Free stuff. We all love it. We’re gluttons for freebies.
Today’s big freebie was the latte giveaway at Starbucks. Turn up, introduce yourself and they’ll give you a free coffee [update: their free lattes are only given out until noon on the 14th of March 2012].
I’m not a Starbucks regular; nor do intend to be. My morning coffee comes from a coffee shop that’s locally owned and run and exiles in slightly sour service. I won’t name them, but their sour service is exactly why I go there. No ‘good morning, how are you?’ just the drink and nothing more.
However, there are those who do like the hyper-American service levels of our national chains. Just not me.
I found out about the free coffee today via The Penny Post’s Twitter account. Whilst I was in Starbucks enjoying my free latte (it was perfectly nice, by the way) I looked at the huge number of re-tweets of this offer by followers of The Penny Post. I then looked at a comment by the chap who runs (owns?) Flavours at the top of High Street in town, opposite Cardiff Castle.
I’ve eaten in Flavours a couple of times and the food (and service) is really nice. Looking at the guy’s Twitter account, it seems he’s really into the whole local thing. Which is great. The business promotes a positive atmosphere, so it’s a surprise to see such a negative comment on their Twitter feed in response to The Penny Post’s free coffee tweet:
“@ThePennyPostCDF ‘they’ really need the extra promotion. And I thought u were a local company?”
This is an opinion post and this is my opinion. Why would the owner (or whoever is in charge if their Twitter account) take the time to sprinkle a little negativity in the morning?
Sure, The Penny Post is a local, Cardiff-based publication but does that exclude them from letting their readers know about a freebie from a national chain in town? I don’t think it does. If Topshop were giving away a free jumpsuit, I’d want to know as much as I’d want to know if Flavours were giving away a free pasty.
Encouraging dialogue with your customers (both old and new) is vitally important in this social media age. It’d be damn hard for Starbucks, given its size, to create a dialogue or story with it’s customers. So, they’re giving stuff away. It serves the same purpose of creating a buzz around a product or brand. Maybe Flavours doesn’t have to budget to have a giveaway. In which case, it’s hyperlocal outlook could be used well to create a conversation with its customers. Looking at their Twitter account, it seems that this is not happening. An “our *insert product here* is great” Tweet will be roundly (and rightly) ignored.
More worryingly though is this attitude from many local businesses that all bug business is bad. Yes, Starbucks may be a multinational but it employs local people. And the wages and benefits the company pays to it’s employees outstrip those of of over 60% of ‘local’ businesses.
So before we bash Starbucks too much (and The Penny Post for telling us about the free coffee) let’s remember that they provide hundreds of jobs for LOCAL people. Admittedly, they have a marketing budget bigger than their local competitors but that is, basically, tough sh*t.
Their big budgets cannot compete with the love felt for our local businesses. But this love is not unconditional. Local businesses should stop whining, think smart and use their unique advantages to take on their multinational competitors by exploiting their customer’s innate love of all things local.
Also, a free coffee now and again never hurts.