Knowing what’s really in a Frapuccino isn’t the worst part of being a Starbucks barista. Business Insider spoke with several current and former Starbucks employees and found that the chain’s staff is underpaid, overworked, and seriously understaffed. With a constantly changing menu of tricky drinks, not to mention a spike in mobile and drive-thru orders, Starbucks baristas describe an immense lack of communication between corporate and retail employees. Starbucks staff, referred to as “partners” by the company, told Business Insider that while corporate blames baristas for customer service issues, the problems are rooted in company-wide poor working conditions seemingly ignored at the corporate level.
"Every single thing you experience that makes you love the company is designed to manipulate you into doing so,” one former Starbucks employee told Business Insider. “It's not a company; it's a cult that pays $9 per hour." Another employee spoke about being alone on the floor to make drinks for the in-store and drive-through lines while also working the register, only to be met with customer complaints. "Nothing gets cleaned. Nothing gets stocked… It's all incredibly tiresome… Just one more person on the floor in the afternoons and evenings would be incredible.”
A Starbucks representative told Business Insider that "one of the strengths of our business has continued to be the connection we have with our partners.” However, if the company really is “engaged in discussions with the over 160,000 [US] partners… and continuously work to make their experience even better and more valuable," as the representative states, and the baristas are still struggling, what is the root of this conflict?
The chain’s workers' mistreatment could a result of the company’s fear of an uncertain future. Starbucks’s most recent earnings report in April 2017 stated they fell short on revenue estimates for the second quarter in a row, leading to drops in shares. However, since that report, Starbucks has seen an uptick in shares, perhaps due to the recent frenzy over the now-infamous Unicorn Frappe. Potential company failure has likely led to a panicked series of promotions and viral drinks in an effort to push sales. Unfortunately, Starbucks’s own employees end up paying the biggest price.
According to the company’s five-year plan (released in 2016), Starbucks plans to open thousands of new stores globally and intends to reach 37,000 locations by 2021. While more stores means more jobs, it seems that perhaps the company should focus on improving working conditions first.