retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Yesterday’s Eye-Opener was about a series of stories about Aspen Cline, a teenager who lives Anthem, Arizona - a Phoenix suburb with about 30,000 residents, apparently (based on a modicum of research) best known for having the tallest Christmas tree in Arizona. Aspen Cline, according to numerous reports, decided to go horseback riding on Scout, her trusty steed, on a recent birthday. She went with a friend, and at some point during the ride, they decided to visit a nearby Starbucks for a couple of Frappuccinos and a cup of whipped cream for the horses.

So, they went through the drive-through lane. On their horses. And were rejected, told that official Starbucks policy says that drive-throughs are only for cars. And the story went viral.

I commented:

First of all, the bit about “official policy.” Give me a break. Even if policy says “cars only,” that’s probably to keep people from walking up to drive-through windows, which one can easily imagine could create a higher probability of pedestrian accidents.

But no horses? I sincerely doubt it.

A smart barista and/or store manager would’ve seen this not as a problem, but as an opportunity.

What they should’ve done is run outside to make sure they got a picture of the teenagers-on-horses being served their drinks. A picture that could’ve been posted on social media, creating a different viral experience. What they should’ve done is comped the drinks. And the whipped cream. What they should’ve done is celebrate the moment. Have fun with it.

Not everybody agreed with me.

One MNB reader wrote:

What I see is a horse at a drive thru, with some asshat pulling up behind with a toot of the horn....horses potentially freak, injuring the riders and possibly the might have been cute....but so is a selfie on a cliff....neither ends well.

MNB reader Maynard Sangster wrote:

Could be for sanitary reasons. Who cleans up the “ road apples” after a horse has been waiting in the drive thru line at Starbucks? Do you want your car driving thru farm conditions or, worse, smelling like it did?

I got no problem with a cars only policy.

But MNB reader Pete Marotta wrote:

Kevin, we have Grocery Outlet stores in Amish country and at the New Holland location we have installed covered parking for the horse and buggies of our Amish customers.

Of course you did.

From another reader:

Oh Starbucks---get off your high horse.  Your right they should have embraced the moment like we do in Idaho at a Dutch Bros.

And, from MNB reader Tom Robbins:

Kevin, you scare me with your common sense approach to customer service.

A great opportunity lost by a silly rule. Oh, the Mexican Restaurant I go to just a few miles from there in Carefree has a hitching post and horses at lunch time.

Thanks. I’m rarely cited for my common sense, so I’m going to show your email to my wife and kids.

To folks who sympathized with Starbucks, I would just suggest that there are always reasons not to do something. If you’re worried about safety, you run outside, suggest to the horseback riders that they should move to a safer spot, and then bring them their coffee (and comp them). If you’re worried about horse dung, check your back room … I bet there is a broom or a shovel there somewhere.

Let’s not forget the business that retailers are supposed to be in - delighting customers.

I’m reminded of the old joke about the fellow who worked for the circus, following the elephants around with a pail and shovel. His brother comes to see him one day and offers him a job - he’ll get to wear a suit, work at a desk, have regular hours, and get paid a lot of money.

But the fellow says, “What? And give up show business?”

Think of yourself as being in show business. Find a way. Say yes, not no. Delight the customer.
KC's View: