Vangelynn JOMEC Blog

Catching the Starbucks fever

Two months ago, my Starbucks manager conducted a meeting, because of the poor performance appraisal we received. Our scores had dropped from 100 to 76 percent, which he considered a huge decline in terms of customers’ satisfaction. One complaint by a customer accused our staff of not asking any particulars question which would allow her to customise her order. For instance, do you want skimmed or whole milk?

A decade ago, the Starbucks founder, Howard Schultz used the motto “Make it your drink”, so those customers would be able to personalise any beverage according to their taste. Moreover, Schultz sought to diversify its market by introducing a variety of products, from household appliance to seasonal gifts.

I agree new ideas should always be encouraged for successful business, in order to maintain substantial growth and expand both horizontally and vertically.

Yet, today, Starbucks is criticised for selling a wide range of products and offering 10,000 different drink combinations. A business expert from TIME exclaimed: “Now it’s [Starbucks] an overcrowded, under-designed mess.” It has been suggested that the firm is losing its charm in its ongoing expansion.

However, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the revenue is the case. Starbucks has attracted more customers in recent times as a result of its expansion policy and innovations. Its 12,440 stores worldwide authenticate this claim.

I think creating a unique experience is one thing; creating continuing growth is something else. If you want to grow, you cannot rest on your laurels. You need to be trying out innovative ideas. Starbucks has done that. Indeed, if you want to strengthen your competitive edge, you need to concentrate on the quality of your key product but also keep trying to develop the peripherals.


1.TIME – February 26 2007

2.TIME – December 10 2006


Gary, Happy Birthday to You!



The decision of the UK government to run first super-casino in the Manchester has created a fierce dispute in the government and within the various communities.

Before I came to the UK, the Singapore government had also decided to legalise casino gambling to stimulate its stagnant economy.An unprecedented public debate had been sparked as a result of this legalisation in Singapore: about 30,000 people signed a petition to oppose the decision. Most argued that the possible social costs for such gambling in a small island country like Singapore would probably outweigh the economic benefits.

Personally I think, there is substantial economic revenue being created directly and indirectly from this decision. Through the development of casinos, gambling can bring a pleasurable experience to the individual who gambles through its entertainment value. Furthermore, the gambling industry offers significant economic gains, such as the stimulation of local or foreign investment and tourism development.

However, it is still difficult to reduce the social stigma of gambling. Gambling has been illegal in most cultures throughout much of history because the dominant moral, religious and political opinion has been that gambling is immoral. Therefore, it ought to be banned because it will distract some people from their social duties and undermine the productivity of the economy.

The proponents of the casino put forward arguments that ignore any negative social effects arising from gambling, and it seems that their case has won – since the decision has been made by the Singapore government to allow casino to be built. The negative impacts, however, are perhaps likely to only emerge gradually – but, like Pandora’s box, it will be almost impossible to put the lid back on.


Financial Times – February 22 2007 


Before terrorists struck the US on September 11, 2001, my parents were easily granted a ten-year American visa, on the very day they applied for it. Things have changed dramatically since then. Last year, my cousin studying in the US came back on holiday and had problems with his student visa when he wanted to go back.

Recent studies from The Economist1 suggest that America immigration officials have acquired a rather mean reputation. They now maltreat immigrants. Since 2000, the number of foreign visitors to the US has plunged by 17 percent due to the complicated visa process and unfriendly treatment meted to people travelling to the country.

Unfortunately, this development is proving to be a double-edged sword, as it is also harming the US. The visa restriction, pundits believe, is one of the reasons why New York is gradually losing its competitive edge as a global financial centre.

Granted, the US may have genuine reasons for tightening its visa process, particularly after the terror attacks. Yet, there is need for caution.

To allow the process remain as lengthy, opaque and inefficient as it is now will be counter productive at the long run. Already, tourists, businessmen, international students and scientists are being prevented from entering the US. Viewing every intending immigrant as a potential terrorist, as officials of the Bush administration, seem to be doing will negate the essence of America, which prides itself as ‘rainbow’ nation.

Though the State Department insists that “things are getting better” because of the 12 percent increase in the number of visas issued in 2006 compared to 2005, there is still need for the US to review its post-September 11 visa policy.


1.       The Economists – February 16 2006


If the ultimate goal of producing enormous amounts of weapons is to kill people and destroy a country, but cause less harm to the environment, can we still say that these weapons are ‘friendly’? Perhaps the arms manufacturers in the US will think so.

An article published by last week’s, which featured the US military department that began pumping millions of dollars into ‘environmentally friendly’ and ‘green’ munitions: lead-free bullets, reduced-toxin rockets and low-carbon emission tanks, led me to a serious doubt about the ‘green’ munitions.

The article said:“A concept of ‘green’ munitions is not a contradiction in terms.” Any system, although its fundamental aim is to destroy, can be designed to cause less harmful effect to the environment. Therefore, perhaps the bombing in Iraq or Afghanistan that killed millions of human beings, but using the environmentally friendly’ weapon, can also be considered as a ‘green’ act nowadays.

However, for an aggressive country like the US, which produce 17 millions of arms ammunition, with 300,000lb of military-used lead every year. The ‘green’ munitions act is vital. 

At least, the use of lead-free bullets shows some good sign for local water supplies and seas that have been polluted by the lead. What’s more, the development of armoured vehicles with fewer carbon emissions and hazardous chemical compounds seem to be a great contribution to the serious environmental problem: the global warming.

But, the human impact should not be overshadowed by the environmental impact. We know the nature of war is destructive, even through a more ‘environmentally- friendly’ approach. Thus, I think the Americans should be urged to re-consider before producing any missiles instead of reducing their environmental impact.

The Interview

1) Why do you think people spend excessively at Christmas?

That could be many reasons. First of all, you got be aware that we are living in a very materialistic world where perceived value is way above sentiment. There are lots of pressures at Christmas to buy. For example the TV advertisements, newspapers, Christmas leaflets, special catalogues, in store promotions, shelves of offers in the supermarkets. Furthermore, the peer pressures could also lead us to spend more to keep ourselves fashionable, and having the latest in thing. Last but not least, a whole host of retailers make their living at this time of year, so they are under pressure to reach sales hike and offset their overdraft for the rest of the year.

2) How much do you think is a fair amount to spend on a Christmas present?

It’s all depending on your budget and the financial income. However, I think the amount of money that you spend is not so important, but the thought that you put into the choosing of the gifts will be counted. One very meaningful gift that you made at home with spare things in your craft cupboard could overshadow hundreds of dollars worth of gifts that really mean nothing.

3) Would you buy Christmas presents from a charity shop

Yes, why not? I get so fed up with the commercial greed we experience nowadays. The Christmas sales had started in August or thereabouts. I don’t understand why people are not sick of it by the time Christmas actually arrives. I am not going to violate the real meaning of Christmas and will be going to Church and making a donation to the poor instead of going to the Supermarket. Just for a change, I am going to have an ‘alternative’ Christmas by ignoring it altogether, apart from presents for my grandson which I bought from Scope -the disability organization, in Cardiff. The so-called ‘festive’ season really isn’t so festive when it becomes too commercialized.

4) What do you think about charity, it is a waste of money?

No, definitely not. Charity is not so simple, it means more than money. It encompasses of tolerance, sharing and feeling good for both the giver and the receiver. When you donate, you are helping the less fortunate. You are doing your part as a person. I wish I could do more to help the less fortunate.

5) What do you think publics can contribute more to the charity organization? Well, there could be many possible ways. Of cause, donation is the most straightforward method. Besides, may be we can spend more in the charity shop instead of supermarket. Some of the items over there are brand-new and having the same quality with those in the shop. The prices that they offer are cheaper as compare to supermarket. Moreover, we can also do some voluntary jobs for them, such as serving customers; sorting goods and transporting donated goods.

Buying presents that make a difference

Now you can broaden the impact of your gift giving by taking those in need into consideration more than ever

What’s your first thought about Christmas? Christmas traditionally is a time to rejoice with family and friends. Nowadays, it has been transformed from the memorial of the birth of Jesus Christ into celebration of materialism and consumerism. 

Many businesses try to boost their sales by introducing cross-selling opportunities and special promotions.Research shows that the total UK festive season spending[1] on credit cards, cash and cheques is predicted to reach £51.6 billion during December 2006. Christmas is now the most profitable period in the UK retail calendar. However, over a tenth, of the average of £330 per person spent on Christmas presents, is simply wasted.    

Scope           Wide range of quality Christmas ideal gifts and other goodies at down-to-earth prices.

To avoid spending an inexcusable extravagance during Christmas time, many people are now opting for an alternative to the high streets, Charity shops, for example- Scope[2]. This is the leading disability organization in Cardiff, which focuses on people with cerebral palsy (A physical condition which affects physical movement caused by brain injury).  The organization’s aim is for disabled people to achieve equality, as part of society in which they are as valued and have the same human and civil rights as everyone else.

celebral palsy         Different type of cerebral palsy

The Scope Cardiff charity store offers an exhaustive range of quality Christmas ideal gifts and other goodies at down-to-earth prices. Every year, the shop raises millions of pounds to provide a recycling service to the local community. “We have excellent quality, low-price merchants, ranging from household equipment and toys to clothes and jewelry. The most amazing part is, majority of the stock is donated by the local citizens,” Said Mary Dickson, the shop voluntary worker.

She added, “We are also launching a Christmas cards fundraising event, where people can buy our Christmas cards in the store or order online.” All of the cards are drawn by the children with cerebral palsy aged from 6 to 12 years old. The funds raised will be devoted to cerebral palsy therapies.

xmas card

People are now very supportive of the Scope local store because of its charity orientation. When people first go in, they might have doubts about the quality of the goods. However, the reality proves that they are wrong. Mary explained they conduct a quality assurance check before allocating the stock on the shelves. And the price will depend very much on condition of the goods.

“I get so fed up with the commercial greed we experience nowadays. I am not going to violate the real meaning of Christmas and will be going to Church and making a donation to the poor instead of going to the Supermarket,” said Michel Jones, a regular customer.

“I am also going to have an ‘alternative’ Christmas by ignoring it altogether, apart from presents for my grandson whom I bought from Scope. A unique gift which cost me only four pound.” He said.

For people who are also fed up with the commercialism and trapped in the pressure of spending at this festive season, here is an alternative. Opt for a proper yet affordable present from you local Charity shop, Scope. It makes your shopping more meaningful when you know your money is going to a good cause. 

What is more, it doubles the joy of purchase and giving. The immediate effect on your loved one’s smiling face when receiving your gift. Simultaneously, and you have also contributed to the cerebral palsy fund which helps the needy. So, why hesitate? Break the mould of doing your traditional-high-street shopping, but pop down to your nearest charity shop route to make your coming Christmas a meaningful one.



Homeless but not hopeless

What do you think can be found in a bus? The majority would probably answer a driver and passengers. There is a bus, which furnishes care, love and hope to the street homeless, called ‘Cardiff Outreach Winter Bus’ launched by The Salvation Army.

Leigh, 33, who has wandered the streets for 5 years and is finally being taken care of, said: “The bus has changed my life. I can get food and hot drinks; it has stopped me from shop lifting.”

The epidemic of homelessness in Cardiff has risen tremendously and has posed a continual challenge to the local council. In response to the crisis of homelessness, the Salvation Army in partnership with City Centre Team (CCT), has launched the night winter bus service project to cushion the situation before it gets out of hand.

This issue was particularly serious in Cardiff due to the lack of affordable rented property rendered by soaring house prices and a shortage of council properties.

However, many people also end up on the streets as a result of traumatic life experiences; breakdown in relationship with partners and family, long term illnesses, drug abuse or unemployment.

“Finding food and shelter, avoiding violence, coping with ill health and loneliness can take all of a person’s energy.” said John Mcinnes, staff from Salvation Army.

The bus possess two main functions. Its main usage is to serve as an evening time respite, a place where rough sleepers can rest, refreshment and assistance. Furthermore, it also provides a warm and safe environment where people can escape from the dangers and bitter cold weather of the street.

In addition, the bus also acts as a platform for other agencies to provide services to these vulnerable people who previously have failed to access mainstream services for assistance. It includes a health care service with a voluntary nurse regularly based on the bus supplying medication, vaccinations and primary health care.

Moreover, some social workers frequently patronise the bus to undertake community care assessments and counselling sessions. “They need a trustworthy figure in whom to confide their inner feelings; and through communication and various need assessments we can determine and address the problems of homeless individuals’ accordingly.” said Elaine, voluntary worker.

“An internet-based computer system, E-Roof is being used to record all the details about service users’ needs and support provided by relevant agencies, this enables us to match the individuals’ requirements efficiently.” said John.

“I was shivering in a phone box when a friend of mine gave me the outreach’s number. They offered me an emergency bag space, and I regularly visit the outreach worker to seek advice for my alcohol problem. I am now settled in the James Street Centre and continue to access support.” Said Anthony, street sleeper.

In the 2002 since the outreach first went on the road, an estimated 2000 homeless people have been helped. By raising public awareness and support, it is hoped that this figure can be increased in the future. (495 words)

Story Pitch

1) What is the story?

Cardiff Winter Bus, organised by Salvation Army and run by volunteers.

2) Why tell it now?

It is an outreach bus for street homeless and emergency support in the freezing cold weather.

3) How am I going to do it?

By interviewing the people who organise the ‘Cardiff winter bus’, staff who work in the bus and the homeless poeple.

To clearify what kind of supports and aids provided. 

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