Starbucks Register Shutdown Insanity


About a month ago, Starbucks experienced a major shutdown in service at 13,500 locations. Poison coffee? Recall on some six dollar muffins? No, a fancy point-of-sale register glitch. If that’s all it takes to bring a coffee giant to its knees then the mom and pops of the coffee biz world should be hiring some hackers immediately. A smart company like Starbucks and there is no plan B for when the computerized registers refuse to work properly? It’s truly fascinating.

I get it, these high tech POS (point-of-sale, not the other meaning) systems are great for doing more than ringing up the customers. These registers don’t just add up subtotals then tack on the appropriate tax. They collect data on a transaction by transaction basis. All this info is used to track tiny details like determining when certain food items sell best. Muffins may do better after 9 a.m., while protein bars might sell best for early risers who buy coffee at 7 a.m. These systems track all the information that would be impossible to keep up with without them. That makes these POS registers invaluable to a major chain like Starbucks. There has to be a backup plan though. The answer cannot be to shutdown the stores…all of them, which is just what they did when the glitch occurred.

You know what a mom and pop store that sells coffee would do if their fancy register stopped working? They would use a calculator, a pen and paper, or a freaking abacus if need be. Mom and pop would use any means necessary to stay open. They may miss out on the data collection for a day or so, but by golly they would serve their customers and keep the cash flow rolling. By the way, a mom and pop operation wouldn’t need a computer to keep track of all the tidbits that a Starbucks likes to collect. The tiny business owners are on the ground, in the trenches, so they have a better feel for what goes on in their store daily anyway.
I’m well aware Starbucks needs superior systems in order to make thousands of individual stores operate at maximum efficiency as a whole. They have managers and employees who may care about the company they work for, but will never be invested in the performance the same way a mom and pop owner has to be just to survive. I just find it hard to believe that the best option is to close the store for the day when there is a computer glitch. That debacle should have embarrassed the coffee giant enough to come up with an emergency plan the next time around. I guess time will tell.

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Shane McLendon
Wannabe geek and FLOW Seeker