NBC's 'secret' Olympic Starbucks gets locked down

Mermaid-emblazoned cups are no longer allowed outside the network's office compound after its private coffee bar -- the only Starbucks in Sochi -- is publicized.

By MSN Money staff Feb 21, 2014 2:47PM

File photo of a Starbucks coffee shop in London. © Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images
By Paul Sonne and Anton Troianovski,

The Wall Street Journal

 

Wall Street Journal on MSN MoneyNBC seems to have the jitters over its secret Starbucks.

 

Behind the secure walls of the NBC compound here is a Starbucks (SBUX) counter replete with baristas who serve up hot caffeinated drinks to the network's employees.


Some NBC employees were walking around the Olympic grounds proudly toting their signature green-and-white Starbucks cups, a perk financed entirely by the network.


But suddenly, no Starbucks cups are allowed outside NBC's offices here. In fact, after The Wall Street Journal published an article about NBC's very own Starbucks, the 15 baristas that NBC is paying to staff it have been doubling as security personnel, handing over steaming Starbucks cups only after ascertaining that recipients don't intend to leave NBC offices.


The rub is that Starbucks isn't an Olympics sponsor. The sponsor designated to serve branded coffee at the Games is McDonald's (MCD), whose McCafes are selling a variety of specialty coffee drinks.


After the Journal article was published, NBC coffee enthusiasts showed up at their much-loved private Starbucks and found a new warning sign. "Please enjoy your Starbucks within NBC space only," the announcement said in capital letters. "Do not leave NBC space with your Starbucks cup."


Then, security guards began stopping NBC employees trying to exit the premises carrying cups with the verboten green-and-white Starbucks mermaid, according to people familiar with the network's new coffee security measures.


"The same guards that won't let people in now won't let Starbucks out," one person with access to the coffee said, declining to be identified for fear of retribution.


That new policy also ended a smuggling operation wherein some NBC employees had been serving as Starbucks mules for friends and acquaintances at the Games. Why not share the java, after all, since the drinks -- served round the clock -- cost "customers" nothing? And with the nearest Starbucks branch in Russia over 350 miles away by car, Sochi is a kind of Siberia for Starbucks addicts.


But recently, according to one person with access to the coffee, someone trying to leave the NBC offices with a Starbucks cup was told by a guard: "No gifts. No gifts. Pour it out or go back and drink it."


The person said that he and his colleagues were told that NBC was working on getting new, unbranded cups to allow employees to travel more freely with their elite coffee. Sure enough, according a number of people, new generic cups had shown up by Wednesday: an orange-and-brown variant with arguably less cachet.


Baristas have taken to asking whether "customers" plan to consume their coffee on the NBC premises or outside the broadcaster's cordoned-off area, one coffee drinker familiar with the matter said. If the employees agree to stay within the NBC compound, they can get a coveted Starbucks cup; if they plan to travel to the outer world, they receive a generic cup, the coffee drinker said.


To serve the roughly 2,500 people NBC sent to Sochi, and to serve guests to the NBC compound, the network flew in baristas from around Russia, which has Starbucks only in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Rostov-on-Don.


NBC says its private Starbucks isn't stepping on McDonald's toes because the special coffee is a "personal item" and not on sale to the general public. Even journalists with access to the media center who don't work for NBC can't access the Starbucks and instead must drink McDonald's offerings or generic-brand local coffee.


NBC declined to comment on what spurred the recent Starbucks lockdown. A spokeswoman for McDonald's didn't respond to an emailed request for comment.


More from The Wall Street Journal

8Comments
Feb 21, 2014 5:23PM
avatar

Yet their coverage of the Sochi Olympics Are beyond Awful! In fact they are worst I have seen in my decades here on earth.

No Medal Ceremonies,

Showcasing events partially yet after the fact (with all that coffee they should able to broadcast the Olympics ALL NIGHT AND DAY LONG!

Poor Coverage at best, especially on the Athletes, and all the winners!

And way too many Commercials Interfering with watching the Live or Pre-recorded Events!

 

NBC you get an F- for this Olympic Coverage! Sorry if the truth hurts!

Feb 21, 2014 5:42PM
avatar
I AGREE, AN "F" MINUS FOR NBC, TO MANY COMMERCIALS, TO MANY SPECIAL REPORTS ABOUT RUSSIA AND A  LOT OF WASTED TIME, NOT ENOUGH ABOUT THE SPORTING EVENTS. ALSO, NO MEDAL CERMONIES. BOOOO TO YOU NBC.
Feb 21, 2014 3:58PM
avatar

Hold on let me check my pockets to see if I have any f*cks left to give.........

 

 

Nope fresh out.

Feb 21, 2014 3:48PM
avatar
Ya, keep buying Starbucks!  Sub-par quality coffee beans+lots of foofoo added to cover up the disgusting taste.  God, young people and being trendy=retards.  Dummies.  Anyone who buys Starsucks is retarded.
Feb 21, 2014 10:19PM
avatar

I do agree the Coverage is SUB PAR....And the commercials are starting to remind me of the Super Bowl, but lower class or also rans...


They cover many things too much repetition, just to push higher paying commercials...

And then have their own Starbucks as security,,,,C'mon.

Probably can't schlep the cups outside compounds, because of IOC will get their cut too...?

Feb 21, 2014 7:43PM
avatar
Why on earth is this f'n news....
Feb 26, 2014 6:24PM
avatar
Don't like starbucks over priced coffee flavored water Don't like MacDonalds did not watch the olympics it was just horrible NBC is just horrible what a bunch of sell outs  
Feb 21, 2014 7:30PM
avatar
bad coffee anyway.

never tried one of the coffees from McCraps.  I don't need the runs.

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