Sunday, November 02, 2008

Starbucks vs. Julep Nail Parlor

To start out, yes, I do recall a blog posted in September when I said, "So. No more ranting about Julep." Not that I'm excusing myself for going back on my word, but this post is less of a rant and more of a commentary about two things.

1) There is an article I just read a couple days ago called Starbucks Blues that reminded me a lot of Julep. Why? Well, aside from the owner having been a former Starbucks executive, the issues that the article was bringing up about the way Starbucks was dealing with both the recession and their employees sounded rather familiar. For example, take the following sentence from the article referring to the general Starbucks store experience:

"The store atmosphere remains suffused with NPR-style high-mindedness."

Now, read a quote directly from the Parlor Games blog written by Julep's owner:

"I LOVE our earth-friendly ribbon - Recycled and Recyclable, with our elegant-but-cute-as-a-button leaf cluster printed with soy-based ink."

Sound a little high-minded? (To say nothing of greenwashing, but that's another post.)

2) The other thing actually fits right in with the article too. The main point that author Liza Featherstone had was that Starbucks was indirectly taking measures to thin out their employees by implementing a new human resources strategy:

"This new "philosophy" is called "Optimal Scheduling," and it requires that "partners" (Starbucks-speak for employees) must dramatically increase their own flexibility. If they'd like to work full time, they must be available to work 70 percent of open store hours. (For a Starbucks open 16 hours a day, as is typical, this means 80.5 hours per week.)"

After hearing about a mandatory employee meeting that took place tonight where Vernisseurs were informed of a sudden change in compensation structure (which involves moving from a guaranteed hourly rate to a commission percentage off of services done), I realized that this sounded oddly familiar. Moreso because some people were offered commission rates at ridiculously low percentages (low-to-mid twenty percentile) in what I can only assume was an attempt to get them to quit. (If not, then it was a blatant attempt to take advantage of them.) It also seemed like a fairly desperate move, especially considering that I've heard business is rather stagnant at the two new locations that opened this year. (With another store opening planned for the spring perhaps?)

When I finally found the Starbucks Blues article and read it again, I was able to put all the pieces together. I don't think of Starbucks as the epitome of evil, but they also certainly aren't as socially responsible as they'd have one believe. Nor are their espresso drinks particularly good, although I admit to being spoiled by living on a block directly between two Vivace storefronts. And as for Julep, it seems to me like a case where you can take the executive out of Starbucks, but you can't take the Starbucks out of the executive.


Snotty McSnotterson said...

Great post. And also, good article! Wasn't that soy-based ink thing your idea? :) I hate people who are talk-only, and no action.

Manthony said...

Sadly, yes. I suggested soy-based inks to her last year after the piles of cellophane, ribbon, and decorative doodads. When there was supposedly "no time" to actually care about the environment in the rush to pick out holiday giftwrap.

And I'm not really sure that soy-based ink makes a ribbon "earth friendly."

FreNeTic said...

I agree with the annoyance at the 'business-speake' - it will always hearken to something Orwellian. Heck, 1984 my have created a cultural text that allows many people to see this shit coming a mile away...

What really interests me, is the notion of 'spreading the burden'. It might be the only recourse - especially when you have to balance not only assets and debts but your investors as well - to 'spreading the wealth'. It becomes lamentable when businesses who don't have this added variable (being publicly traded), aping such practices.

Manthony said...

I think the fact that this business (Julep) was created with the express intent of someday being publicly traded has a lot to do with the whole 'spreading the burden' theme. Of course, if the wealth was actually spread also, it would make sense.

Anonymous said...

anthony .... aren't u a shareholder in Julep!!!!!!

Manthony said...

True, I sent in the paperwork to take advantage of my stock options. But as a shareholder and former employee, I'm more interested in making Julep a positive place for both customers and workers than in milking everyone for profits!