Starbucks Promotion Shows Congress How to Get Things Done


In an apparent attempt at getting lawmakers in Washington to come together, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has decided that his company will give free coffee to anyone who buys a beverage for someone else.

Noting that political gridlock has dominated the Beltway and rendered government impotent, Schultz sees this promotional opportunity as a way to bridge the political divide. In a memo to Starbucks staff, Schultz wrote: "The offer is a way to help fellow citizens support and connect with one another, even as we wait for our elected officials to do the same for our country." The promotion, which lasts from Wednesday to Friday, is good for one tall-brewed coffee upon someone else's purchase of a drink.

In ads placed in the New York Times, Washington Post, and USA Today, Schultz writes: "In times like these, a small act of generosity and civility can make a big difference." And yet, it is hard to make the connection that Schultz and Starbucks hope the consumer will make upon purchasing someone else's beverage.

How does a random act of kindness (or a buy-one-get-one-free deal) implicate the political landscape, particularly when both political factions are so sure that they are in the right? Harry Reid buying John Boehner a cup of coffee may be a nice feel-good story for some, but how does that factor into legislative compromise? The government shutdown goes beyond sentimentality, and while his heart may be in the right place, Schultz comes away looking like Jefferson Smith at his first Senate meeting.