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Mid-day Update

U.K. Starbucks locations start playing the name game

Kate McGough Mar 14, 2012

Jeremy Hobson: What’s in a name? That’s the big question in the U.K. today, where Starbucks has just started writing customers’ names on their coffee cups for the first time. It’s an attempt to be seen as a more friendly company, employees will also start wearing name tags.

We sent the BBC’s Kate McGough, out to a London Starbucks to see how customers feel about the change.

Kate McGough: Here in Britain, we like our personal space. But starting today, every Starbucks barista in London will be taking names. Up until now, if you ordered a grande latte in a British Starbucks, you’d know when to pick it up when they called out “grande latte.”

Now, the Starbucks here will sound like those in the U.S. If I order a coffee, the barista will call out “Kate.” And that’s causing a bit of a stir. It’s a policy of friendliness Starbucks says it hopes will help it stand out in the crowded U.K. coffee market.

But Londoner Simon Jones doesn’t think getting on first-name terms will work for him.

Simon Jones: It doesn’t add much value for me and I think it’s a lot of extra work for them. Because I also work in selling, in retail and I know how time-consuming it is to make something personalized.

To launch a friendlier U.K. coffee, Starbucks is giving away around 350,000 free coffees across the U.K. today. And they’re lining up out the door at Starbucks across London.

But maybe it’s just for the free espresso. Here’s Londoner Steve Banjo.

Steve Banjo: It doesn’t bother me to be honest. I’ll just get my (free) coffee, then I’m out of here.

In London, I’m the BBC’s Kate McGough, for Marketplace.

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