Starbucks: Lattes for Literacy

Tomorrow (Thursday, January 19th, 2006) Starbucks Canada is going to donate 100% of the purchase price of EVERY latte sold, to support literacy programs in Canada. They call this their Lattes for Literacy project.

So, what to think about the idea of giving to an excellent cause by spending a ridiculous amount of money on a caffeinated beverage? Is Starbucks to be congratulated for supporting literacy, when its way of doing so basically amounts to an effort to drag people into Starbucks outlets to buy high-markup beverages?

A few thoughts:

Sure, Starbucks likely has mixed motives. If they didn’t, they could just quietly donate a chunk of cash. Of course, they could also do something much less honourable with that cash, or donate it to a less-worthy cause.

But I’ve seen much more dubious examples of companies using a charitable donation to lure people into their stores. I’m sure we’ve all seen cases where the deal is more like “we’ll donate 5%” or something. Donating 100% of latte sales from across Canada is no small thing.

Savvy consumers understand how these things work. Of course the payback for Starbucks is good karma (and PR), as well as a bunch of extra people entering a Starbucks, people who might a) buy an expensive baked good to go with their charitable latte, and b) become devotees of the coffee mega-chain. So, if you decide to support literacy by buying a latte tomorrow, just ask yourself: am I willing to risk the possibility that I might be tempted (as Starbucks is likely hoping I will) to buy an over-priced baked good? Am I willing to risk the possibility the I might find Starbucks a congenial spot, somewhere I’d like to return to? See, it doesn’t really count as corporate manipulation if you agree to (risk) being influenced.

Finally, if you don’t like Starbucks (for whatever reason — for me, it’s the mediocre coffee) but want to support the good cause, why not donate directly? (That’s what I just did.)

(Props to Andrew over at Rebel Sell for prodding me to blog about this.)

1 comment so far

  1. Anonymous on

    Thank you Chris I found your blog doing research on starbucks for a homework assignment and you helped a lot. thankx again

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