Don’t Cry Over Spilled Coffee – Sue!

Nothing is stranger than the truth!  In case you missed it, a police officer in North Carolina is suing Starbucks for a spilled cup of FREE coffee.

Let me not make light of the fact that the officer purportedly burned himself when the lid popped off his free cup of Starbucks.  The officer claims that the coffee spill was so stressful that he had a flare-up of Crohn’s disease that ultimately contributed to surgical removal of a portion of his intestine.  His wife is also suing for the loss of intimacy with her husband.

My comments are not about the merits of the case but address why businesses do anything nice for customers when those actions can result in cases like the Starbucks spill.

For me the reason is simple!  Most customers appreciate kindnesses.  Yes, a customer could sue a hotel because the customer choked on the chocolate placed on their pillow but I say,  “give them the chocolate.”

If we treat every customer like they are out to cheat or harm us, we reduce our capacity to have maximum positive impact on the throngs of customers who would welcome the respect and kindness we extend.

Whether you are a business owner who treats employees like incipient thieves or a leader who encourages your people to assume the worst in customers,  I suspect you will attract the outcomes you predict.

I have found it both more gratifying and more productive to assume the best in people and manage those rare exceptions where people let me down than to assume the worst.

For now, I am headed to Starbucks to buy a cup of coffee in support of the way the company has delighted me through the years…

Smoke over black background

Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

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