Photo: tony_donnelly on flickr
One of the disadvantages to most part-time jobs is the lack of benefits. But Starbucks Corp. doesn’t discriminate, providing the ubiquitous coffee chain’s 95,000 part-timers with full health insurance benefits.For many who lost full-time jobs during the Great Recession and got part-time gigs at Starbucks, that’s been a lifeline, providing them continued access to medical care and prescription drugs that they might otherwise have lost. And that — along with stock options — are among the reasons why the company is on many “best places to work” lists, including the World’s Most Ethical Companies by Ethisphere, a Manhattan-based think tank that promotes business ethics.
With nearly 150,000 employees, Starbucks does a lot of hiring. On any given day in the U.S. and Canada, the company hires 140 new staff — or more than 80,000 people each year. CareerBuilder, an AOL Jobs sponsor, lists some 500 Starbucks jobs.
Still, says Marissa Andrada, who heads up human resources for Starbucks in the Americas, the company’s employee-churn rate is roughly half that of the average retailer. (You can apply online at Starbucks.com or start your search here.)
If you’re really eager, stop in at your local Starbucks and apply there. Andrada told AOL Jobs that store managers and other employees actively seek out potential employees among customers and are eager to speak with anyone “who has the energy and the passion for coffee and the passion for connecting with customers.”
What’s the interview process like at Starbucks? A random sample of Glassdoor reviewers’ responses suggests that the company asks some pretty standard interview questions. Among those noted:
- Tell me a situation in which you failed?
- What would you do if a customer complained about something that was really good?
- How would you deal with an angry customer?
A commenter on career-site Glassdoor who reports interviewing for a barista position in Mesa, Ariz., offered a bit more insight, saying the “process was very relaxed and my interviewers made it very easy and comfortable.”
The contributor says the most difficult question asked was about personal weaknesses or dealing with being wrong. “When I was asked, I gave my most honest answer and was respected for it. I was not judged, but instead they confided in me their mistakes as well so we could share the humiliation as a group and not as two interviewers singling out a potential employee.”
Starbucks’ culture is akin to working with your friends and family, Andrada says, noting that the company refers to its employees as “partners.” When recruiting, the company seeks out people who have a need to connect with customers and co-workers, she says. “We look for those partners who create an engaging environment and who can really share a passion for coffee.”
Still, the sheer volume of Starbucks staff and the nature of retail work nearly assures that some employees — both current and former — won’t be happy. And there are no shortage of message boards and websites devoted to complaints about working for the company.
One example, posted on the online forum ihatestarbucks.com by a commenter named C2, says there is no upside to being promoted to shift supervisor at Starbucks. But C2 notes several “bad” things about the job:
- Insignificant pay raise.
- More work.
- More responsibilities.
- 40 hours every week.
- Lack of scheduling flexibility.
A lack of a flexible schedule is a concern shared by another commenter, “PerkyPolly,” who adds that she (presumably) doesn’t like, “Being held accountable for everything but not being able to do anything about lazy baristas who like to show up late.”
PerkyPolly does, however, see some upside to the job: “You have a stronger voice, looks good on a resume.”
Even the appealing health insurance benefit has prompted complaints. Some workers who claim to have worked at Starbucks say they weren’t able to maintain their health benefit because managers deliberately shortened their work hours. (To be eligible for health coverage, employees must work a minimum of 20 hours a week, or 240 hours during a quarter.)
Andrada says that she isn’t aware of instances in which managers deliberately cut workers’ hours to deny them access to health coverage. She also says that offering health benefits to part-timers is an effective recruiting tool that will remain in place despite the ongoing implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which some refer to as Obamacare.
Many people also complain about the pay. Baristas earn an average of $8.77 an hour, based on 784 responses on Glassdoor’s site. That amount doesn’t include any tips that baristas might earn, as well as any cash bonuses or stock options. Shift supervisors earn a bit more — an average $10.29 an hour, based on 372 responses, while store managers, who are paid salary, earn about $44,000, based on an average of 341 responses on Glassdoor.
Andrada says Starbucks looks at overall compensation — not just hourly wages or salaries. In addition to pay and the previously mentioned health benefits and stock awards, the company also offers tuition reimbursement, a matching-gifts program for employees’ charitable contributions and perks, such as in-store discounts and free coffee.
Despite these concerns, Starbucks employees appear fairly positive about working conditions, according to Glassdoor. More than 1,700 reviews from users who say they are or were Starbucks employees give the company an overall rating of 3.6 stars out of 5.
One former Starbucks “barista” from Glen Ridge, N.J., said working there was “an upbeat, challenging learning experience,” adding that the company is supportive and looks at out for its employees. “They have what’s called a Cup Fund that you can apply for if you are suffering a financial hardship. I applied when I was struggling to pay the rent and they helped me out,” the former employee wrote on Glassdoor.
The worker adds, however, “You have to clean the bathrooms, and it can be a fairly disgusting job.”
Ultimately working at a Starbucks store is a retail position, and employees can find interacting with customers to be sometimes a challenge. As blogger Winona Dimeo-Ediger, a former Starbucks worker, wrote on The Frisky: The experience “was definitely a difficult, fascinating and educational one.”
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