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Starbucks Responds In Kind To Oxfam YouTube Video 492

Kligmond writes "Last week, Starbucks placed a video on YouTube responding to a video posted by the Oxfam Charity. The Oxfam video was launched in conjunction with 'Starbucks Day of Action,' held December 16th, when activists visited Starbucks locations across the world in protest of the coffee retailer's alleged mistreatment of Ethiopian farmers. The Starbucks video calmly addresses the Oxfam allegations, citing an impasse over Ethiopian trademark legalities. Starbucks claims the refusal to sign a trademark agreement with Ethiopia is a stumbling block they hope to resolve on behalf of the farmers. The coffee chain's representative goes on to refute the contention that Starbucks refuses to pay a fair price for its coffee reserves and, in fact, routinely pays well above commodity price, and above fair trade price. Unlike many recent ineffectual corporate reactions to social journalism and networking eruptions, Starbucks' response is unique in that the corporation managed Oxfam's unconventional assault in a very unconventional way, via YouTube. Regardless of the outcome of this particular incident, the move on Starbucks' part comes off as unmistakably in touch with today's communication modes and methods."
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Starbucks Responds In Kind To Oxfam YouTube Video

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  • Fair Trade coffee (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @06:23PM (#17436464)
    Then buy it from a Fair Trade company. Better for the money go to the people making the coffee than middlemen.

    http://www.ifat.org/furtherreading/libraryftgoods. shtml [ifat.org]
  • Good for Starbucks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by p0tat03 ( 985078 ) on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @06:24PM (#17436468)

    It's nice to see a company address accusations directly, without resorting to lawsuits or just more propaganda. These points were well refuted in the vid, though I would personally like to see a bit more documentation provided to show that they're not just pulling things out of their collective asses.

    I wish other companies would follow this lead - transparent, straight-forward, no-BS rebuttals of claims against them. Apple, where's your rebuttal against Greenpeace?

  • by $RANDOMLUSER ( 804576 ) on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @06:25PM (#17436480)
    Beacuse this would be a new use of the technology, rather than "hippies in Seattle march with signs, corporation issues press release denying charges"?
  • How hard is it? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Kelbear ( 870538 ) on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @06:28PM (#17436520)
    "Regardless of the outcome of this particular incident, the move on Starbucks' part comes off as unmistakably in touch with today's communication modes and methods."

    The final comment of the summary does have the ring of truth(or shall I say, truthiness?).

    But then I stop to think...c'mon, this is Youtube. How hard is it to post something on Youtube, a free service? What's more interesting is that this move is a suprise rather than the suprise itself.
  • by Bryansix ( 761547 ) on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @06:37PM (#17436608) Homepage
    1) Promote conformity by putting a Starbucks on every corner and making each one look the same

    2) Promote Brand loyalty by pushing Gift Cards thereby forcing even non-customers to occasionally consume Starbucks

    3) Say that we embrace diversity while actually embracing conformity (see above)

    4) Reduce the number of artistic venues by putting small coffee shops out of business with our pre-packaged experience

    5) Raise the prices on our addictive substance every six months

    6) Profit!!!
  • by Dr Kool, PhD ( 173800 ) on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @06:44PM (#17436670) Homepage Journal
    The fairest trade system in the history of man:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capitalism [wikipedia.org]
  • by Run4yourlives ( 716310 ) on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @06:50PM (#17436720)
    I'm only responding because you were modded insightful:

    This is news for nerds not because of what is happening, but because of HOW it's happening.

    Not only is Oxfam going directly to the internet to mount a campaign against a corporation (in and of itself a cool thing - proving yet a gain the power of the internet), the corporation responded in kind.

    This type of one to one presentation of views has never happened before in such a powerful way. It could herald a new method of consumer/producer interaction, which of course may spill into political spheres. All because of the internet.

    It is proof that the internet is radically changing the face of our entire society, so much so that we are only on the cusp of realizing what may happen. Geeky enough for you now?
  • by Otter ( 3800 ) on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @06:52PM (#17436744) Journal
    It's nice to see a company address accusations directly, without resorting to lawsuits or just more propaganda.

    I had the same reaction at first, but you know -- if Starbucks is correct (*If*. I have no idea.) and a very large, very wealthy group is engaged in a completely dishonest, high-profile smear campaign against their business, that group should get its pants sued off.

  • Seems fair enough (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kentrel ( 526003 ) on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @06:52PM (#17436752) Journal
    It's not Starbucks I worry about - I've researched this before and to my satisfaction they seem to be doing as good a job as they can with ensuring fairtrade in the coffee industry. It's not just a moral issue, it actually makes good business sense in the modern Western world to be concerned for the welfare of 3rd world countries. Starbucks is one of the top targets for the anti-capitalist movement, simply because they are a huge corporation, which to some anti-capitalists is a crime in itself. I think, for the most part most sensible people ignore the anti-capitalist movement simply because they are wrong or narrowminded on a lot of issues. Being unethical would be bad business for any large company like this, and the claims made about their practises are simply misinformed. Sure, they may be cutting corners here and there like you would expect any company to do (not that I'm saying that's right), but to me they seem to have more concern for "the little guy" than the opposition would have you believe.

    That said, what I'm far more concerned about is the other little known coffee companies. Starbucks coffee is expensive, and we're assured that's partly due to the costs being passed onto the coffee farmers. For the sake of argument let's assume that's true. Now, look at the coffee in your local supermarket, particularly your "value" Kwikkymart type supermarkets. In my local one I can get a 1KG tub of coffee for 1.99 and they sell like hotcakes. For those prices I really doubt much of my money (if I was cheap or tasteless enough to buy it) is filtering down to the farmers, if any at all, and I wonder what kind of money any of the related industries (transport, packaging etc) are getting. Who knows what those guys are getting away with?

    Bear in mind, I'm also wondering just how much of that 1KG is actually coffee :)

  • Technicaly It Is (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Mateorabi ( 108522 ) on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @06:54PM (#17436772) Homepage
    Well technicaly this video is a form of propeganda. Then again, so is the original Oxfam video. Propeganda is an extremely broad category and doesn't always have to mean dissembling or promoting falsehoods. Unfortunately the word 'propeganda' has lost it's neutrality in the modern lexicon and often has negative conotations for people.

    Propeganda is merely an attempt to sway a group's opinion through communication. "Getting your message out." That message can be truthful or lies, honest or deceptive, present all facts or cherry pick; it just needs to be pursuasive. I think sometims the negative connotation actualy discourages non-deceptive propeganda from more honest parties because they feer being accused of engaging in 'propeganda'.

  • by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @06:57PM (#17436802)
    It's still 2 groups of irrelevant blowhards in a pissing contest, regardless of what technology they're using. Relevancy used to be a criteria to define what is news and what isn't.

  • Re:How hard is it? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by oni ( 41625 ) on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @06:57PM (#17436804) Homepage
    >> How hard is it to post something on Youtube, a free service?

    uh well, it's easy to post on youtube, but I think you're missing the point.

    Most big megacorps don't "get it" Their decision making process involves things like lawyers who always fail on the side of caution. That's why, if you posts some completely made-up allegations about, for example Bank of America, then (if they even noticed what you had done) the Bank of America corporate execs would have a meeting in their conference room on the 400th floor of some far off building. They'd have to call in the CTO to explain to them exactly what this "ewe toob" thing was. Then the lawyers would caution against making any kind of direct rebuttal, because that might be seen as *insert lawyer-speak here*

    Meanwhile, Starbucks goes, "wtf, get a webcam we're going to respond to this bullshit"

    So you see, the point here isn't the ease or difficulty of youtube. The point is the that one corporation gets it and made a simple, common sense move.

    (btw, I hate Starbucks)
  • Brilliant (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bahwi ( 43111 ) on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @07:01PM (#17436858)
    That's just awesome. It's just as accessible as the Oxfam, less boring, and more straightforward. You can repost it on MySpace or wherever you need to.

    Aside from that, regional trademarks == bad bad bad. Form Blue Mountain's wikipedia entry:
    "Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee is protected worldwide as a certification trademark meaning that only coffee certified by the Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica can be labeled as such."

    So, say the Ethiopian Board of Coffee doesn't like a farmer, I mean hell, there's a lot of problems in that area, it'd be pretty easy to pick some farmers you don't like, whoever the new gov't is, and put a lot of people out of work.

  • by bmajik ( 96670 ) <matt@mattevans.org> on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @07:06PM (#17436916) Homepage Journal
    Monopolies cannot exist without government blessing. The failure of the market to prevent monopoly is not the fault of capitalism, but rather, the fault is with government involvement in the marketplace that allows and entrenches monopolies

    Examples of government blessing of monopoly:
    - land usage easements (for utilities, etc)
    - the copyright/patent system (for intellectual property)
    - airwaves / frequency ranges (for cell carriers, radio stations, etc)

    Can you think of some monopoly in the US that isn't supported by decree of government?
  • by lostatredrock ( 972881 ) on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @07:06PM (#17436922)
    What does that have to do with anything? From the intro to your post I was expecting some refute to the claim that Starbucks pays higher than market value for their coffee. Instead you offered a bunch of proof of the fact that the average Ethiopian is poor. How is that Starbuck's fault? They are not responsible for the welfare of the Ethiopian people, they do appear to be trying to help, but to use the fact that Ethiopians are poor as 'proof' of Starbucks not being socially responsible seems to be a bit of a stretch.
  • by Itchyeyes ( 908311 ) on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @07:06PM (#17436934) Homepage
    I find it very ironic that the most apt rebuttal, I can think of, to the arguments you present would simply be to refer you to the very episode of Southpark that you reference with the way your formatted your post.
  • by Itchyeyes ( 908311 ) on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @07:10PM (#17436982) Homepage
    For an in depth explanation I would point you to "The Undercover Economist" by Tim Harford. In short though, the answer is simply "that's what people are willing to pay".
  • by mi ( 197448 ) <slashdot-2017q4@virtual-estates.net> on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @07:10PM (#17436984) Homepage Journal
    "Above market" means lots of things, most of which don't make starbucks look very good once the general conditions in Ethiopia are added to the discussion.

    What would you rather they do instead? Stop buying Ethiopian coffee at all? Pay even more for the stuff grown in Ethiopia and thus attract even more growers to the already saturated market [economist.com]?

    If Oxfam were really concerned about the third-world farmers, they would've been making noise against Europe's farmer-subsidies, against the smaller-but-still-significant American ones, and against Japan's protectionism. Instead Oxfam goes against a prominent corporation — they are well aware of the shortness of the attention span of their contributors... Much easier to bash a corporation (especially an American one), than to be "against the small farmers", is not it?

  • by Mr. Slippery ( 47854 ) <tmsNO@SPAMinfamous.net> on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @07:13PM (#17437016) Homepage
    Starbucks is one of the most socially responsible companies out there. They are pretty much why their is such a thing as "fair trade" coffee.

    Starbucks is certainly quite successful at projecting an image of social responsiblity, yes - so much so that uninformed people like you believe that they created the fair trade movement, when actually Fair Trade is a decades old idea and Starbucks use of a tiny amout of Fair Trade coffee is just greenwash [organicconsumers.org].

    While Starbucks is certainly not the Pure Concentrated Evil of, say, a Halliburton or a Monsanto, neither are they the angels that their PR department would like you to believe. That they seem to treat their direct employees fairly well, is no indication of what ethics apply (or don't apply) to their deals with suppliers.

    And to all the people that say *bucks pushes out the mom and pops: when was the last time they offered carreers or health insurance?

    Uh huh. So rather than owning one's own small business, being a successful entrepreneur, the new American dream is to work for a national franchise, so that you can get health insurance. How incredibly fscking sad is that?

  • by fluffy99 ( 870997 ) on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @07:15PM (#17437032)
    The trademark and licensing issue isn't about the farmers at all. It's the ethiopian government trying to bilk Starbucks out of some extra money. That money will not go to the farmers, but will fund the ongoing wars. Kinda like blood diamonds....
  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @07:16PM (#17437042) Homepage Journal
    If Oxfam were really concerned about the third-world farmers, they would've been making noise against Europe's farmer-subsidies, against the smaller-but-still-significant American ones, and against Japan's protectionism.

    I think they'd be going after non-shade-growing coffee farmers, since they're the ones who created the oversupply in the coffee market. As a bonus, they could get a greenpeace tie-in, since removing the shade plants has devastated the biota in many locations.

  • cry me a river (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Imazalil ( 553163 ) on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @07:21PM (#17437096)
    1) You do realize that ( at least to my knowledge ) just about all Starbucks are franchises. That means that independent business types approach Starbucks to open shops wherever they open shops, sure Starbucks could be a good samaritan and turn people down, but the fact remains that people approach Starbucks to open stores. Yeah it sucks that some very good and unique coffee shops go under because Starbucks moves into the neighborhood, but it is the local people that vote with their wallets, don't like Starbucks don't buy their stuff, convince people to support the local shops, in essence you only have your neighbours to blame.

    2) What larger chain isn't pushing cards, don't like'em don't use'em, and tell your friends/relatives to not get them.

    3) Sure only if you buy into the conformity - again don't go to Starbucks if you don't like them. Some people like to walk into a shop in Anytown USA and get a consistent brew of coffee and environment.

    4) Again see 1 & 3, just go and support your own local shop with their 'art' or just go visit a local art gallery or artist run center.

    5) Boo hoo cry me a river, don't like the price don't use the product, coffee isn't exactly an essential service you know.

    6) Damn straight, and it's on the backs of you 'but they are an evil large chain and hurt the local shops and artists who I choose not to support' types.
  • by MobileTatsu-NJG ( 946591 ) on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @07:23PM (#17437124)
    "This isn't a tech issue or anything, who cares about Starbucks public relations operations or their corporate policies? So they and Oxfam are having a pissing match, big whoop."

    a.) Lots of nerds care about what happens to Starbucks.
    b.) They used YouTube.

    Slashdot isn't always going to have news you're interested in. Sorry.
  • by bmajik ( 96670 ) <matt@mattevans.org> on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @07:40PM (#17437300) Homepage Journal
    Except that it favours the rich over the poor


    It favours those that have the infrastructure in place to produce efficiently while the ones that don't fall further behind and resort to resource exploitation, produce, or tourism for their economy

    The "infrastructure to produce efficiently" required investment, investment which apparently in the short term pays off, but which may not pay off in the future. Nothing practically prevents the "disadvantaged" party in a free trade system from not only duplicating, but leapfrogging any investment done by the other party. You will see the obvious truth in this by considering the automobile and consumer electronics industries of the US, Japan, and South Korea as case studies.

    For a less macroscopic scenario, consider a lawyer who types at 150wpm and a secretary that types at 100wpm. The lawyer is certainly the better typist, and has every advantage over the secretary in terms of typing speed. One might think that in this case that the lawyer would do all her own typing, and the secretary might be unemployed. But of course this is not the case - the lawyer makes some money typing, but makes considerably more money litigating, such that it is worth her while to seek the assistance of a secretary. The lawyer and the secretary both benefit, irrespective of the resource, talent, and financial advantages the lawyer has.

    It's not that the lawyer is good at litigating and the secretary is good at typing (Adam Smith's comparative advantage) -- in this case, the lawyer is good at both but litigating is a better expenditure of the fixed asset involved - time.

    I don't think you mean to suggest that the lawyer should work less efficiently and not hire the secretary at all, citing some dubious ethical judgement that the secretary is "disadvantaged" and that the lawyer employing the secretary would thus be "exploitation". Why don't you ask the secretary about that?

    I think people are confusing free market economies with capitalism (which is easy to do). Any system where by two parties mutually agree to trade without force or fraud is inherently just - if a particular transation were not mutually benefitial as determined by each party according to their own interests, the transaction would not take place.

    The notion that you or I or anybody else knows what is in the best interest of someone besides us is the central and singular failure of all market-interventionist government policies, and why absolutely all such systems devolve into autocratic tyranny - they presuppose that an invidiual knows not what is best for herself, and therefore, should not be afforded invidiual decision making authority. Once a governance supposes that an individual cannot be trusted to make decisions in their own best interest, and that the government should take on responsibility for said decision making, freedom, both real and economic, effictively ceases to exist.
  • by mapinguari ( 110030 ) on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @07:40PM (#17437302)

    4) Reduce the number of artistic venues by putting small coffee shops out of business with our pre-packaged experience
    According to an an article [wweek.com] in a local independent newspaper, the presence of a nearby Starbucks actually helps out mom & pop coffee shops.
  • by DarrylKegger ( 766904 ) on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @07:41PM (#17437310)
    Step 1. Convince humans to grant me the legal rights of a natural person.

    Step 2. Leverage my ability to never die and to farm the responsibilities for my actions out to replaceable 'employees'

    Step 3. Become the dominant organisation to such an overwhelming extent that the majority of humans don't even consider the idea that my powers are illegitimate.

    Step 4. profit!!! (no, really)
  • by bmajik ( 96670 ) <matt@mattevans.org> on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @07:42PM (#17437322) Homepage Journal
    The business model Microsoft relies on exists only because of Copyright - which by its very definition is a government granted monopoly on the distribution of copies of a work granted to the author (or "rights holder") of that work.

    Microsoft is the easiest example of a monopoly that exists only via a construct of government.
  • Uh huh. So rather than owning one's own small business, being a successful entrepreneur, the new American dream is to work for a national franchise, so that you can get health insurance. How incredibly fscking sad is that?

    Which would you rather work for? And if you say the local roaster, you clearly have never had an ambulance ride and multiple-day stay in the hospital. Neither have I, but I know what they cost.

  • by Tim C ( 15259 ) on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @07:51PM (#17437410)
    2) Promote Brand loyalty by pushing Gift Cards thereby forcing even non-customers to occasionally consume Starbucks

    Well, if someone gave me a Starbucks gift card, I'd thank them kindly then wait for an opportune moment to throw it away (or sell it to a Starbucks-frequenting friend). Just because someone gives you a gift doesn't mean you're compelled to use it. Hell, if they were a good enough friend, I might even point out the error of their ways - it's not that I have anything in particular against Starbucks, I just don't like their coffee.

    5) Raise the prices on our addictive substance every six months

    So buy it somewhere else. If enough people do that, it'll solve most of your other objections too.
  • by AuMatar ( 183847 ) on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @07:58PM (#17437462)
    Because 99% of their customers don't give a shit. They want a cup of coffee. Not a fine dining experience. They don't know the difference between roasts, what a clinker is, or what the date on a roast means (nor do I for that matter- is it newer is better, or is it a wine thing where older is?). Hell, a lot of them don't really know what the difference between a mocha and a latte is. They just want a cup of Joe at a known quality level. Maybe a quick snack too. Thats what Starbucks provides. Its pretty much like McDonalds- you don't go there for a great burger, you go there for food that you can predict how bad it will be.
  • by plantman-the-womb-st ( 776722 ) on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @08:00PM (#17437474)
    Well, it's simple really. The reason for the over-roasted beans at Starbucks (which causes those of us who like the taste of straight coffee and espresso to cringe) is the fact that Starbucks doesn't sell coffee. They sell coffee flavored drinks. Starbucks is responsible for the latte craze after all. Most all of their products contain so many other flavorings , dairy and sugar that the coffee has to be stronger or you wouldn't taste it. If this seems unrealistic, just go to a Starbucks and order black coffee or straight espresso. The looks the employees and other customers give you are priceless. They became a nationally known name by selling frapachinos, not coffee.
  • by bmajik ( 96670 ) <matt@mattevans.org> on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @08:01PM (#17437484) Homepage Journal
    No, can you think of any company which isn't supported by decree of government? Didn't think so.

    Sure - companies are a quasi-artificial construct of the government but are not a necessary feature for monopolies to exist.

    I hate that stupid chicken and egg argument

    Which argument?

    The fact that we (the government in the US) have created laws means that we like to live by rules rather than by whatever madmax system you seem to be promoting.

    Clearly I'm not advocating lawlessness - societies form and governments are created so that people can escape the state of fear and bring some amount of order where before there was none.

    What I am advocating is that government should do only what is necessary and no more - limited government - because every expansion of government by definition is an erosion of some individual right. The US started with much fewer laws and regulations on the books than it has today. It wasn't because the founding fathers ran out of ink or parchment. I of course don't pretend to suggest that no new laws are ever needed, but I would suggest - and you'd probably agree with me - they we have a number of laws on the books which no individual citizen asked for, and which certainly do not prmote individual liberties or anything of the sort. For instance, what percentage of Americans, if taken to a direct vote, would have voted for the DMCA?

    The cases of government abuse of power are many, as are the cases of legislation to benefit companies, monpoloies, or other special interests. Expansive government detests the inherent freedom that arises from free trade (and capitalism). When government manipulation of the market place produces some undesirable result, the failure is always attributed to capitalism by adherents of large government, when in fact, one can argue that government manipulation was wholly or significantly responsible for failure.

    The question I am asking in the OP is - in cases of undesirable monopoly conditions in the US - are those an obvious result of the system of capitalism, or are they a peculiar result because of government intervention in that market. When you consider all of the back-door ways that governments regulate the market (i.e. building permits, licensing for hairdressers, etc), it's hard to suggest that we have a truly free-market economy.

    You'll have to bear with me - I'm working my way through Milton Friedman. If you can save us both the argument and point me to some well-reasoned criticisms of Friedman's work (which presumably you base your disagreement with me on), I'd appreciate it.

  • by Binary Boy ( 2407 ) on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @08:10PM (#17437582)
    Absolutely; as someone who savors a good shot of espresso, maybe with a dollop of foam if I'm feeling fancy, Starbucks is at best adequate. At least I can get espresso there, the only such supplier in most towns sadly, but their operations are not setup to serve great coffee, it's to serve 1200 calorie milk shakes disguised as "coffee drinks". Hell, in many of the Starbucks I stop in on my travels the staff calls it "expresso".

    Still, as another poster said, it's the McD's of coffee; you go there for the consistent experience - and the wifi - not the quality. The quality isn't nearly as *bad* as McDonalds, but it's not nearly as good as many of the places I used to go, before they folded trying to compete with Starbucks. And I agree with others - they are a remarkably socially conscious big business, they treat employees well, they are fairly locally active, and I have no problem with their success.
  • by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @08:21PM (#17437708) Homepage
    I think my main complaint about starbucks is the fact that they don't seem to know how to *not* burn their coffee beans.

    Of course they know how not to, they simply chose to burn them as a matter of course. The reason? It's the only way to get a truly uniform coffee "flavor" across their entire chain. You can walk into a Starbucks anywhere and know what the coffee will taste like. In my opinion it tastes like shit, like all burned coffee does, but that isn't the point. The funny part is that for people for whom coffee == starbucks, they will come to think that burned crap is how coffee is supposed to taste, and may end up disliking other coffee.

  • Re:Starbucks QA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bladesjester ( 774793 ) <slashdot @ j a m ... l l ingshead.com> on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @08:25PM (#17437744) Homepage Journal
    So, if the coffee sucks, it's because they like it that way

    Actually, a lot of people who constantly go to Starbucks do it because it's the cool thing to do. They do it because it's what everyone else is doing since they don't want to be left out. Starbucks is more about "brand" than coffee anymore.
  • by MillionthMonkey ( 240664 ) on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @09:11PM (#17438230)
    Which would you rather work for? And if you say the local roaster, you clearly have never had an ambulance ride and multiple-day stay in the hospital. Neither have I, but I know what they cost.

    There is no one "cost" to know; the screwed up American health system is notorious for charging different prices depending on who you are and whether you have employer-provided health insurance (cheapest price), health insurance you paid for yourself (ripoff prices), or no health insurance (extortion). Generally, the more you're hurting for money, the more zeroes they append to your bill.

    The local roaster will also pay a much higher premium than Starbucks would have to pay for the same coverage. And if you buy health insurance yourself, instead of getting it from your employer, you run a much higher risk of having your coverage retroactively cancelled if you get sick.

    But remember, best health care system in the world.
  • by exp(pi*sqrt(163)) ( 613870 ) on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @09:47PM (#17438520) Journal
    "Macho" doesn't enter in to it. It's just expression.
    Last time I looked, thinkgeek [thinkgeek.com] didn't have many rowing related objects for sale. Nor does it have many related to any sport, or food or drink that isn't coffee. Saying "It's just expression" is like saying "War and Peace is just a bunch of words". You wouldn't be wrong if you said it, but you're kinda missing the point.
  • by chriss ( 26574 ) * <chriss@memomo.net> on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @10:16PM (#17438754) Homepage
    Starbucks is certainly quite successful at projecting an image of social responsiblity, yes - so much so that uninformed people like you believe that they created the fair trade movement, when actually Fair Trade is a decades old idea and Starbucks use of a tiny amout of Fair Trade coffee is just greenwash. [organicconsumers.org]

    The article you linked just says that Starbucks only buys a small amount of FairTrade coffee. But it says nothing about how much fairly traded coffee they buy. These are two different concepts. FairTrade is a trademark for a certification process. If something is labeled you can be assured that it is fairly traded, but if something is not labeled FairTrade you cannot be sure of the opposite.

    Starbucks is a sufficient large buyer to make it interesting to implement their own fair trading. And there may be good reasons for this, e.g. the overhead of the FairTrade process. In the YouTube video they claim that they often pay even more than FairTrade, and this seems completely possible since they could optimize logistics in a way that selling FairTrade coffee to consumers wouldn't allow.

    So the complaint in the linked article is that the money Starbucks spends on coffee is not run through the FairTrade organization, not that the coffee is not traded fairly. Somehow they forgot to make this more obvious.

    Should any fairly traded product be bought from FairTrade? I don't think so. Competition does not only lower prices, it also increases efficiency (thereby allowing lowering the prices). If Starbucks can pay the coffee farmers more than FairTrade due to their better process, I welcome this, because it will increase the consumption of fairly traded coffee in a significant way, while this might not happen if the price difference stays the same as it is today possibly due to inefficiencies in the FairTrade process.

    I don't know these things, I have no numbers about how much Starbucks pays coffee farmers etc. But I have the ability to distinguish between a justified criticism and someone trying to defend their monopoly by calling someone else unethical.

  • by swordgeek ( 112599 ) on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @10:21PM (#17438792) Journal
    Well unfortunately, Coke really does deserve to be in the bad corner.

    Do some digging on Coke in India (especially Kerala), and find out just how much damage they've done. Fertile ground has been turned into parched earth, groundwater has been contaminated across the country, and there's some question about the incidence of birth defects near the bottling plants. Unfortunately, it's far enough away from the Western World(tm), and also India's special interest groups tend to stray farther from the truth than they would here, so it's not the debacle it should be.

    As an aside, Pepsi is right up there in bad behaviour as well. Both companies were temporarily banned from production in Kerala, in August of 2006, but the ban was overturned.
  • by drsquare ( 530038 ) on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @11:40PM (#17439434)
    Last I looked my local high street wasn't lined with 'local roasteries'. I can't speak for America, but in Britain before Starbucks all we had were grotty little cafes serving vile tea and coffee alongside greasy bacon sandwiches.
  • Re:Starbucks QA (Score:2, Insightful)

    by el_yabanjin ( 1046174 ) on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @11:52PM (#17439528)
    Ah, young people these days. Some of use who finished university while Clinton was still screwing around recall life before Starbucks, when coffee was hot brown water. Then coffee shops started to open in college towns, and the people did rejoice, but they found that the coffee shops were overpriced and carried the baggage of snooty arrogant patrons, making entering a coffee shop feel like walking into a new unfamiliar bar (though with lower levels of threat to life an dlimb); the mom-and-pop was hit or miss in quality and atmosphere. Then Starbucks came and provided a standard quality and atmosphere. Pooh-pooh it all you like, but Starbucks meets the needs of many people, espsecially those who recall life before Starbucks. In Japan, where rich dark coffee has long been common in small coffee shops, Starbucks brings a lower price, larger servings, more choices, typically a better atmosphere (modern, lit, no velvet-lined chairs, no dust around the windows), and--the real innovation--no pressure (e.g., dirty looks, unbidden cups of water) to get the hell out because you're taking up valuable real estate by overstaying. It's new here and spreading, so people become comfortable with and loyal to it. Some people (often college kids and recent grads, as I was once) disdain Starbucks because it is Big Coffee, a corporation, evil incarnate. However, it's just a company. It hypes "social responsibility" because that appeals to certain customers willing to pay much money for a basically cheap beverage; it's probably also an effective way to preempt vocal eco-/anticapitalist shakedown groups. Many people are also willing to buy bogus moral superiority through "fair trade" no matter the economics and the results (e.g., paying people to keep using hand looms to crank out overpriced cotton cloth, thus sometimes locking people into inefficient old technologies). If you don't like Starbucks, just don't go.
  • by TobascoKid ( 82629 ) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @07:27AM (#17442248) Homepage
    But... to be back on topic... I too was of the opinion that Starbucks was a 'good' company, and it somewhat baffles me why organizations like Oxfam pick on them when there are truly BAD companies doing BAD things that they should be spending their time on.

    I think to some organizations, any global corporation is "bad" - there's no rationality behind it, and no amount of social responsibility will be enough to satisfy them, even if the corporation in question is giving a positive benefit to the world. Starbucks' perfectly legitimate disagreement with Ethiopian farmers is more than enough "justification" for people who are not being entirely rational to start protesting.
  • by Jerry Beasters ( 783525 ) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @11:26AM (#17444572)
    Frankly, fuck my community. I work for myself, not anyone else.

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