A point of difference for good ol customer service and Starbucks

13 12 2007

(Disclaimer – I think Starbucks has done brilliant things with their marketing and advertising. How many other companies can you think of have changed our verbiage from “I’ll have a medium” to “I’ll have a tall” (or what they call small)?

A story  for you – (as you sip your tall, extra hot, no foam, sugar-free vanilla latte)

I have a Starbucks mug, given to me as a gift. It has a malfunction. The metal bottom has come loose due to faulty glue. This has happened twice. The first one was returned for the second one months ago.  I follow their directions, do not put it in the dishwasher and I dry it when it’s washed.

 Yesterday I walked into a Starbucks to exchange it and seeing the lineup was not moving, moved on to another one. 

At my second stop I was told that they could not accommodate me because I didn’t have a receipt and there was no SKU.  I explained it was a gift – and clearly from Starbucks (um, hello branding!). Nonetheless I was instructed to visit the Starbucks on the other side of the building.

Question One (to myself) Why can  they help me and you cannot? Aren’t you all affiliated? Possible answer – the barista didn’t want to deal with the hassle of my request. Fair enough. I moved on.

At my third Starbucks I was told, very nicely, that these particular mugs had been recalled as I could plainly read on a poster next to the terminal. However, they could not help me because (albeit confusing) they are owned the hotel that houses the shop.

Question Two (to myself) Why would Starbucks Two send me to Starbucks Three, in the same building, but owned by different components of the Starbucks name?

Starbucks Four – (directed to me by Starbucks three) could not help because as the barista explained he had been working at this Starbucks for 7 years and any return that needs to be made, regardless of the recall, must be handled through the Regional Office.

Question Three (directed to the experienced barista) Where is the regional office? Response – call head office in Seattle for directions, or look it up online.

Starbucks Five –  FINALLY someone who helps out! I am told no problem, he takes my old mug, shows me a traveler tumbler that stays warm for 3.5 hours (he timed it) and led me back to the till. Great! Because I was so thankful, I reached into my purse and gave him a Ripple Card (www.ripplecards.com) . He scoffed to his co-workers as I was leaving. And here I thought paying it forward was much more generous than cash.

The lesson – it was not Starbucks intention to have these baristas cast me off, even though I spent hundreds of dollars there each month. I believe the lesson is that big or small, the efforts of the individuals interacting with the consumer are what will create loyalty, spread some positive whispers and generate repeat business.

For ideas on how to inspire your staff and thus build your clientele, drop me a line. Personalizing every experience for the better is what I help my clients achieve every day.


Shopping for Holiday Gift Baskets – think outside the box

9 12 2007



I have become bored with the standard issue holiday gift baskets – basket with cheese, crackers, spreads, pickled asparagus (or similar), paper shredding of some sort, cellophane wrapping, large bow. You get the gist.


When I was asked me to look after sourcing and creating gift baskets for a client, I thought I’d look for an alternative way.


Have a theme: stay cozy this winter, lighten up (with candles), sharing (for offices), charitable


Have a budget: I always set the maximum and then over project my costs so that there is a little left over for the pocket book


Wrapping: Think about what people could actually use – be creative.  Fabric, a tea towel, a pillow case, laundry bag, a canvas bag

The Basket: Forget it! Plates, trays, bowls, a reusable box that has been decorated, vases, mugs, tea pots, planters

Items of value: Look towards greener promotional products (everyone has too many pens and key chains).


·         FairWare Promotional Products (www.fairware.ca). I found some great hand held, no battery flashlights that could be logoed (turnaround approximately 7 business days)


·         Ten Thousand Villages (www.tenthousandvillages.com) where you can purchase fair traded gifts – home décor items, baskets, bowls, fabrics, books, hot chocolates, teas, coffees.


o   They are also great for charitable holiday gift giving. Livestock, educational packages, clean water. They also give a great holiday card with an ornament attached with every donation


·         Think Local – there are great, locally owned shops everywhere you go. I sourced most of my items through them and was given great savings because I was ordering larger numbers. All it takes is a phone call to learn what they can offer you


·         Greeting Card – Use your greeting card as a gift tag and a gift in itself. Or, forget the greeting card all together.


o   Ask me about the Ultimate Gift Card that will surely increase the smiles on everyone this year.


 Happy Holiday Shopping

Honey and the Money (Formerly Madisen) – A band worth checking out

30 11 2007

Honey and the Money

Last night I was lucky enough to attend Honey and the Money’s CD release party at the Media Club on Cambie, in Vancouver. Their lyrics are filled with emotion and their music catches your attention. This is a band that gives you shivers up your spine and at times will bring a tear to your eye.  

I urge everyone to check out their website www.honeyandthemoney.com and listen to the teasers from their new album, The Elephant in the Room. You’ll be hooked just like I was the first time I heard them.  Enjoy your listening – and maybe buy a couple of CD’s for Christmas stocking stuffers.  You can do it right from their website.

“Greening Your Business” FREE seminar at Small Business BC

27 11 2007

If you own a small business in Vancouver, you have probably been to the Small Business BC (www.smallbusinessbc.ca) to ensure your business name isn’t already taken. And, if you haven’t – you should. They have all incorporated businesses listed on microfiche.  They also have a great business library, staff that can answer your questions and process your registration forms.

They also host seminars. This course will explain terms like corporate environmental responsibility, lean and green operations and carbon neutral business. It will also explain why greening your business is important to care for your clients/customers and the environment.  

Hosted by Maureen Cureton, Energy Manager 

Wednesday, December 512-2pm

Cost: Free

Registration is essential. You can do this at 604 775 5477

Reusuable Canvas Bags Make for GREAT holiday wrapping

24 11 2007

It’s Black Friday in America. That just means  one month until Christmas to me, here in Vancouver.

I was reading an article in GRANVILLE Sustainable City Living Magazine by Emily Murgatroyd www.greenprintevents.wordpress.com.   The topic:  Minimizing waste during the holiday season.  

Right away I thought of a great company that is based here in Vancouver that could help. They are always at the Portobello West market (last Sunday of every month) – www.portobellowest.com. 


The company is called Bring Your Own Bag (BYOB) and they sell re-usable cloth bags in larger sizes, perfect!  Wouldn’t you love to get a gift bag that’s reusable, trendy and helps the environment? www.bringyouronwbag.ca


Aveda also sells reusable bags which are great for smaller parcels (just make sure you say “No” to the plastic bag they may offer you when you leave the store.)  www.aveda.com


Unconventional Corporate Gifts

22 11 2007

Gift cards from Starbucks and chain restaurants have been used and overused. And why not, it’s easy, it’s convenient and recipients know exactly what to expect with them. And, because of this, recipients have probably already received something similar.

I found an interesting website the other night – www.globalgiving.com.  You can purchase Global Giving gift cards for any denomination (minimum $10) and the recipient chooses what partner charity the money is donated to. It can be done through email where the gift giver can design the gift certificate.  And according to CSRwire http://www.csrwire.com/News/10127.html they have biodegradable gift cards (I couldn’t find information on this at the website).

If you are a retailer, there is an option to sell them at your place of business. I believe the company is American, so there may be some restrictions for us in Canada, but I am still going to get into contact with them.

How to plan a successful client appreciation event for the holidays

20 11 2007

You may be thinking, it could be a little late in the year to start with an event, but really it isn’t. If you’re here living on the west coast of Canada, people don’t typically make their plans until, at most, a week prior to an activity. 

Make it simple 

Invite guests –Create a stunning postcard invitation and mail it to your guests. Take the time to follow it up with a phone call.  Running with the same theme, post these postcards at your business (washrooms, retail shelving, and point of sale) and have staff give them to customers.  

Have a reason to come –a special speaker, great wine, special promotions, door prizes, charity support. 

Have a ballot box and collect email addresses. Invite these guests back for next year’s event. 

Inspire your staff –have games and contests for invitations given out and sales of the day. Make sure to feed your staff before the event (especially if its on a night after work). Give them a list of their responsibilities (ie. Knowing the special promotions, what their role is for the event) the day before so they can prepare.  

Forget the caterer – host a wine and cheese afternoon. You can easily (and affordably) put a few cheese and cracker platters together or go to http://www.capersmarkets.com/ and order pre-made cheese trays.  

Source out local wineries and ask if they conduct on-site tastings for private gatherings. I just hosted a great event and used a local Langley winery – The Fort Wine Co.  They even provided plastic tasting glasses. Spend your advertising dollars on giving your guests something special.  It is the holidays so a little grab bag will be appreciated.