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Brewing tensions

After reading this you’ll probably open an email or get a text from friend asking to meet up for coffee. Where will you be heading?

In most major cities, pretty well neighborhood has this recognizable coffee shop around the corner. In the early 1990s, Starbucks strategically plugged themselves on-screen, in big blockbuster hits. The brand has become a symbol of designer drinks, in stylish settings and conveniently located in large bookstores, namely the Chapters-Indigo company. New mommies to college grads alike have become brand ambassadors to the faithful Starbucks. Job interviews and networking events are often spotted in the café. Even organizations and small groups hold monthly meetings in the communal hot spot.

But what happens when the advocates for gun rights and of gun control meet up at the same place? The latter demanded that the coffee chain prevent the other group from meeting and in attempt to duck the controversial debate, Starbucks itself is caught in the cross fire. But keeping an open discussion between or among such groups in the public sphere, on private property, is a tricky line to tow. Because one of the ways Starbucks has stood out is in promoting itself as, “not a place to have coffee, but an experience.”

While the controversy may have put the company in a tough spot, it really isn’t such a bad situation. In fact, it could be spun has a positive from the public relations view. After all, making the news –in whatever shape or form—does keep customers thinking about Starbucks, reinforcing the brand in tough times; not bad at all. Especially since Starbucks considers itself a “third place” apart from home and the office, a place where people to segregate or, escape from work.

Personally, I’m pretty dedicated to the fair trade, independent types but will also go for the occasional Tim Hortons. The truth of the matter is I have some personal beef with how Starbucks has come to be. My first job in high school was working for a joint Canadian bagel and coffee shop that was new to the corner. When Starbucks opened a few months later, they had recruited some of their coffee customer agents from our store because they had already been trained on the cappuccino machines. To top it off, they persuaded a few people by asking how much they were paid and offered them a dollar extra, if they came over. It was pretty weasel-y but it does make smart business sense, regardless.


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