Starbucks in Britain: No names, please

The company has changed its policy and now writes customers' names on cups. That crosses the line for some.

By Kim Peterson Mar 14, 2012 4:19PM
Credit: © Stuart Wilson/Getty Images
Caption: Jimmy Carr launches new stronger British Latte at Starbucks on March 14, 2012 in London, EnglandStarbucks (SBUX) baristas often ask American customers their names to write on order cups. It's an easy way to move orders fast, and Americans don't generally mind sharing -- even if the names get a little mangled along the way.

The British, however, are a different story. Starbucks has begun asking customers' names there in an effort to be warmer and friendlier, and some aren't thrilled by the policy change.

The controversy is brewing to the point where the BBC wonders if Starbucks should brace for a backlash. "I am not looking to make friends when I go into a coffee shop, I just want a drink," grumbles Arthur Smith, an actor in the U.K. television series "Grumpy Old Men," according to the BBC. "I want a pleasant but respectful distance between me and the person serving me coffee -- I don't want to go clubbing with them."

Hrmph. A London marketing professor chimes in that this false attempt at camaraderie can be irritating when you're quickly buying a coffee. "It's a bogus personalization of an economic relationship," Chris Hackley told the BBC. "Friendship needs to be genuine."

One Wall Street analyst discusses in the following video whether investors should dump Starbucks. He says yes.

Post continues below.
The complaints come as Starbucks revives its efforts in the United Kingdom, where it has 743 cafes. It wants to boost that to 1,000 in the next few years -- a big change, considering the company had a net loss of 65 U.K. stores in its 2010 fiscal year and a net gain of just 6 in 2011. In addition, it's spending nearly $13 million to overhaul its London cafes and make them more, well, British.

One of Starbucks' first moves in this new effort is to increase the caffeine in its beverages. The number of customers asking for extra shots of caffeine has risen by 60%, the Motley Fool reports, and some say Starbucks' drinks aren't as caffeinated as those made by rival Costa.

Starbucks is also unveiling coffee vending machines for the on-the-go British and serving drinks on planes and trains.

In its efforts to turn around operations in the U.S. -- something the company has done well at -- it lost some focus on a country that adores coffee and tea. That isn't to say Starbucks is foundering in the U.K. -- 743 cafes is nothing to sneeze at -- but there is definitely further room to grow. Costa Coffee easily has more than 1,000 locations in the U.K.

Starbucks is also experimenting with new strategies across Europe, and last week opened its first European concept cafe in Amsterdam. The cafe will be a testing ground for new ideas -- such as an in-house bakery. Starbucks may send out messages on Twitter when hot pastries roll out of the in-house ovens. The Amsterdam store has 16 new food items sold exclusively at that location.

Tags: SBUX
Mar 14, 2012 6:27PM
In a world filled with ridiculous-ness(?), this rises to the top.  Seriously, it's just a way to identify your order.  Are these people really so self-absorbed that they truly think the person taking their order is trying to make friends?  They should just say "A$$hole" when asked.  That would be accurate enough...
Mar 14, 2012 5:05PM

Just give them your name for the order, is it really that hard?  Just like when you call-in ahead for pizza you give the person taking your order your name.  But no, in the world we live in today it's a  "bogus personalization of an economic relationship".  Give me a break...

Mar 14, 2012 4:51PM
use the name "yoda" - it works for me !
Mar 14, 2012 7:13PM
Good god, this article is a joke right?,  The coffee guy knows your name from the debit card anyhow you moron.  And if your so damn worried about them knowing your first name, make one up for god sake,  they are just trying to make sure you get the right coffee.  Trust me they are not trying to be your friend!!!   HELP ME!
Mar 14, 2012 6:01PM
dude , here's your coffee- would you prefer that? its called customer service
Mar 14, 2012 6:14PM
Usually when I am at Starbucks or Five Guys or wherever they ask for a name for an order I usually say "Awesome". It mostly gets a laugh when someone yells out Awesome for an order. Stop being so uptight, you're there for five minutes or less, get over it!
Mar 14, 2012 5:36PM
I guess I'm just jaded. I never did think that the starbucks employee really wanted to know my name they just needed to identify the cup. Hell tell'em your name is Balderdash they will be cool with that
Mar 14, 2012 6:24PM
Talk about egotistical. Guess what blow hards its not about being your friend its about ensuring you receive the correct order in a sea of to go cups & use a fake name if you prefer. 
I bet this moron also would throw a toddler snit if his  fake name was misspelled.
Mar 14, 2012 6:50PM

"I am not looking to make friends when I go into a coffee shop, I just want a drink," grumbles Arthur Smith, an actor in the U.K. television series "Grumpy Old Men," according to the BBC. "I want a pleasant but respectful distance between me and the person serving me coffee -- I don't want to go clubbing with them."


Don't want to get too close to those dirty common workin' folks I guess. Sounds like a Brit.

Mar 14, 2012 5:02PM

Starbucks, in the end, should give the people what they want.  If they do not want to give names, give them an order number like so many fast food places do.  It would be just as effective to move the orders along...75, your caramel macchiato is up!  However, I do think it is a tad silly that someone would get their panties in a twist over something like that.

Mar 14, 2012 6:15PM
Geeesh.. Lighten up Francis...You can always go somewhere else...
Mar 14, 2012 5:13PM

I have to say Starbucks isn't a perfect company by any means but they do make a great effort at trying out new ideas and innovations. 

Mar 14, 2012 5:41PM
Give me a break!  So what if you give your name?  You're a freakin actor and how many names have you had acting? *rolling my eyes*  Pick a name and move on with your coffee that has been served to you by a friendly barista!  I swear just because you're an actor or you have money makes you no better then anyone else.  You go to a public place for service, you follow the rules of the establishment.  Difficult?  I think not!  Get a life Arthur Smith and grow a pair and be a man instead of a whiney a$$!  I have never had a problem with giving my name for the great service I have always received at Starbucks.  Kudos to Starbucks for a wonderful coffee shop/experience!
Mar 14, 2012 5:35PM
What's the big deal ?  It's not like the people working there are going to remember it five seconds after you walk out the door.  And if you do go there regularly and they do learn your name, what's wrong with "friendly" interaction ?  Some people take themselves waaaaayy to seriously.
Mar 14, 2012 5:53PM

Are these people CRAZY??!!!  Who in the hell thought that Starbucks was trying to make friends or attmpting to get to know their customers by asking their name to write it on the coffee cups????!!!  It's simply to identify an order!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Is life that great in the United Kingdom that the folks there are resorted to thinking and complaing abut non-issues ??  If your name is a secret then give the barista a damned alias that you can remember when they call it to give you Tall Carmel whatever with extra foam !!!!  Jeez  

Mar 14, 2012 4:58PM
Just give your surname - Mr. or Ms. Grumpy works.  It's professional and maintains the "pleasant but respectful distance" mentioned in the article.  Damn, that was difficult. 
Mar 14, 2012 6:29PM
Next time I'm in England and getting coffee from Starbucks I'll make sure it's when I'm drunk and trying to sober up.  I'll tell them my name is Sir Osis of Liver.
Mar 14, 2012 5:21PM
fine then identify the coffe with what the person is wearing or how the look, so instead you would hear " tall nonfat latte for  guy with bad teeth" take your pick, quit crying over the small stuff
Mar 14, 2012 5:57PM
People are so overly sensitive! If you dont want to give your name, then give them a fake name. I do it all the time. I thought being a self centric overly sensitive jerk was just reserved for my countrymen here in the US. I guess we learned it from the UK.
Mar 14, 2012 5:26PM
Grumpy a$$ Europeans... No one wants to be your friend Chris Hackley! Just give them your name and wait in line quietly like everyone else! Make up a name if you like!
Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.


StockScouter rates stocks from 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, using a system of advanced mathematics to determine a stock's expected risk and return. Ratings are displayed on a bell curve, meaning there will be fewer ratings of 1 and 10 and far more of 4 through 7.

116 rated 1
279 rated 2
443 rated 3
626 rated 4
667 rated 5
721 rated 6
630 rated 7
472 rated 8
292 rated 9
131 rated 10

Top Picks




Top Stocks provides analysis about the most noteworthy stocks in the market each day, combining some of the best content from around the MSN Money site and the rest of the Web.

Contributors include professional investors and journalists affiliated with MSN Money.

Follow us on Twitter @topstocksmsn.