How Starbucks Ate Up All Of My Books
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The most exciting moment of any young author’s life (actually of any author young or old) is seeing and touching the first copy of their book. I am sure it is the same joy that is felt when a baby is born but I can only verify that through movies and baby delivery documentaries. But yet that moment is magical, as months of hardwork, endless editing and critiquing are finally transformed into an actual physical book. That was the same joy I felt just last April when I was informed that the first copies of my second book How Laziness Saved My Life were waiting for me at home. I could barely contain my excitement as I viciously tore open the box with my car keys and hurriedly grabbed the first copy I could lay my hands on. I rapidly flipped through the book but rather than the joy I had anticipated for so long I felt [blank]! It is that kind of feeling that you get when you find out that you just got dumped. I should have been happy today but all I felt was sadness as the realization of what had happened began to sink in. The words in the book had come out all fuzzy and what should have been an awesome book instead looked like a bootlegged version of a bootlegged version. I was dumbfounded! Honestly, this would not have been an issue if it was just one box, but with 80 other boxes on a truck making their way to shipping dock it was catastrophic!
How did this happen and why! I felt stupid for not catching the error before it went to press and for printing so many books. Thus violating my very own self-publishing rules. As I went to bed that night, there were two burning thoughts in my head…“Save money and proceed with the books in their poor condition” or “scrap the entire package at a significant loss and reprint.” My financial side wanted to proceed with the books, but my crazy side, the side that had preached for hours on end about the importance of quality and integrity wanted me to scrap the books. As an entrepreneur I was stuck between a rock and a really hard place…it reminded me about an interesting coffee story.
In June of 2008 at the height of the US financial crisis, unemployment had jumper to 5.5 percent, gas prices were climbing aggressively and layoffs were happening everywhere as companies scrambled around searching for ways to reduce expenses…Starbucks was not spared. As the largest coffee retailer in the world, Starbucks was faced with several options to reduce cost. One of them had to do with coffee beans. Starbucks roasted up to four hundred million pounds of coffee a year and financial calculations showed that if they reduced the quality of their roasted coffee by just 5%, they could save a few million dollars. This would greatly increase their chance of recession survival and furthermore, market research revealed that less than 10% of its customers would be able to tell the difference between the standard high quality coffee and the newly proposed lower quality coffee. CEO Howard Schultz faced a dilenma…save money or honor the Starbucks mantra of quality. Schultz chose the latter, stating that “Starbucks would never sacrifice quality for the sake of saving costs.”
I loved telling that story to people, but as I lay in bed on the Friday April 27th I
began to snore slowly began to realize that while story-telling was fun…the actual implementation of the lessons was difficult. With 4500 copies already printed and a well publicized release date of April 2012 the pressure to stick with the poor quality books was great. A compromise would have been to sell the books at a lower price to recuperate the initial printing cost, but again this would clash with my personal philosophy of quality quality quality. So I made what was easily one of the most painful financial decisions I had ever made in my life and opted to fix the error and re-print the book. And thus eating up the 80 boxes of books as a business loss…all because of Starbucks!
As businesses and entrepreneurs, we hope never to be in situations like this, but we cannot control everything sometimes stuff happens and we are pressured by money, delivery deadlines and others factors to get faulty products out. But the sign of a good business are the ones that are willing to take short-term losses to deliver long-term and high quality products for their customers. You might be sitting on something today that requires the same type of action. Your decision might seem financially illogical, but whatever you do, remember that quality might seems like a poor choice short-term but long-term it would go a long way in upholding your brand and image.
NOTE: The print error was actually caused by a PDF font embedment problem that I did not catch when I sent file to the printers. And the font fuzziness was not easy to detect during printing. Fortunately the printers have been willing to work with me on rectifiying the problems and further minimizing the losses by offering discounts on the re-prints. So watch out for the new May release date for the high Quality version of How Laziness Saved My Life Book and thanks for your support and patience as always.