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Archive for November 8th, 2011

Starbucks: conscious promoter of social change, or consumer whore?

Posted by E on November 8, 2011

Yesterday, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz made international news with his announcement of Starbucks’ generous new approach to lifting the American economy from the gutter through their new “Create Jobs for USA” program: selling cheap wristband bracelets to help the poor.

Within a few hours, Twitterverse was buzzing with conscientious shoppers doing their part to help the poor. Instead of dropping a fiver into the empty cup held by that drunken bum at the corner, Manhattan fashionistas were walking away from Starbucks with a frappuccino and a piece of garbage elastic trinket around their wrist, feeling all the better for having done their social duty. Who would have thought helping the impoverished could be as sexy as a lattee-soaked biscotti? I mean, how better a way to celebrate having a job (and therefore, money) than buying a $5 lattee while thinking that you’re helping the unemployed?

The sweet irony here is that it’s Starbucks — Starbucks! the ONE company whose profits have not gone down during this recession, but way up — of all companies, to come forward with the whole “let’s help the poor without hurting our profit bottom line” idea, when, if you really think about it, they could help society all the better by donating one day’s worth of sales to any of a gazillion agencies helping the unemployed.

Methinks if Starbucks donated so much as ONE HOUR’s worth of total profits, the world would be a far better place. Instead, they come out with a marketing/advertising campaign designed to draw people inside their coffee shops — where hopefully they’ll buy more than a shitty nylon bracelet. But speaking of that shitty trinket, whose minuscule net profits (after marketing and production costs are deducted, understandably) will go toward some faceless unemployed schmuck in the hopes that he/she will soon raise back to their feet and revisit their neighbourhood Starbucks.

So yeah, let’s see this transformation from Starbucks-the-obscenely-priced-superchain to Starbucks-the-superhero-chain which single-handedly tackled the US jobless woes with a wristband and a cuppa java. Pretty ironic, ain’t it, for a monster company that has long been criticized for putting small coffee shops out of business.

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