Business Week: Starbucks' Hard Sell of Via is Irritating Customers, Baristas

Posted on November 13, 2009

Starbucks is really pushing its new instant coffee, Via. Business Week reports that Starbucks' aggressive sales pitch for its new instant coffee Via is really irritating customers and baristas alike.

Baristas seem themselves as bartenders, not sales people, and really hate having to push the new product. Customers don't like the hard sell either.

It's too early to say whether Via is a success. But judging from the coffee blogs, including the company's mystarbucksidea.com, for some baristas the pressure to sell the product is intense and unwelcome. "This is the most stressful promotion I have ever experienced, and I've been with the company for seven years," a barista wrote on starbucksgossip.com. Some customers are finding the hard sell a bit exasperating, too. As one wrote: "Please no more high-pressure Via sales pitches. It's annoying - it's completely out of line with Starbucks' vibe."

Another barista is quoted as saying, "I have seen more annoyed customers than enthusiastic ones from all these strong-arm sales tactics. ... Not to say it's not a good product. I think it just needs to be kept in the supermarkets next to the other Starbucks mass-market frill."

We've seen Via in our local Starbucks but so far no one has tried to sell us any. We haven't tried it, so we have no idea how it tastes. But then again we really don't drink instant unless we are in some kind of emergency situation where espresso is unavailable.

Here's Starbucks describing Via.


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