Starbucks Should Make Lattes, Not Peace

Starbucks' misguided effort to make peace over the government shutdown.

Howard Schultz is a really nice guy. He runs a nice company that gives people somewhere they can always stop for a hot drink, a comfy chair and a clean bathroom. Starbucks is consistently ranked as one of the best places to work, because of its decent wages, excellent benefits and free coffee. The CEO is obviously a big reason that those things happen (though of course an affluent demographic also makes a big difference).

Anyway, Schultz is clearly a nice guy. But he seems to be suffering from a common delusion of nice guys, which is that if folks only understood how much they were dismaying nice guys like Howard Schultz, they would stop whatever misbehavior is causing the anguish.

Earlier this week, Starbucks Corp announced that it would give a free tall coffee to anyone who buys another customer a drink at Starbucks. Which is nice. However, as USA Today reports, it also made another announcement:

Now, Starbucks is trying to act as a corporate peacemaker of sorts between the federal government and its citizens.

"We are witnessing a level of disfunction and polarization in Washington, the likes of which we have not seen before," says Schultz, in a phone interview. "So we asked ourselves: 'What can Starbucks do, and how can we use our scale for good?' "

Answer: Become a temporary hub for folks to sign "Come Together" petitions that express their outrage at the government.

The petition asks officials to:

• Reopen the government.
• Pay our national debts on time.
• Pass a long-term budget deal by the end of 2013.

Consumers also will be able to sign digitally beginning Friday at or "like" the petition's Facebook post, which will count as a signature to the petition.

Here's the problem: Although Schultz has lots of customers who are Republicans, his product is culturally identified with an affluent professional elite that not only overwhelmingly votes Democratic, but has been known to make snotty remarks about those NASCAR-watching, woman-hating, racist and homophobic mouth-breathers who vote Republican. It's like trying to stop your best friend from drinking by getting his ex-wives to sign a petition. It's hard to make a convincing case that they've actually got his best interests at heart.

Now, as it happens, I do think that raising the debt ceiling and calling off the shutdown are in the best interests of both the Republicans, and the American people, if for no other reason than because failure to do so is hurting them with the voters they'll need come November 2014. But I'm not going to tell them that while sipping a pumpkin soy milk latte.

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