When the company rolled out its mobile order service in 2015, I watched with interest. It really has changed the dynamic in the store. With all of these online orders flooding in, it is difficult to know where my order falls in the queue. That said, mobile ordering hasn’t diminished the quality of my customer experience, but it has introduced an unexpected health concern.
A health risk: One problem with the online ordering is that the person who ordered the drink is often not in the store when the drink is prepared. The barista calls our the name on the order (“Mobile order for Dan”), and then places the drink on the counter with all of the other mobile orders. Suddenly, there are a bunch of drinks on the counter. As customers enters the store looking for their online orders, they start handling (touching) the drinks to find their own. You see, the stickers Starbucks prints out and places on the cups aren’t particularly easy to read and are often covered up by the cup sleeve or are turned away from the customer. People continually walk up to the array of drinks and manipulate them to determine which one is their order. Let me be clear, I don’t want anyone handling my drink. But what I object to the most is people who handle the cups by grabbing them by the lid. I see this happen every day at my Starbucks and at other locations that I visit during my travels. (I have a similar issue with restaurant menus that are not sanitized after each use.)
In my line of work I have developed a keen appreciation for hand hygiene – and an understanding of just how many people fail to adhere to good hand hygiene practices. These Starbucks customers could have the flu or some other contagious condition, and are touching the lid of a drink that may not be their own. The germs travel from their hand to another customer’s lips. It is disgusting. It is bad hygiene that could lead to the transmission of nasty infections!
What should Starbucks do? I believe Starbucks should encourage customers not to handle cups by the lids. That seems like a simple message that could be communicated in the store through signage. Starbucks could also coach baristas to place the cups on the bar with the sticker facing the customer. That would make it easier (still not perfect) for customers to identify their drinks. I’m sure there are a number of solutions. My objective is to keep Starbucks from becoming a distribution point for the spread of the common cold, influenza, noroviruses, nosocomial infections, hepatitis and other diseases/illnesses that are easily transmitted by touch. Is that too much to ask?