I can't even credit Starbucks for my coffee hobby even though they got me interested, because if they had their way, they would have liked me to stay ignorant and drinking their coffee.
Starbucks hires tons of people, a lot of whom don't even like the taste of plain coffee. Also they spend several hours on training (including milk steaming) and they still do a crappy job at that simple task. I'm sure it would be nearly impossible to train the entire company to actually steam good milk and then stay accountable to their quality, let alone give them real equipment and expect them to everyone to perform well. Starbucks is fast food and a lot of people that work there are just there for the paycheck and care little about coffee.
Beans: I have no idea what the logistics are for roasting millions of pound of coffee and distributing them, but I doubt it's a simple decision between fresh or months old. When I worked there, the youngest beans I saw come in were 2 months old. Most averaged about 4 months old.
Starbucks has no problem with customer turn out. I don't think they are too worried about getting more people in the door. As long as they have sugary things to entice the addicts *ahem* customers, I mean. Sugar is the sex of the fast food coffee industry, and boy does it sell! Starbucks' main priority is keep costs as low as possible while still keeping the customers happy. They hardly care about what they are serving.
Source: I worked at Starbucks for a couple years. I have a pretty good feel for their philosophies and the dynamics of a Starbucks cafe.
Dan, maybe we need a Starbucks specific forum so people can let off steam when they are having a bad day
I guess that's why ihatestarbucks.com exists... but, for other reasons, I dislike that concept even more than I dislike Starbucks, so maybe not!