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How Starbucks Saved My Life by Michael Gates Gill

Surely, the concept of How Starbucks Saved My Life is genius. White collar ad executive is downsized by the company he's worked for his entire professional life, finds humility, and takes an entry-level job at Starbucks. It's almost enough to make you think the book was written by a seasoned advertising professional. Oh, wait, it was.

Surface cynicism aside, author Michael Gates Gill and the story he recounts are very likable. It is at once compelling and startling that someone with the author's professional background and industry contacts would ever reach the point of working a menial job in the service industry. Just as surprising is that a young, hard-working Starbucks store manager would take a chance and hire him.

The book remains interesting when the deal is struck, and Gill joins Starbucks. It is at this point that we learn that there are no Starbucks co-workers, only "partners", and that fellow employees at Starbucks really do treat each in such a respectful manner. We also follow Gill as he works his way through various coffeehouse tasks, from cleaning bathrooms, to working the register, to manning the barista bar. Gill recounts the unusual and generous Starbucks benefits package that provides medical insurance to full and part time employees and that offers tuition reimbursement.

Truth be told, at times while taking in the sheer earnestness of the text, I couldn't help but feel a twinge of disbelief, remembering that the author worked in advertising for decades and would be naturally skilled at crafting a story with just the right message and positioning. Still, at the end, I took the author at his word: that there is dignity in honest labor and mutual respect.


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