for whom Starbucks has served as more that a cup of coffee and a place to drink it.

    And until the company recognizes this, and integrates this hard truth into its thinking and strategizing, things will not get better – no matter what the economy does.

    It pains me to write these words, but write them I must.

    Howard Schultz must go.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 29, 2009

    USA Today reports that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is now saying that a new 14-day inspection of the salmonella-contaminated Georgia plant operated by Peanut Corp. of America has revealed “poor sanitation, conditions that would allow salmonella to spread, a gap in the roof through which salmonella contaminated water or bird feces could fall, the presence of roaches and failure by the firm to check that its peanut-roasting process killed salmonella.”

    The recall of products made with peanut butter and peanut paste manufactured in the facility has been expanded to items produced for the past two years, which the government says makes it one of the largest recalls ever.

    Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., who serves on the House of Representatives committee that oversees FDA funding, has asked the Department of Justice to determine if a criminal probe is called for.

    KC's View:
    If “poor sanitation, conditions that would allow salmonella to spread, a gap in the roof through which salmonella contaminated water or bird feces could fall, the presence of roaches and failure by the firm to check that its peanut-roasting process killed salmonella” aren’t enough for criminal charges, then I don't know what is.

    The better question is whether the FDA did its job over the past two years. How come these problems are just being identified now?

    Published on: January 29, 2009

    The National Retail Federation (NRF) is out with its annual 2009 Valentine’s Day Consumer Intentions and Actions survey, and finds that even love is taking a beating at the hands of the recession this year – consumers plan to spend an average of $102.50 on Valentine’s Day gifts and merchandise, compared to $122.98 spent a year ago.

    The ratio of what people will spend in various categories – flowers, jewelry, greeting cards – remain pretty much the same, but they’ll be spending less on the people they love.

    According to the survey, “The majority of people (90.8%) will spend the most on their spouse ($67.22), with other family members such as children getting about one-fifth of their budget ($20.95). Consumers will also spend on friends ($4.74), children’s classmates/teachers ($3.59), co-workers ($1.94) and pets ($2.17).”

    KC's View:
    The fact that pets are getting less than spouses, lovers, friends, classmates and co-workers will likely be protested this week by People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which will object that at a time of such emotional delicacy, pets are being – both literally and figuratively – thrown a bone.

    Published on: January 29, 2009

    New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is spearheading an effort to get US food manufacturers to agree to cut the salt content in their products by 50 percent over the next decade. The city’s Health Department is hoping that manufacturers will agree to the initiative voluntarily…but is reserving the right to legislate such cuts if companies don't climb on board.
    KC's View:
    This may sound like an unlikely sort of legislation for a city to pass on its own, but it is worth noting that under the Bloomberg administration, New York already has banned indoor smoking and trans fats, and forced fast food chains to post calorie counts on their menu boards.

    Bloomberg is not one to be taken likely on these quality of life issues. Even if sometimes he seems more like a nanny than a mayor.

    Published on: January 29, 2009

    The National Retail Federation (NRF) is out with a report saying that US retailing will see a 0.5 percent drop in revenue during 2009…but that this number is dependent on an increase in consumer confidence and buying power that will boost sales in the fourth quarter of the year.

    Sales are expected to fall 2.5 percent during the first quarter, and 1.1 percent in the third quarter, but then rebound with a 3.6 percent increase in the fourth quarter.

    The NRF retail sales figures exclude automobile sales, gas stations and restaurants.

    KC's View:
    If you want to understand the stimulus package and its likely impact, you have to go no farther than “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” Not the movie itself, but the writer, William Goldman, who famously once said about Hollywood, “Nobody knows anything.”

    The same three words apply to the current economic situation, and virtually every proposed solution. Nobody knows anything.

    Published on: January 29, 2009

    The US Postmaster General, John Potter, asked the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee yesterday to lift the requirement that mail be delivered in the United States six days a week.

    Potter said that operating deficits and a $2.8 billion debt at the end of 2008 have combined to make six-day mail unaffordable, and the post office wants the option of eliminating one day a week to save money. The recession has hurt the Post Office as well, with less advertising being sent to consumers through the mail as marketers cut back.

    While in the past Saturday has been mentioned as a likely day that could be cut out of the mail delivery schedule, Potter said yesterday that a mid-week day, such as Tuesday, which is a light mail day, might be a better choice.

    Published reports say that lawmakers did not seem convinced, though they did not shut the door on the request.

    KC's View:
    When you think about it, the postal service is an almost obsolete business model that has been virtually replaced at both ends of the spectrum by services such as email and FedEx, UPS, and other overnight delivery services.

    So-called “junk mail,” which everybody hates to get anyway, probably is a larger percentage of the stuff sent through the mails because so few people write actual letters anymore, and because increasingly people are handling their finances via the Internet.

    In so many ways, the Post Office is adhering to the same practices that were being used 50, 75, 100 years ago.

    If mail delivery were cut out on Tuesdays or Saturdays, the real question is whether anyone under 30 would notice.

    So maybe what really ought to be happening is a fundamental and activist attempt to totally restructure the business model so it is relevant to the next generation of consumers.

    Published on: January 29, 2009

    Sobering news from National Public Radio, which reports that “climate change is essentially irreversible, according to a sobering new scientific study.

    “As carbon dioxide emissions continue to rise, the world will experience more and more long-term environmental disruption. The damage will persist even when, and if, emissions are brought under control, says study author Susan Solomon, who is among the world's top climate scientists.”

    Says Solomon, who is a scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, "We're used to thinking about pollution problems as things that we can fix. Smog, we just cut back and everything will be better later. Or haze, you know, it'll go away pretty quickly … "People have imagined that if we stopped emitting carbon dioxide that the climate would go back to normal in 100 years or 200 years. What we're showing here is that's not right. It's essentially an irreversible change that will last for more than a thousand years,"

    The new study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, says that reducing or turning off carbon dioxide emissions won't stop global warming.

    However, Solomon tells NPR that this is not time to declare the problem hopeless and give up: "I guess if it's irreversible, to me it seems all the more reason you might want to do something about it. Because committing to something that you can't back out of seems to me like a step that you'd want to take even more carefully than something you thought you could reverse."

    KC's View:
    This will only serve to reignite the debate, and I’m sure there will be plenty of people who will say that 1) climate change is natural, not manmade, and 2) climate change is irreversible, and so we should not be making changes that could threaten the current economy that will not have immediate effects.

    Which will strike a lot of people as a morally and ethically challenged position.

    Published on: January 29, 2009

    • In the Netherlands, an appeals court has reduced the sentences of three former Ahold executives who were convicted in the accounting fraud scandal that roiled the company six years ago.

    According to Reuters, “Chief Executive Cees van der Hoeven was sentenced by an Amsterdam appeals court to pay a fine of 30,000 euros, while former Chief Financial Officer Michiel Meurs was given 240 hours of community labour, a fine of 100,000 euros and a six-month suspended sentence.

    “Former management board member Jan Andreae was given a three-month suspended sentence and a fine of 50,000 euros. Former supervisory board member Roland Fahlin was acquitted, a confirmation of the lower court's ruling.”

    Van der Hoeven and Meurs had been sentenced to suspended jail terms of nine months and fines of 225,000 euros, while Andreae had been given a four-month suspended sentence and a fine of 120,000 euros.

    • The Financial Times reports that Kmart and Sears have begun an experiment that uses drive-up windows to allow shoppers to order online and then pick up their purchases without leaving their cars.

    In addition, FT writes, “Kmart is testing a new web service,, that will allow customers to order a wider range of items for in-store pick-up than are currently available on its regular website, including milk, eggs, fresh food basics, and low cost items such as detergent, mascara and toothpaste. Orders placed before noon can be picked up at a local store on the same day, allowing shoppers to collect goods on their way home from work.”

    Promo reports that Walmart’s Sam’s Club division is offering new members who sign up by February 1 a $10 gift card that at least partially offsets the $40 membership fee.

    KC's View:

    Published on: January 29, 2009

    Now available on iTunes...

    To hear Kevin Coupe’s weekly radio commentary, click on the “MNB Radio” icon on the left hand side of the home page, or just go to:

    Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe, and this is MorningNewsBeat Radio, available on iTunes and brought to you by Webstop, experts in the art of retail website design.

    There was a wonderful line in HBO’s old “Rome” series, in which Julius Caesar says, “It is only hubris if I fail.”

    Of course, failure isn’t always immediate. Sometimes it takes time to get to eventual failure, at which point it only becomes evident how you got there, how missteps along the way actually made failure inevitable. At some level, that’s what we’re seeing in the economy right now. The problems with the banks, the problems with housing, the problems with unemployment…these aren’t new problems. It’s just that it took time for the dominoes to fall to the point where we were able to see them…or, perhaps more accurately, they became impossible to ignore.

    I was thinking about hubris when a MorningNewsBeat user sent me a copy of the January edition of The McKinsey Quarterly, which deals in pat with how companies grapple with the recession.

    This sentence stood out:

    “Executives in an industry that lags behind the economy, for example, may imagine that they can avoid a downturn because at first the industry doesn't slow down when the economy does.”

    I’ve heard a lot of folks in the industry say things like “people have to eat,” a sentence that often is uttered by people in the food business during recessions. Now, to be fair, there does seem to be a realization that people’s buying and eating patterns are changing…but I think it is equally important for retailers and manufacturers to recognize that what we’re seeing is a “new normal,” that fundamental consumption patterns are being altered in ways that could persists for decades, no matter when the recession ends.

    What does this mean? I think retailers have to do two things. First, they shouldn't have hubris about the food industry’s ability to survive the recession. And second, they need to be evaluating the recession in terms of permanent changes in consumer mindsets.

    There was another passage from the McKinsey Quarterly that grabbed my attention, though:

    “Other executives, failing to realize that their industries tend to revive before the overall economy, may plan too conservatively for the upturn. Decisions about acquisitions, divestitures, and even recruiting or retaining talent often hang in the balance.”

    This is a critical realization for retailers to reach, I think. I was talking the other day to a friend of mine, one of the smartest retailing and marketing guys I know, and he made the point that now is the time for businesses to be working hard to steal market share.

    In other words, battening down the hatches and going into survival mode is no way to deal with a recession. The long-term winners will be the ones that see this as a moment to deliver a knock-out punch to the competition, to establish and exploit their own differential advantages.

    Now, this isn’t an easy combination. It is hard to simultaneously avoid hubris, adjust marketing plans for permanent consumer trend shifts, and get aggressive about market share. Hard, but not impossible.

    And maybe even the bare minimum if people and companies want to achieve long-term success.

    For MorningNewsBeat Radio, I’m Kevin Coupe.

    KC's View:

    Published on: January 29, 2009

    One of the bright sides of Starbucks’ current woes is that at least there are some pretty good jokes coming out of it.

    Yesterday, on the Huffington Post, comedian and writer Andy Borowitz had a funny piece that read, in part:

    In its latest cost-cutting moves designed to improve its bottom line, Starbucks announced today that it would no longer offer coffee, cups, or stir-thingies beginning February 1.

    In an official statement, company spokesman Carol Foyler said that Starbucks "wrestled long and hard" with the decision to eliminate the three items, "especially coffee."

    "We are aware that many of our customers have come to Starbucks in the past looking for a cup of coffee," Ms. Foyler said. "We hope, however, that they will continue to come even though we no longer offer coffee or cups, for that matter.” … When asked what Starbucks hoped would attract customers to their stores in the future, Ms. Foyler said, "We hope customers will see our stores as a place for the unemployed and/or homeless to come out of the cold and warm themselves over a scalding hot cup of water, as long as they bring the cup."

    KC's View:
    Funny. Wish I’d written it.

    Published on: January 29, 2009

    It is worth noting the passing away of James Brady, the longtime journalist, who died this week at age 80.

    Brady was well known in the business and marketing community for his contributions to publications such as Advertising Age and Women’s Wear Daily. As a writer and editor, he worked for the New York Daily News, New York magazine, the New York Post, Parade, and He also wrote a series of fiction and nonfiction books, and was a decorate Marine veteran of the Korean War, where he earned the Bronze Star.

    KC's View:
    The one impression that Brady always gave, whether he was writing or being interviewed, was that the fact that he loved his life and never got tired or jaded. My only encounter with him was a few years ago, when my son and I had tickets to the final preview performance of “Spamalot” on Broadway. We found ourselves sitting in the first row, and Brady was right behind us. I didn’t meet him, but can remember him vividly – gray hair, tweed sports coat, light blue shirt and carefully knotted tie, and smiling because this, after all, was a Broadway show. He was from another time, in some ways, a time less cynical and more gentlemanly.

    There’s something to be learned from people like that.

    Published on: January 29, 2009

    It was the ninth story yesterday on MNB, but easily the one that got the most attention – close to 100 emails showed up in a matter of hours to respond to the story and my commentary.

    The story said:

    Starbucks Corp. said yesterday that it will stop brewing decaffeinated coffee after 12 noon, part of its broader effort to cut $400 million in costs by September 2009.

    According to a statement released by the company, ““For many of our stores, the demand for decaf is greatly reduced in the afternoon. With our current standard of continually brewing decaf after 12 p.m. regardless of demand, we have seen a high amount of waste.”

    Starbucks said that it will make decaffeinated coffee on demand, and that it only takes about four minutes to brew a cup of decaf when requested by a patron.

    My commentary read, in part:

    To be honest, I don't even understand the concept of decaf. It is sort of like nonalcoholic beer. I mean, what’s the point? (I know I’ll get into trouble for this comment, but there it is. I can count the number of cups of decaf that I’ve consumed in my entire life on the fingers of one hand, and they were almost all because high-test wasn’t available. And I don't even need one finger to count the nonalcoholic beers I’ve consumed.)

    (One other parenthetical point. I thought most people drank decaf late in the day, rather in the morning, because the real stuff affects their sleep patterns. So I don't get the decaf-only-in-the-morning deal. But what do I know?)

    That said, I would suggest that the way Starbucks framed this decision is all wrong – it sounds like a blanket dictum that is efficiency-driven rather than customer-centric.

    If it were me, I would have suggested that the decision about whether to brew decaf in the afternoons would be left up to store managers, who could make the judgment based on their knowledge of and interaction with customers. Basic formulas could be established as a guideline, but the program could have been better positioned as keeping the company more in synch with shopper needs, rather than as part of a way to save $400 million.

    Here is just a sampling of the emails I got…

    MNB user Mike Jadrich wrote:

    Hold on a minute. I am a member of a downtrodden minority---a decaffeinated person. I drink decaf coffee because I love the taste of coffee, just as I drink wine for the love of the taste of wine…not the buzz. I can drink lots of coffee all day and don’t have to worry about my fingers nervously tapping on the wrong keys. (So I am more productive because I use spell check less.) I don’t need this drug to get me excited about life and to get my job done. It is hard enough to find good quality decaf coffee because of all the caffeine discrimination that exists, but Starbucks’ policy takes it to a new level. So now if I want a cup of decaf I have to wait four minutes???? That’s a lifetime in today’s world. Perhaps if they marketed decaf coffee to their customers a little more aggressively or provided more choices people would drink more decaf. I personally don’t think they have tapped decaf’s potential. I agree with your point about leaving it up to the local store manager to manage their business. I’m sure the store managers would have a solution if they were consulted.

    MNB user Mitchell Clifton wrote:

    From reading the article, it seems like Starbucks could use a bit of an attitude change. It can be hard to appear upbeat in the recession gloom, especially amid job and budget cuts, but taking away the services that customers have come to expect will only cause alienation. Perhaps instead of emphasizing the loss of drip decaf in the afternoon, they could shift their energy towards fresh, single-cup brewed coffee as an alternative to drip varieties. They purchased the Clover coffee machine company a while back, and it provides a great cup of coffee (one of my local places, Volta Coffee, was one of the lucky few to get one before the buyout). Perhaps locations that do not have a Clover machine could offer French Press as an alternative. This way, they can eliminate the decaf in large batches while retaining the product. Starbucks can put forth an image of adapting to changing times, while still being a coffee shop first and foremost.

    MNB user Don Stuart wrote:

    Starbucks is all ucked-up. When the (coffee) bean counters dictate consumer strategies it will mean a long grind ahead.

    Afternoon and evening IS the time consumers want decaf. Plenty of folks drink coffee for flavor and enjoyment not just the caffeine. I hope this is a case when Starbucks listens and learns.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    I for one do not drink anything but decaf after 4 pm so to say they will stop brewing it in the afternoon really doesn’t make any sense. But you also thought the same thing … Coffee drinkers do think alike!

    MNB user Jennifer Woods wrote:

    Interesting article about decaf. I am a bit surprised that decaf does not sell well at Starbucks after noon. While I usually like caffeine in my coffee, I recently had to switch to decaf because I am pregnant. And although I feel like I am getting “ripped off” not having my caffeine, being able to satisfy my morning habit is reason enough to drink decaf.

    MNB user Jackie Lembke wrote:

    I didn’t used to get decaf coffee, but I like coffee of an evening or afternoon and the high-test stuff does affect my sleep patterns so I switched. I will agree with the timing because I never have decaf before about 3 in the afternoon, but my mother-in-law only drinks decaf so there are parties who go both ways. The one I don’t get is diet decaf soda. Why bother?

    Another MNB user wrote:

    I agree with you that Starbucks should've handled this recent decaf coffee decision on a store-by-store basis. I'm certain the big press release was to satisfy shareholders. It does seem like something a "coffee house" should offer decaffeinated coffee to their clientele especially later in the day. Like you said, certainly not a customer-service driven decision.

    And, believe it or not, there are some caffeine sensitive folks out there who still want to enjoy the taste of a good cup of coffee but can do without the shakes for the rest of the day.

    Also, I've witnessed occasions where non-alcoholic beer & wine have found a place in social situations where, for whatever personally sensitive reason, an individual may "appear" to be enjoying a drink without having to answer questions as to the reality of why they aren't or can't consume an alcoholic beverage at that particular time. Your comments regarding that one had you sounding like a bit like a frat boy.

    You realize, of course, for a guy my age to be accused of sounding “a bit like a frat boy” is something of a compliment.

    What’s the Jimmy Buffett line? Growing older but not up…

    MNB user Cal Sihilling wrote:

    Get a good case of acid reflux and see how much decaf you then might drink.

    Nexium, baby. Nexium.

    MNB user Rich Heiland wrote:

    I’m with you on de-caf. I don’t drink it because if I don’t get the buzz, why bother. And if I happen to want a cup of something at a nice restaurant in the evening, that’s when I do order de-caf so I can sleep. I think Starbucks would have been better off to have said “only 2 percent of our customers order decaf so screw ‘em.”

    (I have to admit I laughed out loud at this one…)

    Still another MNB user wrote:

    I must be a freak - my desire for DeCaf is greatly INCREASED in the afternoon.. so I can sleep at night. Thankfully, there are LOTS of coffee options for freaks like me outside of Starbucks.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    Your day will come. Many of us on a low sodium diet must avoid caffeinated drinks. Although at first, we might consider death over having to de-caffeinate, we do get used to good, decaffeinated coffee. It turns out that coffee, like salt, is habitual and we can adapt when we must.

    Oh the price of getting old.

    The Who sang in the late-1960s, “What were once vices are now habits.” I’m not certain how that applies, but I like what it means…

    Another MNB user wrote:

    Thought you’d enjoy this … In Maui there’s a coffee place in Kehei that offers a cappuccino drink made with decaf, and nonfat milk –called “Why Bother?” - and since it was on the menu, they still sold lots of it!

    I always loved the name, although I was not their demographic….:)

    MNB user Jennifer Dahm wrote:

    I think that most people that drink decaf do so because of heart ailments.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    Why was decaf coffee invented? Why was non-alcoholic beer invented? Same reason 7-Up and Root Beer were invented. A small, comforting, semi-normal treat for pregnant ladies who can’t have caffeine or alcohol!!! That’s my view!

    Yet another MNB user wrote:

    I thought you might like some insight on why decaf….for me it’s only because I cannot have caffeine and I love the taste and the ritual of having coffee in the morning. I don’t need the jolt that caffeine in coffee provides just the warm, wonderful taste of the coffee.

    And another MNB user wrote:

    By the time I reach the counter every morning at my local Starbucks, my venti decaf is waiting. After having my first child 5 years ago and the “no-caffeine” ban was lifted after 9 months, I decided that after having gone this long without the caffeine without any adverse affects, why go back. Caffeine didn’t improve the taste and now only serves to make me speak 5 times faster than my normal pace, which is already alarmingly quick. So yes, this now edict makes me sad since I occasional indulge in a second decaf in the afternoon. However, I’d still rather wait the four minutes to brew a fresh batch rather than go somewhere else. That’s loyalty for you.

    Good for you.

    MNB user Tim Keefe wrote:

    I normally agree with you, especially on Starbucks, but this is one where I think you are forgetting one thing, health concerns over too much caffeine. Many people like the taste of coffee and drink it for that reason, but do not enjoy what caffeine does to their system. I know many people who have gone to decaf entirely, no matter what time of day. I think Starbucks needs to look at their customer needs a little more clearly and stop taking advice from Strategy consultants just crunching numbers. If they do things like this they will easily save money, this is true. They will also lose revenue, not just in the afternoon as people start shifting to places that want their business…

    MNB user George Whalin wrote:

    I am a decaf drinker on my doctor’s recommendation. Starbucks should know better than to put out a press release announcing this new initiative. They are simply saying to decaf drinkers don’t even come in after 12:00. We don’t have what you want. For a smart company it was a really dumb thing.

    I am a Starbucks fan and use my Starbucks Card frequently to get my morning cup of decaf. In my work I travel a great deal and frequently stop into a neighborhood Starbucks in the afternoon wherever I am and have a cup of decaf and use their wireless internet service. I guess I’ll just have to find another coffee shop!

    MNB user Bob Anderson wrote:

    There are a lot of us who can’t drink caffeinated beverages of any sort, including coffee, due to health reasons.

    I grew up on high-octane brew coffee. But, when I hit Fifty caffeine was determined to be a contributor to several issues but primarily inadequate sleep. Since I eliminated caffeine life has been much better.

    Just wait. Your time is coming.

    Probably. But not as long as I’m cranking out MNB every day.

    Another MNB user chimed in (and I love this one):

    Decaf coffee is the same as dipping a brown crayon in hot water.

    And finally, MNB user Bob Bartels wrote:

    People come in all sizes, shapes, tastes and needs. If you don’t get it you probably won’t.

    Actually, I do get it.

    This is just a sampling of the emails I got on this issue, which proves my point. Based on the passionate reactions that I received, it seems evident that the Starbucks decision about decaf was an ill-considered move that was badly positioned.

    Finally, on another subject…

    MNB carried a brief piece yesterday about the death of writer john Updike, and noted that he’d written a short story called “A&P.”

    But MNB user Philip Bradley wrote in to remind us that one of Updike’s best stories was an essay about Ted Williams’ last game for the Boston Red Sox. An excellent point, and I can't believe I neglected to mention it. An excerpt, which recalls Williams’ final at-bat, when he hit a home run:

    Like a feather caught in a vortex, Williams ran around the square of bases at the center of our beseeching screaming. He ran as he always ran out home runs—hurriedly, unsmiling, head down, as if our praise were a storm of rain to get out of. He didn't tip his cap. Though we thumped, wept, and chanted "We want Ted" for minutes after he hid in the dugout, he did not come back. Our noise for some seconds passed beyond excitement into a kind of immense open anguish, a wailing, a cry to be saved. But immortality is nontransferable. The papers said that the other players, and even the umpires on the field, begged him to come out and acknowledge us in some way, but he never had and did not now. Gods do not answer letters.
    KC's View: