Shut Up and Give Me My Coffee
Would you like that with cream, sugar, or a lecture on race relations? The Starbucks CEO seems to think his customers are clamoring for the latter, as that’s what he’s offering with a campaign called ‘Race Together:’
In a video message, Schultz urges “partners” to write the phrase on their paper cups “to facilitate a conversation between you and our customers.” A USA Today supplement, set to be published March 20, includes a number of “conversation starters,” including the fill-in-the-blank question: “In the past year, I have been to the home of someone of a different race ___ times.”
Here’s a thought, how about you just shut up and give me my coffee.
That’s probably giving too much credit to the impact this PR-aimed initiative will have on most customers, but do we really need yet another conversation on race that goes nowhere? How many of these unproductive conversations must we have before it begins to sink in that obsessing over race at all times is part (though just a part) of the problem?
And must every economic transaction come attached with social and moral grandstanding, as is the current trend (with Starbucks being a prolific offender)?
One of the great values of the free market is that the incentives are toward tolerance. At times in the past that incentive has been overwhelmed by stronger social prejudices, but trade still promotes tolerance. And that’s because it allows people to interact that otherwise don’t like one another (for whatever reason). Trade strips transactions down to their core of value for value and thereby reduces social conflict.
Americans disagree with their peers on a lot of issues, and yet in most contexts it doesn’t matter. But if every economic transaction must be accompanied with exchanges of social and political values, some of those exchanges will inevitably result in unnecessary conflict. Society would become more fractured, not less.
On the other hand, here we all are talking about Starbucks. Even if it’s just to slam their CEO’s ham-fisted attempt at playing white savior, I suppose that’s an advertising win.