Something that took me by surprise though, was the recent confusion behind their official, sponsored Flickr group. Apparently, the in-store photography policy isn’t clear, and group members have been clamoring for a straight answer for months now.
Back in September, several group members brought up the fact that they had been harassed by store managers when trying to take pictures — whether the subjects were Baristas or not. The admin stated that there was no official policy on customers taking non-press photos, but the situation spun out of control from there when questions weren’t answered.
In response to this, Starbucks completely locked down all threads and discussion in the group. Members were stranded and simply left with a solitary note from the admin:
“This group has helped inform us of the inconsistent experiences photographers have in our stores. We have put group discussion on hold until we have more updates on an official policy for photography in our stores. We appreciate your patience and encourage you to check back in the following months for an update.”
Many see it as a move to avoid criticism posted on the group boards, but the admins maintain that it was to avoid confusion.
I’m not the only one that doesn’t really believe that, since the boards helped to keep members informed about policy updates, and served as a place to share the “Starbucks Experience.”
Social media is about transparency, and corporations should expect to play the game just like everyone else. To start such an open group, just to shut it down due to a bit of criticism is wrong — they should have expected the backlash. Frankly, it makes things worse, and leaves a taste more bitter than any bad cup of coffee.
I expected better from Starbucks, I really did. They’re usually very successful in social media endeavors and good will campaigns.
It’s understandable that a fair photography policy needs to have time to take shape, but leaving group members hanging for months isn’t an ideal solution.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Starbucks! Living in Seattle gives me plenty of opportunity to enjoy what they offer, but I feel like a good friend has let me down.
[Image via Flickr]