Baristas blame scheduling cutbacks
EC: Starbucks Employees Say Prepare to Wait in Line for Your Coffee
Credit: Photo by ANTONY DICKSON/AFP/Getty Images

Grabbing that pre-work (or mid-work or "Ugh, I have to stay late at work") coffee is an important part of keeping up your productivity, so you want your stops to run as efficiently as possible. However, the top brass at Starbucks also knows that time is money, and according to grumblings from Starbucks employees, the coffee giant appears to have recently implemented a new way to boost its bottom line: cutting back on baristas’ hours. If true, Starbucks’ decision to reduce employees’ hours is reportedly taking its toll not just on employees, but on customers as well, who have been complaining about long waits to get their coffee fix.

The issue began to garner attention last month when a Starbucks employee launched a petition on entitled, “Starbucks, Lack of Labor Is Killing Morale.” In the petition, which is now over 15,000 signatures strong, campaign creator Jaime Prater wrote, “What's happening currently is some of the most extreme labor cuts in Starbucks history. Morale is at the lowest I’ve seen it in my nearly 9 years of service with Starbucks. Customers feel this the most, of anyone.” At the time, even major news organizations like Reuters took notice of the employee accusations against Starbucks. “The labor situation has gone from tight to infuriating,” Prater told them.

Though Starbucks hasn’t openly admitted to any changes, BuzzFeed News recently took a deep dive into the issue, reviewing anecdotal evidence from baristas, managers, and customers, as well as internal documents, and uncovered a consistent pattern of employees complaining of lower staffing and customers unhappy with deteriorating service over the past couple months.

Some have even suggested that Starbucks recent announcement proudly promoting a more relaxed barista dress code that “welcomes personal expression” was actually intended a way to quiet the storm.

The primary culprit behind the cutbacks, according to managers, is an apparent change in the algorithm used to determine how they should staff their locations. “Someone seemingly flipped a switch on the labor model,” a decade-long Starbucks veteran told BuzzFeed News. “The whole month of July has been the tightest in scheduling I’ve ever experienced,” another manager was quoted as saying.

When asked head on, a Starbucks spokesperson specifically told Buzzfeed News, "We are not trying to reduce labor." But when confronted with an internal company email saying that May and June tend to see "an overspend in labor" and that a new "forecasting tool" would "adjust forecasts and compensate for downward trend in business," that spokesperson didn’t have much of a convincing spin. "'Reducing overspending' seems like good business sense," she responded, according to BuzzFeed. (I've reached out to a Starbucks rep for comment but am still waiting for a response.)

Regardless of what, if anything, is happening over at Starbucks, finding firsthand accounts of Starbucks employees willing to say things have been getting worse seems to be as simple as a social media search. In fact, BuzzFeed’s article concludes with eight different accounts of people complaining of slashed hours and labor cuts. To add insult to injury, since its posting last night, the story is now filling up with comments from Starbucks employees agreeing wholeheartedly with the article’s sentiment.

Much like the water when you’re making coffee, this issue may be reaching its boiling point.