Reading about some of the employee level problems and criticisms at Starbucks in Morgan’s past article deeply interested me. A someone who rarely visits Starbucks and instead frequents Dunkin’ Donuts at home or at school, I don’t pay a lot of attention to the fancier, upscale rival chain. This entire marketing campaign surprised me because I had not heard of it until recently, and it sounded a little out of hand.
When you really think about it, there is this odd concept of someone simply trying too hard. It is unattractive in multiple senses of the word, sometimes childish, and often times simply a cry for attention. To put it one way it is quite easy to spot someone who is not wealthy enough for nice, designer clothes, from someone trying too hard to look like someone who can’t afford nice, designer clothes in their Urban Outfitters get-up, but I digress. No one wants to look like they are trying too hard because it turns people off from interacting with you, whether it be the idea that you are just looking for attention or the idea that you’re trying to make a statement in the wrong manner.
A required 40-second conversation? If anyone has ever been in a forced conversation, it could be considered one of Dante’s 7 layers of hell. Now imagine it at 6A.M. as you go to grab your coffee on a monday morning on your way to work, oh and its about race. Writing “Race Together” on customer’s coffee cups? This sounds so forced it is making me physically uncomfortable thinking about these interactions. Starbucks appears to be suffering from trying too hard. Of course it is an effort to better public image, but I can’t help but feel it is hurting it for the customers, as well as the employees. One of my pet-peeves on race issues is, if the company, the board of directors, employees etc. want to overcome racism, then why does it have to be brought up in the first place? It seems counter-intuitive to discuss race if Starbucks already thinks it is past the point of racism. Wouldn’t the ideal race-free world be one where the idea doesn’t need to be discussed, talked about or even mention; one where a person can simply walk into the store buy their coffee and then leave, just as every other customer does, regardless of who they may be?
This view could easily be taken as ignorance of the problem at hand, instead of a well-minded perspective, but is talking for 40 seconds to your Starbucks barista while they make a realtively high priced tiramisu frappucinno actually going to solve any problems? It could easily cause more controversary in those 40 seconds between two individuals than if they were to say nothing but the order they would like and a simple “thank you”. This remids us that well-intentioned ideas can always been harmful, insulting, or result in more problems than solutions even when done for the greater benefit of society. I feel sometimes “doing nothing”, and I quote because actively thinking about the issue could still be happening, is the best course of action. Dunkin’ Donuts is Starbucks’ biggest competitor, and they have not openly discussed, mentioned, or marketed race before. In fact, their “America Runs on Dunkin” campaign which began in 2006 actually positions the company as a coffee shop that is the place for all customers, period. This is the type of behavior I try to describe in the previous paragraph. There is no need to openly bring race up in situations like a coffee transaction if neither the customer nor employee want or feel comfortbale talking about it. Sometimes we aren’t the right people to change the world, or to make a difference. It can be a sad realization, but in the end not everyone can fix the world’s problems. Starbucks does not need to be leading the charge on racial issues from a billion dollar throne. I, for one, will be sitting on the sidelines cheering those in the game on, ready to help when ever I can.
Fun fact: None of the promotional pictures from the Race Together campaign featured hands that were not of a caucasian complexion. They’ve been removed from Starbucks’ website when the campaign was closed but they can still be found with a simple search
Featured Image: One of the promotional pictures from Starbucks for their Race Together campaign. Found on entrepreneur.com.