Starbucks on Friday saw the company's computer system fail across North America. The company operates one of the biggest retail networks in the United States and also operates in many countries around the world. It counts more than 22,000 stores worldwide and serves millions of customers each day.
According to a brief statement released by the company "the outage was caused by a failure during a daily system refresh" and caused nearly all stores in North America to lose the ability to accept payments.
The company handled the outage with grace and character - many stores simply gave drinks away for free until closing early for the day.
News of the failed system spread quickly across Twitter as customers celebrated getting their hand-crafted beverages for free.
A hashtag — #thefrappening — was cheerfully adopted.
The response by Starbucks is a case study on handling failure and turning a problem into an opportunity. The company has now drawn their loyal customers even closer by taking the opportunity to throw them a freebie and thank them for their business. This move will pay dividends in the future.
The company also got a significant amount of free, good, publicity. While the cost of the outage will no doubt impact earnings this cost effectively becomes advertising. The type of advertising big brands pay huge dollars for. Financially the decision made good business sense and limited the financial damage from the mistake.
More importantly Starbucks today did the right thing. They owned a failure and used it as an opportunity to do something nice for their customers. It's a great lesson in American ingenuity and values.