Boycotts Only Hurt You: Thoughts on the (latest) Starbucks Outrage

Today I went into this coffeeshop. No, it wasn’t Starbucks, I’ll wind around to the them later. It was a locally-owned place I had been to only once before. Seven years ago. At the time, I was a broke starving artist/missionary type. I needed a place to write, and being without even the three bucks for a coffee, I traversed into this small place. I took a seat quietly in the back and ordered a water. Unfortunately, I ordered it from the owner, who, in front of the whole coffee shop, proceeded to berate me and tell me if I didn’t actually order something I should leave.

I was flabbergasted. I had never been treated so awfully in my life. I stumbled for words. Finally, I gathered my things and explained I would leave and never come back. EVER. I went home and wrote about the experience, and published it on a community website. I went to coffee shop’s webpage, and linked it to them via their Contact Us feature. I never received a reply, apology or anything of the sort.

I have avoided this place for the last seven years. I instead became a loyal Starbucks patron. But every time I pass by this place, which is unfortunately, about every time I leave the house, I am reminded of that day.

And, I have unfortunately watched it grow. It expanded the building. It added a bistro. It took out a freeway billboard. It changed its logo. It added an outdoor seating area. I started to see the cups around town. My silent boycott…and subsequent media outrage, had obviously been so effective.

Today I needed a coffee, and just happened to be right next door. I thought, what the hell, this place is obviously not going anywhere. So I gave in. We don’t have hip indie coffee shops in our area. We’ve got Starbucks about every ten feet. And we’ve got a Dunkin’ Donuts. There’s some place called Jitters that I’ve been meaning to try, but I haven’t yet.

But, when I walked in here, it was everything an indie shop was supposed to be. Spacious. Comfortable. Low lit. Relaxed atmosphere. A place where locals sit around and chat with strangers as freely as in their own living rooms. It’s tech-y with it’s computerized menu screens, and shabby chic with the decorating style. But, the generic, maybe even secondhand, furniture gave it the perfect non-corporate feel. The coffee was good, they even had my signature French Vanilla creamer, which Starbucks doesn’t. The food wasn’t great, but coffee shops sort of have a reputation for bad food.

The owner even came up to me and talked to me. My stomach jolted at his voice, but he didn’t recognize me. Although, it is worth noting, I did have table full of food this time. And all these years, I had been making do with our tiny, impersonal Starbucks in defiance. And what did I gain from this boycott? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Which, brings me back Starbucks. They are now under fire again. This time because the CEO responded to Trump’s immigration ban by pledging to hire 10,000 political refugees. The idea is that if you’re going to make a political statement with your hiring policies, there are plenty of unemployed veterans here at home that would love a good job. So, it’s all over Facebook to boycott Starbucks. Yes, sharing Facebook memes is going to bring down the coffee giant. I’m a little bit over them myself, which was another reason I made friends with the devil today. But, I am not under any impression my ten bucks a week is going to put them out of business. What’s going to put them out of business is when they start to lose touch with the people. And they’re not in danger of doing that anytime soon. So, the little green and white mermaid isn’t going anywhere.

I guess I’m just so over the whole consumer power thing. Why even bother to shop your conscience?


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