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February 22, 2007

The Howard Schultz Email is a Fake

*** UPDATE ***
The Wall Street Journal is reporting this email from Howard Schultz is 100% legitimate.

In the online article, a Starbucks spokeswoman verified the authenticity of the memo. I'm shocked. And Jim Romenesko, I apologize for calling you out for publishing this email since it seems to be verified as 100% real. Oh my. Oh, oh my ...

If you peruse the Starbucks Gossip blog run by Jim Romenesko, you’ll notice he posted an email supposedly written by Howard Schultz, Starbucks Chairman. This email derides decisions the company has made resulting in the commoditization of the Starbucks brand experience.

It’s a FAKE. That’s the opinion of this former long-time Starbucks marketer.

The fake email begins this way …

Read the entire FAKE email here.

My thin-slice and thick-slice reaction tells me it’s a 100% FAKE. Why? Six reasons why …

First, the FY08 strategic planning process started in 2006, not 2007. Starbucks begins its 2008 financial year in October of 2007. Ain’t no way the company is just now starting the planning process for FY08.

Second, Howard would NEVER single-out Flavorlock packaging as being a reason for the commoditization of the Starbucks experience. Instead, he would focus on the elimination of scooping whole bean coffees from bins. Flavorlock packaging made it possible for the company to ship roasted coffee all over the world while keeping it fresh. Without Flavorlock silver bullet 5 lb. bags, Starbucks today would be the size of In-N-Out Burger.

Third, Howard would take full responsibility upfront for the decision to phase out La Marzocco espresso machines in favor of the Verisimo machines. That was his call ultimately. He would acknowledge that upfront. Also, since this is an internal email, he would use the specific Verisimo name and not the generic “automated espresso machines” name.

Fourth, this email is devoid of any aspirtational tone. Howard, no matter how critical he is, will always exude an aspirational tone.

Fifth, nowhere in this email is the mention of the “Third Place” experience. Howard would NEVER send an email harping on the commoditization of the Starbucks experience without referencing the “Third Place” customer experience. NEVER.

Sixth, when this email touches upon the encroaching competition of other coffee places and QSRs, Howard would NEVER use strong language like, “This must be eradicated.” As a company, Starbucks is extremely careful to not use such language when talking about competitors. Starbucks learned from the anti-trust proceedings with Microsoft that internal emails using strong language that mentions killing/thrashing competitors could be used against them. Trust me, Howard would NEVER use such strong language about blunting competition.

I could go on but … I won’t.

A NOTE TO Starbucks Gossip Webmaster Jim Romenesko … I think you used very poor judgment in posting this fake letter. You have enough journalistic smarts to smell a fake. Shame on you. Someone just pulled a Howard Stern Baba Booey on ya.


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The Wall Street Journal is reporting that this memo is real - verified by an insider.

Wow. Thanks for sharing this with me. I'm shocked. But the WSJ is reporting this email was authenticated by a Starbucks spokesperson.


interestingly enough, the financial times is also reporting on the leaked memo, specifically citing as the leak's reporter. while they dont report authentication, its interesting to read don gher's reaction to the memo.


Typically, I don't like to see a fellow blogger post things without having all the facts. But in this case when I re-read your post in light of today's WSJ article I was impressed that you ventured an opinion in the first place.

This subject is, after all, what you get paid to know about.

You went out on a limb, and that's good for blogging. Perhaps you should have been harder on the issues and softer on the people (especially Jim Romenesko)-- but I also liked the way you immediately owned up to your error in a subsequent post. That takes humility.

All in all, your post appears to have been a "mistake of the head and not of the heart," as Stephen Covey would say. And that's completely forgivable in my book.

Keep on pushing the envelope.

I do not know much of John Moore's background other than he is an author, speaker,worked at Starbucks and left. My question to John is if he is so passionate about SBUX then why leave in the first place? He really went out to say the memo was a fake as if he was protecting Howard Schultz like a parent, and was pretty harsh on a fellow blogger in the process. That's concerning when you no longer work for the company and I am just wondering why.

Found more on John here. So I feel like I am up to speed on him now.

Ryan ... no worries ... I get asked that question a lot. Here's how I explain my decision to leave Starbucks.

Basically, I decided to divorce the company.

After eight-years being "married" to Starbucks, I wanted to do something else. Keep in mind, I started my Starbucks days when they had about around 425 locations and left when they had around 6,000 or so. I cherished my time there but decided I wanted to gain work experience outside of Starbucks. So, I left Starbucks. Just so happened that I hooked-up with a hottie brand in the shape of Whole Foods Market. I dated Whole Foods for 20 months but decided not to marry the company like I did Starbucks.

These days ... I'm a marketing gigolo. Dig?

My sincerest hope is that this message finds Mr.Shultz personally. I am not an sbux employee, or even a regular coffee patron. I am a husband, father, and actual believer of Mr. Schultz' supposed "vision" for this company. My wife started working for sbux 3.5 years ago. She was hired as an assistant manager, but was told that she would spend 90days as a shift supervisor to learn the ropes first. After the 90 days was passed her manager Lawrence was let go for using mistake coupons. The new manager Allen kept Trulena performing all the duties of an asst mgr while demonstrating he had no intention of promoting her. I finally convinced my wife to transfer to another store. After 2yrs, she was finally promoted to the position she was hired for, and had been performing all the duties of. Last summer, we had a death in the family and had to move to Amarillo. Since being instated as asst mgr at the Georgia st location, my wife has been continually sabotaged and berated by her new manager Janine. When Trulena got to the store Janine set the stage for her as a passive aggressive gossip war due to recent management changes, and expressed her desire to "team with my wife and retake the reigns" . Janine's first "team" act was to humiliate and ostracize my wife as follows: My wife notified her of a partner sharing a negative opinion of Janine with a customer- Janine demanded it be put on paper-Janine showed the paper to the partner and then took the partner's word against my wife. Then after my wife started noticing that there was an issue balancing the labor, the real war started. Apparently, managers are required to work certain shifts, Janine has been writing herself in for these shifts without actually being there. My wife, to avoid overtime, has been clocking out and staying an average of 5 hours a week to support her partners. Janine deleted a clock out for hours that my wife was in the store working, and when my wife entered the clock out back in was written up for time clock violation, a terminable offense. She was not let go, but was sternly warned for claiming less time than she had actually worked that day to avoid overtime. Yesterday, my wife was robbed at gunpoint. The assailant told her to give him the money or he would begin shooting her partners. She gave him the money and a state trooper who was having coffee there chased after the assailant. The customer behind him called 911 on her cell and so my wife went to call Janine. After the police and her manager had been notified she called me, her husband for support. I rushed to the scene and got there 25minutes before Janine. At 10:PM last night Janine called my home to tell my wife that she had chosen to call her loved ones rather than the police and thank god so-and-so was there. To me this is the straw that broke my back. Mr Shultz would have me belive that this company is based on dignity and respect, "Filling souls one cup at a time". So today we wait for the next round "souls laid off one family at a time" and I want to say the reason people pay 5 dollars for a cup of coffee isn't because the drink is exotic, it's because they were part of a family. By firing and closing and removing benefits, you are not helping your shareholders, your partners, or your clientelle. Your stock went up because the news released things like, you spend more on benefits than beans, and being rated the best place to work etc. Believe it or not people care about each other and when you put something in as part of a community and tell them their souls are cared for there, you are not going to make them feel better by firing their friends. We have been hanging on to the hope that these were individuals making my wife's journey with you difficult, and that filling souls was what this company was about. The siren's eye has never shone brighter than from this family. But maintaining that hope is becoming harder and harder. Why not offer a discount club, or I don't know, lower your prices? Instead of firing thousands. I bet if you lowered prices to help communities through the recession, you would really be living up to what we saw in you. However, the plan is to fire everybody, raise the price and expect the brand name to carry you through the bastardization of all your ethics? I cannot believe that after all I and my family have been through and sacrificed to be a part of your vision that you would let us so far down. I will happily go into further detail about any of the above topics if anyone takes this letter seriously.

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