News, features, and commentary from the biggest city in the Americas, Mexico City.

Smoking Continues at Starbucks Mexico, Despite Ban Elsewhere

Starbucks' Condesa café on Tamaulipas. (Photo: Darren Popik)

Starbucks’ Condesa café on Tamaulipas. (Photo: Darren Popik)

An Open Letter to Howard Schultz, CEO Starbucks —

Dear Mr. Schultz:

As a long-time Starbucks frequent customer, I applaud your move to make the company’s US and Canadian stores 100% smoke-free, by extending the ban to all outdoor/patio space.

I believe it truly does reinforce the Starbucks image in a positive way, as a healthy environment in which to enjoy a quality coffee and to meet with friends.

My issue is with your company’s Mexican operations. Here in Mexico City, the Starbucks cafés apparently don’t believe in the health of their customers. Smoking continues here, unabated.

Ashtrays - things that don't belong on any Starbucks table. (Photo: Darren Popik)

Starbucks says “smoke away!” at its Condesa stores. (Photo: Darren Popik)

In the news reports of the smoking ban in the US/Canada, a company spokesperson in Seattle remarked:

“We take seriously our responsibility to provide all customers a safe, healthy environment that is consistent across our company-owned stores.”

And your Mexican customers? Do we not deserve a safe, healthy environment?

Regrettably, I have come to the conclusion that non-smokers such as myself are not valued customers for your Mexican partner, Alsea, or whoever is actually in charge of running your Mexican operations.

So, do you care about our health or not, Starbucks? Inside, yes, outside - hell no. (Photo: Darren Popik)

Conflicting messages: Inside, we care about your health. Outside, we do not! (Photo: Darren Popik)

Mexico City has a great year-round, moderate climate. And there is nothing I enjoy more than to take advantage of the fresh air at the city’s many outdoor cafés and restaurants. But I cannot do this at Starbucks, because the aroma of my coffee, and the fresh air, are ruined by customers puffing away next to me, filling the air with a thick cloud of smoke that makes me physically ill.

I have tried to contact your management in Mexico, but to no avail. They are the most customer unfriendly operators I have ever seen. It’s quite a contrast with Starbucks north of the border.

I have attempted to ask the Starbucks Mexico people why they won’t prohibit smoking here. I’ve tried to contact them via Facebook, Twitter, email, and even the online comment submission form. Nobody ever replies.

Furthermore, this was also the case when I have attempted on previous occasions to submit questions or comments on other issues — zero response. I really wonder what these people do. They are discrediting the Starbucks name.

I should say, however, that your front-line workers here — the baristas — are the real credit to the company here. They do a good job of making me feel welcome. The smokers, however, are a major turn-off, and are the reason why I have turned to giving my business to the competition.

I don’t know how much control your Seattle headquarters has over your Mexican operations, but I had to tell you how the Starbucks brand is being seriously damaged in Mexico.

I admire what you have achieved with Starbucks since that first store by the Pike Place Market. It’s a great success story, and I hope that it continues.

I thank you for your time, and for listening to your customers.


Darren M. Popik

Mexico City

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This entry was posted on July 5, 2013 by in Commentary, Food and Drink and tagged , , , .
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