Starbucks Giving Away Coffee in Push for Shutdown Deal

Starbucks Corp., the world’s largest coffee-shop operator, is giving away cups of joe to encourage the U.S. government to reach a solution to the shutdown and pending debt crisis.

Starbucks customers who buy someone else their favorite drink will receive a free tall brewed coffee starting today through Oct. 11, Chief Executive Officer Howard Schultz, 60, said in an e-mailed letter to Starbucks store and corporate employees.

“It’s that simple -- ‘pay it forward,’ and Starbucks will pay you back,” he said. “This is a different yet authentic way Starbucks can help our fellow citizens to come together by supporting one another during a particularly challenging time.”

The coffee purveyor’s CEO has spoken out on political issues in the past, and in some instances changed the company’s policies. Recently, Schultz asked Starbucks customers to leave their weapons at home or in their cars after being caught in the debate over gun rights in the U.S. In December, Starbucks baristas in Washington wrote “Come Together” on customers’ cups to encourage U.S. politicians to reach a compromise to reduce the national debt.

The partial shutdown, which started Oct. 1, has shuttered government services and furloughed federal employees. Some functions, such as mail delivery, are continuing. Republicans are insisting on changing the 2010 Affordable Care Act, while President Barack Obama refuses to engage in discussions about tying policy conditions to opening the government or raising the debt limit.

Uncertain Period

“The U.S. federal government shutdown, the pending debt and default crisis, waning consumer confidence and the general sense of unease these and other events have instilled in the minds of so many have created another period of uncertainty in our country,” Schultz said.

In 2011, Schultz urged Obama and Congress to overcome party divisions to find solutions to the U.S. budget deficit and unemployment. He also enlisted business leaders and fellow CEOs, including AOL Inc.’s Tim Armstrong and Whole Foods Market Inc.’s Walter Robb, in a pledge to boycott campaign donations until Congress put the nation’s finances in order.

Starbucks, which has about 11,200 stores in the U.S., fell less than 1 percent to $75.26 at the close in New York. The stock has gained 40 percent this year, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index has added 16 percent.