Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Why Starbucks Costs So Much

I'm sure fair trade has something to do with it. But consider:

When I went to Starbucks today to get a tall skim chai (no foam)--Yes, Lucy, we were of one mind today, apparently--there was a trainee barista working on the chai. She asked her trainer how much milk to pour in to steam for the drink, and was told "a little more than that, since she doesn't want foam."

Chai made, the trainee asked her trainer what to do with the extra milk in the silver container used for steaming milk. Her trainer said "throw it out."

My eyebrows shot up. Milk in the grocery store is now $4/gallon for non-organic in our neck of the woods ($6/gallon organic if it is on sale), and I've heard nothing but bad news about food prices due to shortages world-wide. I'm not sure if milk is included in those shortages, but there has been lots of talk about the price of milk, eggs and of course, rice, going up.

"Throw it away?" I asked in horror.

The trainer looked at me, somewhat apologetically. "Yes," she said. "We can only use milk for one drink. So we have to throw it away."

I was beside myself, but it dawned on me as I floundered, dumbstruck, trying to find the car, that this might be the reason Starbucks is so unbelievably expensive, especially with their non-drip coffee drinks. I hesitate to think how much milk they are throwing away.

Does anyone out there in the blogosphere know why they have to throw perfectly good milk away? I know that in other coffee establishments, like Barnes and Noble (which "proudly serves" Starbucks coffee, but is not a Starbucks franchise), the milk is saved for a period of time, and more is added to the carafe as needed for the next drink.

I wonder if there is a way to stop this wastefulness--especially with the cost of milk on the rise. I know that my boycotting the institution won't make the slightest dent in their bottom line--I only go there once a week at most, and it's usually just for chai, as I think their coffee is bitter. I am much happier with the local institution Boston Stoker, and once we move, I will try to find a local coffeeshop (when I can't/don't have time to brew at home) to patronize.

But I just had to share how shocked and surprised I was by this practice, by a corporation I have long-admired for their practice of extending healthcare to employees without them having to work 40 hours a week.

1 comment:

Applecart T. said...

you could forego the milk altogether or take all of the surplus in the cup and drink the calories yourself.

the policy seems like the starbucks way of making sure they don't violate health department regulations (by having to worry about employee judgment calls on timing things). but if other shops know how to measure and store …

all restaurants pitch perfectly good food every day. some, like panera, make a show of giving away bread every evening to shelters.

the ones that don't throw their "used" food away, like the chinese restaurants functioning on a different cultural wavelength (perhaps being less wasteful because of memories of harder times) that reuse rice, are, of course, gross.

it's a double-edged sword; eating out is expensive, but it gives someone a job.