Every once in a while, the news is filled with stories that purport that Starbucks has an antagonistic relationship with the military and/or service veterans. These stories inflame emotions and sensationalize views that are not held by Starbucks corporate staff in Seattle. Starbucks is not perfect. Recently, there have been news stories of a disabled veteran not being allowed entry into Starbucks with his service dog. There's no doubt, the partner (Starbucks calls their employees partners) made the wrong call. I agree, it should not have happened, and it makes me question that particular partner's ability to create welcoming, and inspired moments. What I do know is this: it is not a pattern of larger, generalized mal-treatment of U.S. Veterans by Starbucks. And yes, I would agree that there should be consequences for that partner who made the wrong call. (That's up to Starbucks to figure out what those consequences should be). Customers become outraged, as if an isolated incident inside a store represents a corporate agenda to have an antagonistic relationship with the military and/or veterans. On the contrary, Starbucks is constantly working on various programs and projects to show their commitment to our veterans.
To clear up one more thing, there are still people who receive a viral email that says, "Starbucks doesn't support the troops" and is signed by a Sgt. Wright. This 10-year old viral email has been debunked many times over, and yet still causes problems, to this day. You can read the official Starbucks newsroom statement on supporting the troops here.
I think it's worthwhile to look at some of the things that Starbucks has in place (or has done) to support our military and our troops:
- Reduced shipping costs for StarbucksStore.com orders being sent to an APO or FPO mailing address. (Actually, I'd like to see it dropped even more!)
- An internal Armed Forces Network to support U.S. military Starbucks partners and veterans. (You can "like" that group on Facebook too.)
- A commitment to hire at least 10,000 U.S. veterans over the next five years.
- A free tall brewed coffee to all veterans, active duty, and military spouses on Veteran's Day 2013. (I hope to see this repeated in 2014)
- Starbucks has opened "Community Stores" which donate a portion of their profits to programs that benefit veterans.
There have been countless store-level efforts to send coffee to troops, including collection efforts and donations. I have heard of partners donating their markout of coffee, or buying coffee to donate. A quick Google search came up with a story about a Baltimore Starbucks collecting coffee donations to send to troops. I found this 'hero to hero' website describing large scale donations of coffee to troops. Buried deep in this website, it states that a Starbucks in Grass Valley donated to troops (there's no date on it). One of the challenges is that when an individual store coordinates donation efforts, rarely is there any media surrounding it. In June 2013, I was in Orange County, and visited the Rancho Santa Margarita Evenings Starbucks, which had just completed a district-wide campaign to donate coffee to Camp Pendelton troops. I actually did sit down and meet the store's district manager the day of my visit, and I learned from her that every store within her district participated to gather and donate thousands of pounds of coffee and Via Ready Brew for U.S. Marines at Camp Pendelton. I took a snap shot of the thank you letter signed by the Marines:
I'm probably not going to change anyone's mind with this article. I just find it surprising that many customers believe the action of one store manager or store partner represents some agenda from the Seattle headquarters: not true. If you could persuade me that there was some corporate plan to be antagonistic to veterans and/or the military, I'd have to change my thinking about Starbucks, but it simply isn't the case. And, I've said a ton of times before on this blog, but I too was in the military at one time in my life. I joined the Air Force when I was 18 and served for four peaceful years, honorably discharged at the age of 22. It forever changed my thinking on some things, and gave me great respect and appreciation for our volunteer armed forces, regardless of whether they're in combat or not. The military is a complete ecosystem, and every moving part is important.
I only hope that with this article, I've given you some food for thought about Starbucks and veterans/military.