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Updated: Starbucks employee says his manager discouraged bike use

Posted by on October 17th, 2006 at 8:23 am

[Update: The Director of Corporate Communications for Starbucks has responded to this story with a prepared statement.]

[Fabian Mills, former
Starbucks store manager]

30 year-old Northeast Portland resident Fabian Mills used to manage the Starbucks store on 102nd and Halsey near the Gateway Transit Center.

Back in August he rode his bike to a district meeting and got a surprising reaction from his new district manager, Frances Ericson. Here’s how it went down according to Mills:

“She pulled me aside and said she would prefer that I drove to the meeting. She asked me if I even had a car and then said it was inappropriate to ride my bike. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing but she actually said she would prefer if I drove a car and that it was unprofessional to ride a bike to work.”

Four days after this conversation took place Ericson transferred Mills to a new store in Troutdale at 257th and Stark. Mills was unhappy with the decision because the transfer would add 16 miles to his daily bike commute.

When Mills expressed his disappointment with the move, Ericson allegedly said, “you should just get over riding your bike.”

“I would prefer if you drove a car, it’s unprofessional to ride a bike to work.”
–alleged comments of Starbucks District Manager Frances Ericson

According to Mills, Ericson claims she moved him because of his poor job performance but Mills doesn’t buy that reasoning because in his 2 1/2 years with the company, he never once had a bad performance review and profits were up at his store.

Mills filed a formal complaint with the human resources and business ethics departments, but he’s not convinced the issue was ever taken very seriously. Mills doesn’t feel the company was tough enough on his former manager and he’s worried that she’ll continue to discourage bike use,

“Right now she manages eight stores, soon she could manage 110 stores…will her views continue as she moves up?”

Mills won’t be around to find out. He found the official response to his complaint so lackluster that he decided to resign and has since moved on (he now works for Bank of America).

I was surprised someone so high up at Starbucks would make these comments, especially given that one of Starbucks’ own guiding principles is to, “Contribute positively to our communities and our environment.”

I decided to contact Ericson about her alleged remarks. She said it is against company policy to speak to any media directly and she referred me to a marketing person. I eventually ended up with an email from regional director Michelle Cain. Citing privacy concerns, she refused to address any of my questions about Fabian Mills.

If Ericson did indeed say these things, this is a very unfortunate situation. Managers in influential positions (especially in large companies) should encourage bicycle use among their employees, not discourage it. Over 6,000 Portlanders from 550 companies took part in the BTA’s recent Bike Commute Challenge. Starbucks did not participate.

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Comments
  • brock October 17, 2006 at 8:31 am

    Just another reason not to go to Starbucks…

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  • Cecil October 17, 2006 at 8:35 am

    Wow, what a disappointing story. Not that I patronized Starbucks much to begin with, but this is the final straw (or coffee stirrer, to be more apt).

    Perhaps if this story gets picked up and spread, we can get a better answer from Starbucks or a policy change . . .

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  • TS October 17, 2006 at 8:40 am

    That’s pretty ironic, given your previous story about how bike-friendly Stumptown Coffee is.

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  • Wayne October 17, 2006 at 8:42 am

    Wow. Well I know where I will no longer be buying my coffee! Congratulations, Frances Ericson. You’ve just decreased the sales from your stores.

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  • Brad October 17, 2006 at 8:43 am

    It’s time again to call out the two wheeled militia!

    Starbuck’s boycott anyone? There might be some juicy media opportunities here. I seem to recall that McCoffee was a sponsor of the Bridge Pedal and the media likes a good tale about hypocrisy – “We love bikes…until an employee rides one.”

    I guess this puts Starbuck’s in favor of gridlock, global warming, continued dependence on fossil fuels, continued military involvement in the Middle East, dirty air and water, and obesity?

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  • Gregg October 17, 2006 at 8:50 am

    Encouraging bicycle use doesn’t have to mean encouraging people to show up to management meetings in spandex. I ride my bike to work and try to maintain a professional appearance but since I store my bike in the office and change in a storage closet, there are occasions when I have to adjust my behavior. Like days that we have out of area visitors or executives that may not understand cycling as much. Those are the days I take the bus.

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  • pdxrocket October 17, 2006 at 8:54 am

    Starbucks boycott? I thought we already did that? wtih all these great choices for REAL coffee in Portland, who in their right mind would go there?

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  • Scott B October 17, 2006 at 8:58 am

    Well, I guess Starbucks won’t lose my dollars because they never had any of them in the first place but still, what is wrong with this women?

    Jonathan, maybe you could post her email and we could all give her and their PR deparment a piece of our minds at the same time. Maybe I’ll write while drinking some Stumptown.

    And I sometimes thought maybe starbucks wasn’t the devil… I love close minded management.

    Starbucks: I’d get my friends to stop drinking your swill but they have already stopped drinking your swill. If you are a decent company lets here some answers. This women should be fired and Fabian deserves a fat bonus for bring this liability to the companies (and publics) attention.

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  • SKiDmark October 17, 2006 at 9:03 am

    It doesn’t surprize me at all. They said their some of their coffee was fair trade but of the beans that they claimed were fair trade less than 10% actually were. They have policies against employees having visible tattoos and piercings, citing that as unprofessional as well. They roast their beans too dark anyways and burn all the flavor out of them.

    Fabian needs to get an application into Stumptown Coffee right away.

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  • Kristen October 17, 2006 at 9:06 am

    Gregg, Fabian didn’t say that he showed up to work or the meeting in spandex. There’s no mention of lycra anywhere in Jonathan’s article. I think you rushed your judgement a little bit.

    That said, I agree that taking your employer into consideration when choosing an alternative form of transportation is a good idea, if only to find out what they think about it.

    I’m surprised that Starbucks would be so harsh on a manager with a good track record; it sounds to me like an unfair termination, and Fabian needs to contact BOLI and make a complaint.

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  • Mike Quigley October 17, 2006 at 9:10 am

    Yes! Boycott Starbucks starting NOW!

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  • Brad October 17, 2006 at 9:10 am

    Just a heads-up.

    Author Mitch Albom is doing a book signing at the Starbuck’s on NW 23rd and Overton from Noon to 1:00 PM TODAY.

    He is also doing a Starbuck’s sponsored book discussion and signing tonight at Concordia University in NE Portland.

    I mention this because his new book is a big Starbuck’s media push and it would be embarrassing if a bunch of cyclists showed up and starting promoting awareness of Fabian’s plight and Ms. Ericson’s anti-bike bias.

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  • Jonathan Maus October 17, 2006 at 9:25 am

    Kristen (comment 10) said:

    “it sounds to me like an unfair termination”

    Mills was not terminated for riding his bike. He resigned his position voluntarily.

    Also folks, please remember that until Starbucks speaks specifically about this issue and confirms or denies the statements of Frances Ericson, all of this is just an allegation from a former employee.

    I tried to make that clear in the story.

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  • Donna October 17, 2006 at 9:49 am

    Work has been stressful lately and I haven’t been feeling too positive about it these days. For all that, when I went to a manager’s meeting by bike last month, I was taken aside by the CEO and the HR director and thanked for providing such a healthy example to other employees. I’ve got to keep counting my blessings.

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  • Cecil October 17, 2006 at 9:55 am

    Jonathan, I agree that we need to hear more from Starbucks on this issue before absolutely condemning them, but it sounds like they are stonewalling you on your inquiries, which is not exactly a good PR move . . .

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  • Donna October 17, 2006 at 9:55 am

    On the subject of bike-friendly, downtown Portland alternatives to Starbucks, I have noticed that the staff at 2 shops are very bikey folks: Peet’s at SW Broadway and Washington and the new 3 Lions’ at SW 6th and Washington. Nice people, nice coffee and tea, and 3 Lions’ offers lunch as well.

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  • Richard October 17, 2006 at 9:57 am

    This is possibly just the action of a mid level manager in Starbucks. It may not reflect corporate policy at all. I’d suggest writing to their head office and complaining. Starbucks is a very marketing savy company – they will take action if they perceive that there is enough impact.

    Clearly they have good marketing, since they don’t have good coffee.

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  • Jaime October 17, 2006 at 10:13 am

    Sounds like Starbucks might just realize a good brisk ride in the morning may decrease the demand for their principle product.

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  • bravenewworld October 17, 2006 at 10:16 am

    FWIW, a relative who works at Starbucks is taking part in a subsidized (may be free) corporate “wellness” program that provides a fitness membership and access to a personal trainer. She was significantly overweight when she began the program (about six months ago) and is now looking pretty trim.

    As part of her transformation to an active lifestyle, she began commuting by bicycle a few miles to and from work, with the encouragement and support of her co-workers and, I presume, management.

    I know it’s easy and perfectly reasonable to pick on Starbucks and root for the local good guys. Just remember though, Starbucks essentially created the market for gourmet, quality coffee. The fact that there even exists a market for organic, shade grown, free-trade coffee is almost entirely a result of Starbucks bringing good coffee to the market in the first place, even if they don’t represent the zenith of sustainable and fair business practice.

    They are certainly far better to their employees and society than much of their corporate brethren.

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    • Pete May 6, 2011 at 11:04 pm

      Some good points here. Buying coffee from a local versus corporate vendor doesn’t lessen the environmental impact of actually growing coffee beans to fill the world’s demands.

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  • Cate October 17, 2006 at 10:25 am

    Richard said “This is possibly just the action of a mid level manager in Starbucks. It may not reflect corporate policy at all. I’d suggest writing to their head office and complaining. Starbucks is a very marketing savy company – they will take action if they perceive that there is enough impact.”

    Starbucks Corporate Social Responsibility program:

    http://www.starbucks.com/aboutus/csr.asp

    To contact Starbucks departments:

    http://www.starbucks.com/customer/contact_forms.asp?nav=3f

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  • John October 17, 2006 at 10:36 am

    The sad part is that this manager had no concept of a bike being a reasonable means of transport. She sees bikers as unsuccessful or some how a sign of non productivity, not well representing the company. Unfortunately this is far from a rouge manager, many people out side Portland think since i ride to work i must be impoverished or I just couldn’t afford a car. but when i tell them i save several hundred dollars a month by not driving suddenly they perk up.. and your in good shape? and you actually have a real job? perception…. is an interesting thing.

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  • SKiDmark October 17, 2006 at 10:44 am

    There were independent cafes serving “gourmet” coffee long before McStarbucks branched out from Seattle. Starbucks had a long history of moving in right next door to a small independent cafes (they call it location demographic research)and pushing them out of business with slick advertising and price undercutting. And because they are a large corporation, they can drive up rents even if the particular location is a loss leader. First Starbucks comes in, then Jamba Juice (they have a leasing agreement with Starbucks, next thing you know there is a Gap, and the independent cafe, the independent bookstore, and any other small mom and pop is driven out by higher rents, and another locally owned neighborhood business district becomes a corporate shopping mall.

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  • Molly stumptownsoymocha Cameron October 17, 2006 at 11:03 am

    A good point to be taken from this is that something like Bike to Work (BTW) can often be considered “preaching to the converted”.

    While the Starbucks manager may be in the wrong (in our opinion) she just needs to be exposed to the cycling lifestyle and be able to accept it as a reasonable option to cars on her own terms. (whether she likes to rides bikes herself or not)

    Same thing with Starbucks Inc. and the BTW challenge. Of course all the Portland bike shops, the BTA and downtown architect’s offices participated, we are all already avid cyclists.

    Instead of the BTW being our own cycling ego trip, it seems like we’ve forgotten one of the biggest employers in the NW!

    We should not start taking it for granted that everyone in the NW cares as much about cycling as we do.

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  • tonyt October 17, 2006 at 11:11 am

    Hey Donna,

    Thanks for the downtown coffee tips!

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  • Lee October 17, 2006 at 11:19 am

    ericson should be made aware that starbucks sponsors a womens team.
    http://starbuckscycling.com/

    … and forget all her formal mgmt training and get with the program. she’s not going to last anywhere with that kind of attitude.

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  • tonyt October 17, 2006 at 11:24 am

    For some reason, I keep envisioning Annette Benning in “American Beauty.”

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  • Joe Planner October 17, 2006 at 11:27 am

    Starbucks is supposedly a more responsible corporate employer. I’m sure if we just apply a little pressure and let them know that this is unacceptable behavior displayed by someone in a position of authority, they will rectify the situation. I will be writing a complaint to them.

    Jonathan, any suggestions on who we should write to?

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  • john q public October 17, 2006 at 12:01 pm

    Cate – Thanks for posting the Starbucks links. If anyone wants to use my email to Starbucks, feel free.

    “Please note that at least one Starbucks manager in Portland is participating in despicable behavior. Discouraging employees for bicycling to work is certainly not socially responsible. Please see web-link http://bikeportland.org/2006/10/17/starbucks-employee-says-his-manager-discouraged-bike-use/ . Until this matter is resolved, I will be encouraging everyone that I know to choose a coffee company that truly cares about its employees and the community.”

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  • Peter P. October 17, 2006 at 12:47 pm

    Starbucks “Environmental Footprint” and Transportation policies:
    http://www.starbucks.com/aboutus/transportation.asp

    My email below:
    “I am a Starbucks customer that is reconsidering where I spend my money on coffee. A Portland regional manager has discouraged Starbucks employees from using bicycles as transportation: http://.bikeportland.org/2006/10/17/starbucks-employee-says-his-manager-discouraged-bike-use/
    Bicycles are a legitimate commuting alternative to motor vehicles, and should not be considered “unprofessional”. If the story is true, the Starbucks regional manager’s actions contradict Starbucks own Sustainable Footprint policy! Please look into this allegation, and let me know if Starbucks stands by its environmental statements on transportation use.”

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  • Amy October 17, 2006 at 12:51 pm

    I used to live next door to Fabian…in fact talked about this very meeting with him the day it happened. As avid bikers, my husband and I were disappointed in Starbucks, to say the least! Congrats on the move away from a corporation that doesn’t embrace all forms of transportation…especially one that keeps our community healthy is so many ways. Bike on!

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  • JV October 17, 2006 at 12:58 pm

    Whenever I get fired up about something like this, I have to remind myself that you always catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

    While firing off an angry email is satisfying, it’s very likely to be ineffective (at best) or counterproductive (at worst). It’s a waste of your time and electrons.

    I would respectfully suggest something like….
    Dear Starbucks, Thank you for continuing to work toward a culture of corporate citizenship and responsibility. Since I know this is a priority for your company, I was saddened to learn of an unfortunate interaction between a Starbuck’s employee and his manager.
    http://bikeportland.org/2006/10/17/starbucks-employee-says-his-manager-discouraged-bike-use/
    Though the manager’s side of the story has yet to be told, and though her opinion may not reflect corporate policy, the perception she created is clear….blah blah blah.

    You get the point. Seems wimpy? Maybe. I’m not telling you to like Starbucks, but don’t confuse the issue. If you want to advocate for cycling/sustainability/health, then mixing in a pre-existing disdain for the company only makes your message less effective.
    Cheers,
    JV

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  • Anonymous October 17, 2006 at 1:04 pm

    He was *allegedly* transferred because of his bike-riding. The district manager *allegedly* said those things. We have one guy’s word and no proof. Just because it’s plausible doesn’t mean it’s true. Maybe the guy *was* a bad manager — how do we know? Because he said he wasn’t? Because Starbucks is a big corporation?

    I’m not defending Starbucks; hell, I encourage everybody to stop going there. But not because one employee *claims* he was fired for a stupid reason. There are lots of *substantiated* reasons to not go there.

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  • Cecil October 17, 2006 at 1:42 pm

    “Whenever I get fired up about something like this, I have to remind myself that you always catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”

    But as we always told my mom when she said this, “Yeah, but you can catch even more with manure.” Of course, we didn’t say “manure,” but I am trying to stay family-friendly here ;-)

    But seriously, JV is right – a reasonable approach begets a reasonable response. Come in with all barrels blazing and all you will get is resistance. My e-mail to Starbucks was surprisingly like what JV has suggested, and sent well before the post . . .of course, I have yet to see a response, reasonable or otherwise

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  • No Pets October 17, 2006 at 3:28 pm

    Don’t know if it’s been mentioned, but Starbucks just bought Coffee People, FYI. You have to stick to places like Stumptown to stay local.

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  • SKiDmark October 17, 2006 at 4:59 pm

    Coffee People was owned by Diedrich of California anyways.

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  • Fabian October 17, 2006 at 6:18 pm

    I felt it necessary to respond to some of the questions raised in the discussions about the article that Jonathan wrote.

    First I would like to say that I was neither late or dressed unprofessionally when I attended the district meeting in question. All that can be said is that I did not allow enough time to recover from the ride. This was a point made by Frances in our discussion with HR.

    I do strongly believe this is not the direction of the company but rather the action of one particular district manager. Her actions should not go unpunished yet she was just promoted to Regional Director which places her in direct supervision of even more Store Managers.

    This article is just my side of the story. I can tell you that in my discussions with HR, Frances did admit to the statements made however, for obvious reasons won’t admit to that in a written statement. If legal action is taken (I am considering) maybe then we will hear their side.

    My performance evaluations up to this point all indicate a performance that is in line with performance expectations.

    One other comment that Jonathan left out of the article was after Ericson allegedly said,
    “you should just get over riding your bike.” she then went on to say:

    “if you want to go anywhere in the company you need to stop riding your bike.”

    Which I felt was the worst comment made.

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  • Tasha October 17, 2006 at 6:34 pm

    This is weird. My husband works for Tazo, who are owned by Starbucks and they are VERY biker friendly there. I think they participated in the Bike to Work Challenge. I don’t like Starbucks, but this seems like the work of one person (if true), not a whole company. There are good and bad things about big corporations, Starbucks included, but don’t make judgments because of ONE incident.

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  • clinton rider October 17, 2006 at 6:38 pm

    Wow.If riding to work is unprofessional, then I guess a bunch of folks are unprofessional: King County Executive Ron Sims, US Rep. Blumenauer, Portland’s Randy Leonard…me.

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  • Jill October 17, 2006 at 8:52 pm

    I am a regular visitor to site, and as it happens, a member of the Starbucks women’s cycling team here in Seattle (not an employee though). I am also an avid bike commuter and saddened that any manager would discourage an employee from commuting and helping the environment, let alone a company that I represent and employs such good people. I’ve sent an email to our team captain to see if she knows anything and if headquarters can remedy this situation if they aren’t already in the process.

    I don’t know why Starbucks hasn’t participated in Portland’s BTW Day, but they are the leading sponsor of Seattle’s BTW Day . BTW sponsorship politcs?

    Thanks for bringing this to everyone’s attention Jonathon.

    Ride on,
    Jill

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  • John Boyd October 18, 2006 at 5:51 am

    Dang, so late to the party..

    Gregg, author o post no. 6:

    >Those are the days I take the bus.

    Those are the days you don’t live as you believe.

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  • organic brian October 18, 2006 at 2:20 pm

    I sure hope cyclists don’t need an ADDITIONAL reason to avoid Starbucks:
    http://www.ihatestarbucks.com/why.php
    http://www.organicconsumers.org/starbucks/081403_starbucks.cfm

    I often go to Red & Black Cafe. They have organic, fair-trade coffee, and I don’t drink coffee but I’ve heard it’s better than Starbucks. The prices are certainly better, and you can get a discount for using your own mug. They have more comfortable seating and frequent live entertainment, and you can get a variety of healthy and totally tremendous food. While Starbucks has an impenetrable bureaucracy, at R & B I brought up that I was disappointed they didn’t have gluten-free noodles for their unbelievably good Dragon Noodles dish, and they started keeping rice noodles as an option. There is a Starbucks across the street from R & B (it seems to be Starbucks company policy to position a store near any neighborhood coffee shop and try to undercut them and put them out of business). It is rarely ever filled to even 1/4 capacity. The store loses money every month, but Starbucks will keep it running because it is their policy that customers never have to go more than X number of blocks to get to a Starbucks in their market area. As a corporate giant with huge amounts of capital at their disposal, they can do stuff like that. They didn’t much care that the neighborhood very vocally opposed them putting the store there, they want it there to serve the car-commuters passing through.

    Also, “Delocator” helps you find non-corporate coffee, books, & movies. Feel free to add info about your own favorite places if they’re not already in their database:
    http://www.delocator.net/

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  • gwadzilla October 18, 2006 at 2:45 pm

    that is absurd…

    I would have to say that when I inteviewed for jobs years ago the topic of the bicycle came up a few times

    “how will you get to work when it snow?”

    well… that would be the most rational of the questions
    but
    I do not think that most interviews for jobs involve question of transport

    in most everycase I felt that the bicycle did not help me get the job

    I got none of the jobs

    my resume may not have helped either

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  • Cecil October 18, 2006 at 2:59 pm

    “how will you get to work when it snow?”

    That is exactly the same question that one of the partners at my firm asked when I suggested they save the money they pay for me to park because I don’t commute by car. The funny thing is that in this town the LAST thing I would do when it snows is drive – not because I can’t do it, but because the yahoos here can’t – I have never before seen as much stupid driving as I have in Portland in a snow storm :-)

    As for the earlier comment by another poster that he takes the bus on the days he needs to look professional, it is possible to ride a bike in a dress, skirt, or three-piece suit and tie. You just need to adjust your riding style a bit . . .and if you ride slowly enough you won’t even sweat (much).

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  • Rixtir October 18, 2006 at 3:21 pm

    I hardly see a business advantage for Starbucks to become known as the anti-bike company. I would think that would be an image they would not like to cultivate. Perhaps the District Manager is merely enforcing her own prejudices, and her bosses are unaware of this. Perhaps they should be made aware. Perhaps they should offer an explanation to the community in which they do business…

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  • Gregg October 18, 2006 at 3:38 pm

    My point before was that just because one person rides a bike to work, don’t expect everybody to agree with your mode of transportation. I was most particularly posting in expectation of the battle cries of “boycott starbucks!” and “get real coffee!”simply becuase the story contained . What’s the purpose of fighting them anyway? The subject of the story already mentioned that he gave up and moved on willingly!

    And to post 40: I live every day as I believe and many days I believe that I don’t have enough time to ride my bike to work.

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  • Nikki October 18, 2006 at 5:51 pm

    I am a barista at Starbucks. I ride my bike to work nearly everyday. I am saddened to read this article regarding a district manager within my company treating a coworker in such a condescending manner. I have never had a manager discourage me from riding to work. If this happened to me I would report them to the regional manager immediately. It is absolutely ridiculous to think one district manager’s opinion is the opinion of the corporation. I know others that work for Starbucks who commute by bicycle, unfortunately we did not get on the BTW challenge list. My own store has very few employees that drive to work, they either walk or bike. My store is located in downtown Portland however, so outer-lying metro area stores might have their own ethics, as many stores seem to vary by location. Starbucks does have a cycling team located in Seattle and it is also a large sponsor of the Bridge Pedal. I hope this incident is isolated and is taken care of immediately. I feel for the manager that felt he had to leave the company because of this ignorant individual.

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  • Cate October 18, 2006 at 6:05 pm

    Nikki,

    Fabian reported it to HR (post 36). Starbucks knew and didn’t resolve it. And his former manager was promoted to Regional Director. They knew and they promoted her anyway.

    It goes beyond “one district manager’s opinion”.

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  • Gregg October 18, 2006 at 7:07 pm

    Cate, it seem that you believe large companies are efficient machines but they simply are not. Just because they didn’t resolve this one person’s (out of 125,000 BTW) issue does not mean that they are anti-cycling. It just means that *something* in a huge company didn’t happen as expected and it may have even been out of the official corporate policy. I’m not a big fan of Stabucks’ *coffee* but I know they are one of the more socially responsible large companies out there and that and they get props for that. And instead of focusing on their negatives, it may be nice to send them a letter thanking them for, say, extending benefits to unmarried partners long before it became “cool” to do so. Just a suggestion.

    But the guy doesn’t work there anymore and has no official method of dealing with them directly which may have been a mistake. I have a similar transportation issue with my company but I’m sticking it out for the hope that they may recognize the benefits to me and all.

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  • Reena October 18, 2006 at 7:57 pm

    As much as I don’t support Starbucks, this doesn’t seem to stem specifically from a corporate view point. It looks like a personal issue from the district manager herself. People choose or can commute in various ways depending on life style choices, financial situations, location and various other factors. Mills may ride a bike to work because he likes riding or doesn’t have the means to have a car around, no one knows. This district manager needs to realize as someone with higher authority that that does not give you the right to tell anyone how they arrive to work especially if the employee makes it there in the first place. would she prefer him to walk? Run in the rain? Be late while waiting for a bus to take you all the way to Troutdale? This choice of transfering him to a farther location also boggles my mind. From what I can gather it seems like a very arrogant way of treating an employee and dispite Mills’ attempts to file a formal complaint this manager needs to be reported for lack of managing skills. Or any interpersonal skills in general.

    “Buy this car to drive to work, drive to work to pay for this car..” Let’s keep it up and we’ll all be going in one loopy circle for the rest of our lives.

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  • David Ross October 18, 2006 at 8:08 pm

    It doesn’t seem very common here but it is quite possible to dress professionally and ride a bike. Check out this photo from my recent trip to Vienna, an amazingly bike friendly big city.

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  • David Ross October 18, 2006 at 8:10 pm

    Apologies for above, including the image directly was not allowed in the comments. Here is a link.

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  • Jonathan Maus October 18, 2006 at 8:59 pm

    David,
    Just FYI images are allowed directly in the comments…you’ve just got to use the right code ;-).

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  • Cecil October 18, 2006 at 9:01 pm

    David said, “It doesn’t seem very common here but it is quite possible to dress professionally and ride a bike.”

    My point, exactly (post #43). When I was in Amsterdam (a city quite popular with Portland bikers, and I am sure it has absolutely nothing to do with the many “coffee” shops, and I don’t mean Starbucks), I was impressed with the wide variety of very professional business wear being sported by the cyclists (in addition to the wedding gown and numerous full-length fur coats). Further, and this may be easier for women, there is a wide variety of professional clothing that is made from materials (some even 100% “natural”) that can be stuffed in a messenger bag and come out unwrinkled (or fashionably wrinkled, like linen :->).

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  • Cate October 18, 2006 at 11:08 pm

    Gregg said “Cate, it seem that you believe large companies are efficient machines but they simply are not. Just because they didn’t resolve this one person’s (out of 125,000 BTW) issue does not mean that they are anti-cycling.”

    I don’t believe that at all. Not sure where you got that idea.

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  • p October 19, 2006 at 1:53 am

    Fabian, you said: All that can be said is that I did not allow enough time to recover from the ride.

    Can you elaborate? If you arrived sweaty and out of breath, well, then, she may have had a point. It doesn’t justify her generalizing about how cycling is necessarily unprofessional, but if you are going to ride a bike (as I do) then you need to allow time to either tidy up, or simply take the ride at an easier pace.

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  • Jeff October 19, 2006 at 6:16 am

    This is kind of funny to me. To me, Starbucks coffee always tastes burnt, and now I’ve found out that they burn their employees, too.

    (rimshot)

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  • clotbuster October 19, 2006 at 1:46 pm

    We wrote to Starbucks that they need to make this right with Fabian as too many cyclists contribute to their bottom line! We do not plan to frequent them any longer on our rides because of this. Good luck Fabian and good for you for standing up for cycling!

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  • SKiDmark October 19, 2006 at 4:18 pm

    You should support the local independent cafes and roasters anyways, IMHO.

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  • josh October 19, 2006 at 8:24 pm

    exactly.
    I boycotted starbucks years ago because their coffee sucks.

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  • Ryan October 19, 2006 at 8:37 pm

    As a partner at starbucks, I am disappointed that someone would mask there poor performance, with such crap. More then five partners at my store, including myself commute to work daily. Did I also mention that Starbucks supports many competative riders, including one in my store!

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  • Macaroni October 19, 2006 at 10:17 pm

    I think I’ll start making a note of bike racks or the lack thereof outside of Starbuckses.

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  • josh m October 20, 2006 at 1:01 am

    I’ll just say it again, their coffee sucks. that should be enough.

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  • Stuart October 20, 2006 at 7:07 am

    “Just remember though, Starbucks essentially created the market for gourmet, quality coffee. The fact that there even exists a market for organic, shade grown, free-trade coffee is almost entirely a result of Starbucks bringing good coffee to the market in the first place…”

    But they don’t make good coffee, Charbucks makes overly roasted coffee in order to cut through the grams of dairy fat and sugar they pump into they’re Baskin-Robbins style coffee drinks. Why would they back health initiatives with anything but hypocritical lip service.

    As far as the merits of “Fair Trade Coffee,” do a little research: mere minimum wage for local farmers, big mark-ups for brokers, and nice price hikes for the coffee shops. Marxist fetishization at its worst. The best business model I’ve seen is the Juan Valdez approach of local farmers banding together to build a brand, eliminate the middleman, and own the final means of distribution. That’s not bobo “Fair Trade,” that’s sound business.

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  • some biker at starbucks October 20, 2006 at 7:38 am

    This is TOTAL BS!!!!! I am a manager for Starbucks and I ride my bike every day!!! It is too bad pepople have to make up dumb excuses for poor performance!!!!!!!! Starbucks is a HUGE advocate of work-life balance!! If you just take a moment to think about this article, judge for yourself, it does not make sense!

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  • John Boyd October 20, 2006 at 8:22 am

    *This* gentleman would like some coffee but all he sees are Starbucks.

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  • Gregg October 20, 2006 at 9:01 am
  • John Boyd October 20, 2006 at 9:19 am

    Thanks Gregg, best proof that google is worth their stock price i’ve seen.
    My comment was to be a caption for a image i was trying to upload to no avail.

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  • Stuart October 20, 2006 at 9:22 am

    It sounds like they walk the walk, much like many companies that take socially responsible PR stances (like BP), but do they talk the talk when it means changing their expectations regarding attire and perspiration? Real change means real paradigm shift, not sponsorships and soundbites.

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  • brock October 20, 2006 at 9:38 am

    Gregg, nice link. To get a little more local, search for “[zipcode] coffee -starbucks”

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  • Kent Peterson October 20, 2006 at 11:03 am

    I don’t know anything about the story in Portland but yesterday 10/19/06 I was
    at an employee transit fair at Starbucks World Headquarters in Seattle. I was there in my capacity as Commute Program Director for the Bicycle Alliance of Washington. Chris Cameron, my counterpart from Cascade Bicycle Club, was
    also there, as were represtatives from King County Metro, Sound Transit, and various
    other transit agencies. In the parking lot were demo Smart Cars, E-cars, etc.

    I talked to dozens of bike commuters, potential bike commuters and multi-modal commuters.

    I work with lots of companies with issues involving commuting. From a corporate
    standpoint, everyone I’ve dealt with at Starbucks has been extremely pro-bike.
    The have provided a lot of support for the Seattle Bike-To-Work day and the environment at
    Starbucks HQ is very bike-friendly. They have also donated to various bike causes.

    If you want to vent your rage, have at it, but I think generalizing from this one story is a mis-placed effort.

    BTW, my favorite coffee shop is the indepent Zeitgeist shop around the corner but really can’t jump on a Starbucks bashing bandwagon. I know too many good, well-meaning people who work at Starbucks and they are walking the walk
    and riding the ride.

    My $.02

    Kent Peterson
    Commuting Program Director
    Bicycle Alliance of Washington

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  • beth October 20, 2006 at 11:35 am

    I have two jobs. One of them is as a bicycle mechanic, so riding to work is a no-brainer. The other is as a teacher in a private [synagogue] religious school, where I am asked to have a “professional appearance that is appropriate to one’s role as a teacher”. I bring a nice shirt and slacks in a pannier and change at the school after my shift at the bike shop is done.

    I began riding to that teaching job in 1998. There was no bike rack outside, so I locked my bike to a parking sign near the front door. People stared, gasped aloud and wondered how I handled the traffic and the foul weather. Eventually they began asking me about my commute. I answered. My students started looking for my bike each week to make sure I was there. A few parents began to report that their kids wanted to start ridng their bikes to soccer practice and the like. “She must be SO healthy from all that riding,” they’d say. “Maybe if I rode more I’d get in better shape for sports.”

    Today, at least three teachers and the principal ride to religious school regularly. There is now talk of asking the city to place a bike rack in front of the synagogue. Meanwhile, on foul-weather days I am encouraged to bring my bike inside and park it in a corner of my classroom if I wish. My principal tells me that he is inspired to ride more because of my example. My high school-aged students who take up driving tell me that because they have a teacher who rides, they are much more aware of cyclists on the road. When a friend of theirs was injured while riding his bike last year, the kids came to religious school, said a prayer for him, and then turned to me and tearfully begged me to be careful out there. “Make sure you have lots of lights!” they told me. “You should wear a reflective vest at night!” I hugged them back and promised to ride safely and responsibly.

    It feels wonderful to be scolded by my students, and very humbling to know that my simple act of choosing to ride a bike to work has made an impression.

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  • [...] Lotsa reports about un-nice Starbucks managers today: At least one district manager in Portland seems to be anti-biking. Fabian Mills(right) quit his job as manager of a Starbucks store after he was told by his district manager that it was inappropriate for him to ride his bike. WTF? [...]

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  • SKiDmark October 20, 2006 at 9:24 pm

    It probably is the action of a single employee and not the view of the company. But as we have seen her actions effect the people who work under them. First, she gives him a hard time about riding a bike and essentially tells him to “grow up and drive a car to work”. Then when he ignores her ridiculous request, she passive-agressively makes his bike commute twice as long, possibly to force him to submit to her will and get a car, at the very least to punis him. And now she is managing even more people? Nobody should be working under such a power-tripping narrow minded…..person.

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  • [...] The story I posted Tuesday about former Starbucks employee Fabian Mills and the alleged anti-bike comments made by his manager Frances Ericson, has quickly spread around the web. [...]

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  • New Biker-Met Fabian October 21, 2006 at 11:49 am

    By chance on the day before my interview with Starbucks I met Fabian at my bank. What are the odds? I mentioned I had an interview with Starbucks and he said he just left his job there. We talked a bit more and he explained about why he left. Well, I am new to the whole bike commute lifestyle and am finding it very hard to find jobs that you don’t have a driver’s license. I raised my concerns since prior to this I have heard nothing but positive things about working for Starbucks from both present and past employees. Fabian was quick to point out that this was an isolated insident and that he still thought Starbucks was a great company to work for and told me to go to my interview. Which I did. If I get the job maybe I will be the poster boy for Starbucks “new policy” on bike riding to work. lol! Well, stranger things have happened. Fabian was very supportive and I was impressed with my first impression of him. Starbucks loss was BofA’s gain.

    Thanks again Fabian for taking the time!

    A BofA customer.

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  • Cate October 21, 2006 at 4:55 pm

    David Ross, Post 51
    Apologies for above, including the image directly was not allowed in the comments…

    Jonathan Maus, Post 52
    David,
    Just FYI images are allowed directly in the comments…you’ve just got to use the right code ;-).

    John Boyd, Post 67
    …My comment was to be a caption for a image i was trying to upload to no avail.

    Jonathan, could you let us know what the code is to put images in the comments? Maybe we need a bikeportland.org FAQ?

    Off-topic, again… :-)

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  • MarBar October 22, 2006 at 12:40 pm

    In my little town (Lincoln, NE), no self respecting cyclist would set foot in a Starbucks. The boycott began the day they opened their first store. There are just too many better choices. They will survive without us, but the entrepreneurial java huts get to survive WITH our help. Kudos to Mr. Mills for keeping his soul.
    Frances Ericson is just another self important middle manager who despises sweat in her hair and who has no idea how to appreciate the true wealth of America, the stand alone businesses and the individuals and non-conformists who don’t do things the easiest way. Her loss but we don’t want her anyway.

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  • [...] Either way. Lame. Second time Starbucks has pissed me off this week. Not really all that good of a run really. [...]

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  • Micah October 28, 2006 at 4:45 pm

    I’m a barista too, not at Starbucks but at the Canadian more-or-less-equivalent (non-indie), and not only is my boss cool with me riding to work (actually every boss I’ve ever had has been) but lets me bring it inside and keep it locked in the back room, even on nice days. When a co-worker had her bike stolen out of that room, our boss installed a lock on the door. /And/ gave my co-worker an old bike of his wife’s that was no longer being used. How cool is that? And when I see other cyclists come in I always try to acknowledge them and say something along the lines of ‘you’re awesome’ and push the refill-10c-off button. Which I also do anytime someone brings in their own mug. But I digress. Hurrah for cyclists, especially those who ride despite those who oppose them! P.S. I don’t drink coffee myself but customers always tell me they find Starbucks too bitter. Ha!

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  • deborah May 5, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    Shockingly poor management and decision-making skills on the part of Frances Ericson. I hope that Starbucks Corporate sees her bad management of personnel and treats her accordingly. I don’t frequent Starbucks, but I have plenty of friends throughout the country that do, especially in places that don’t have as many local coffee options as we do here. I’ll make sure to tell them about this corporate policy.

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  • Matt May 6, 2011 at 10:02 am

    I’m sorry but as a current Starbucks employee I have to chime in here.

    You are all entitled to your own opinion of our coffee and for the record, I think this manager’s actions are inexcusable. However, calling Starbucks an anti-cycling company is flat out WRONG.

    I work in the HQ office in Seattle and it is so accommodating to cyclist that I have given up my car all together. I receive about $20-25/month for bike commuting, they have a restricted card accessed bike cage for bike commuters only, our own locker room and showers, we have 9 teams in the bike to work challenge, and we have a bike to work station set-up with food, drinks, prizes and a LBS doing free maintenance for the month. They discourage car use by having a 2+ yr waiting list to use the company garage and offer heavily subsidized commuter passes for public transit. I realize Starbucks is a large corporation like many others but shouldn’t we encourage the McDs and Burger Kings of the world to be more like us?

    If you don’t like our coffee that’s fine, but I cannot let it slide that you think my company is against cycling. This is one bad manager out of thousands that are probably very accommodating to cyclists in every respect.

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  • deborah May 6, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    hey Matt – it’s great to hear how accommodating and encouraging your location is for bike commuting.

    I hope that Francis Ericson and her people and policy management skills get some attention from corporate. Though from what Nikki said earlier, it seems that now she’s this incident occured, and was reviewed by corporate, she been promoted to Regional Director.

    Maybe this is becoming more corporate policy than your location currently reflects. I hope that’s not the case, but it does appear that way.

    Cate
    Nikki,
    Fabian reported it to HR (post 36). Starbucks knew and didn’t resolve it. And his former manager was promoted to Regional Director. They knew and they promoted her anyway.
    It goes beyond “one district manager’s opinion”.

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  • Matt May 6, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    Like I stated before, I do not support the actions of this manager. All of the values from SBUX corporate, which is incredibly bike friendly, is supposed to cascade down into the field.

    We have to be realistic here. There are close to 140,000 Sbux employees worldwide and we are nitpicking one person that isn’t even in the corporate office. I don’t think anyone here truly believes she was promoted to Director because of her anti-bike stance.

    As a person that uses my bike as my main source of transportation, I am ashamed that one of my cohorts behaved in this manner. But please do not assume that her actions are a representation of our corporate culture, which is the most bike-friendly I’ve ever experienced.

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  • [...] If I’m criticized for my unprofessional appearance at work, I can be sure that it’s not because of my mode of transportation (unlike this guy). [...]

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