This is a happy story about one guy making a difference. In this instance, it is me raising a fuss with several layers of the Starbucks corporation.

COVID-19 closed lots of Starbucks outlets in malls and elsewhere, so traffic at the open stores’ drive-thru windows increased dramatically. Driving etiquette at my nearby intersection evaporated as desperate caffeine seekers competed for the next spot in line for the Marine Street Starbucks drive-thru.

I could watch the action at the Pier/Lincoln intersection from my front room desk: Customers’ cars lining-up, their cars blocking Pier traffic to Lincoln Boulevard, Northbound coffee seekers intensely made their U-turns into any gap in the line. Cars turning from Lincoln onto Pier were likewise blocked while the U-turn drivers veered into traffic lanes as they maneuvered around the cars waiting to turn up Pier. It was an obstacle course suddenly materializing before tons of moving metal.

Whenever I could catch a manager at the store, I’d deliver my pitch that they should inform their drive-thru customers to avoid discourteous and illegal behaviors that inconvenience and endanger the neighbors. These pleas produced the same results as my requests to the Santa Monica police to park nearby from time-to-time, thinking the threat of traffic tickets might modify customer behavior. You guessed it — nada.

Time to work up the corporate ladder, and with Google’s help and Alexander Bell’s invention I found my way up and down four levels, collecting a case number and some email addresses in the process. After a few days and a few emails, I found my way back down to the recently hired area manager who was now ready to talk to me. She enumerated all the phone calls she had made to correct this situation, then pleaded, “What more can I do?”

Every now and then you can come up with the right snappy reply at the just right time and I ended up hitting the jackpot.

I said, “Fifty years ago I was taught an important management technique. ‘Put on your big boy pants, get out in the field, find out what the heck is wrong and fix it.’”

The next morning there were two new curbside headset-wearing order takers working the well-managed line-up. The area manager I advised was personally working the walk up window while monitoring the situation.

Tim Tunks

Santa Monica