Published on: November 17, 2011
This commentary is available both as text and video. The two versions are similar, but not identical. Enjoy either, or both.
This morning I’d like to talk about the notion of core values.
I’m prompted by the reports coming out that Starbucks, apparently tired of being used as New York City’s public restroom, has decided to restrict access to its bathrooms in the Big Apple, even making some of them employee-only.
Now, I get the impression that this plan is in flux, and the company may even have changed its mind by the time you see this. But this is sort of a big deal.
Various newspapers in New York make the point that in a city with limited access to public restrooms, it was great to have a Starbucks on almost every corner. Not only could you get a latte, but you could take care of other personal business as well ... and I’m not talking about checking email on your laptop.
Hey, I’m a middle aged guy. Access to clean public restrooms is sort of important to me. When the temperatures are changing, it can actually reach crisis levels.
The thing is, it always has sort of appeared to me that having open and clean restrooms, if not a core value at Starbucks, certainly was an important part of the experience. It was part of being the third place - especially important because when you are relaxing in a third place, drinking giant coffees, a restroom can be an important thing to have.
Now, people may have to go elsewhere.
Now, I get that Starbucks probably is not just tired of being the de facto public restroom for the city of New York, but probably also tired of paying for repairs and cleaning and all the other costs associated with keeping these bathrooms clean and functioning. I get it.
The thing is, sometimes you have to make choices. Is this a core offering, or isn’t it? Is it part of what makes Starbucks Starbucks, or isn’t it? These are all questions we have to ask ourselves about our businesses, and sometimes the answers aren’t always to take the easy solution. Or the cheaper solution.
Sometimes - in fact, oftentimes - it means we have to do the hard thing. The more expensive thing. The thing that makes us different.
Again, I don’t know if this potential move by Starbucks qualifies. I suspect it might, but they’ll have to decide that for themselves. And then, of course, the ultimate judge and jury will decide - the shopper.
They may buy smaller coffees. They may not hang out as long. They may buy their coffee elsewhere. We’ll see.
But here’s the message I want to send to Starbucks, and any other company thinking about decisions like these. This isn’t a decision about plumbing. It is about something far more fundamental.
That’s what is on my mind this morning, and as always, I want to hear what is on your mind.
- KC's View: