I do remember enough of my college statistics courses to know that using Twitter to evaluate trends and attitudes introduces significant sampling and reporting bias.   Still, ignoring the obvious data quality issues, I do enjoy reading through my TwitterFall feed every week. Because of my interest in application availability requirements, which drives the business of StorMagic, on whose board I serve as an independent director, I typically set the search terms to “computers” and “down,” but when “She shuts it down like computers” is trending, I’ll switch to searching on “computers” and “free.”

This is just a sampling of the “computers” and “free” tweets I saw this week. Apparently, for the patrons of some quick-serve restaurants, when computers go down, #lifeisgood.

 

AbbeyVoss just got a free coffee and biscuit at Caribou cause their computers are down #lifeisgood

lilseannn Public Service Announcement : Taco Bells computers are down; free TB!

r0danthony Computers shut down in the cafeteria. Your boy got a free meal. Lololol.

 

I’ve noticed over the course of the past two years, that Starbucks typically offers up free food and coffee when the computers go down, as captured in this tweet last week.

‏@NDarnell96  Getting free Starbucks cause their computers froze

 

My guess is that Starbucks gives away coffee when the computers go down, because it’s cheap marketing, and they assume the cost of delivering high-availability applications is too high. Coffee brewers basically turn water to gold, anyway. And if you’ve got as many gold buyers as Starbucks, what’s wrong with an occasional free giveaway when customers are willing to provide free advertising? I’ve never been able to verify this, so if anyone can validate the assumption, please let me know. If that’s the approach, at Starbucks, I get it. But it appears someone wasn’t on the program last week, as I also saw this tweet:

@Spencer_Westley@Starbucks‘ computers are down and WHAT IS LIFE?

 

This “give it away when the computers are down” approach works fine at quick-serve restaurants, when you only need computers to take payments, but it gets much more challenging if you need the computers to get the orders from the front counter to the kitchen, to apply loyalty credits, to recall the frequently ordered items on the automated order entry system, to actually make the food, to know when to plate the food, or when you take orders over the web, but fulfill them in the restaurant. These days, companies drive efficiency from automated operations and new revenue sources from processes that are dependent upon computers.  They also are driving the perception of customer intimacy by knowing more about their customers’ likes, dislikes, and preferences. Computers matter, not when you’re selling any cup of coffee to the next person in line, but when you are selling this particular, customized cup of coffee to that loyal customer.