Starbucks Challenge

This is something I’ve been meaning to post about for a while now but for one reason or another keep getting side tracked. Local blogger Green LA Girl has started something called the Starbucks Challenge. Basically the scoop is this – Fair Trade Coffee is a good idea. It’s good for everyone, but the coffee Starbucks serves isn’t Fair Trade. Well, most of it isn’t. In response to pressure they have made a promise [pdf] to serve you Fair Trade to anyone who requests it. So Green LA Girl asked people to start asking for it and then blog what happens next. Unfortunately that seems to be an empty corporate promise as most locations so far are refusing to serve it. This campaign is now getting the attention of Starbucks themselves – but attention and action are two different things. Half because I like messing with people and half because I think it’s a good idea I’ll try this next time I’m at the ‘Bucks and report back. Anyone else want to give this a shot?

9 thoughts on “Starbucks Challenge”

  1. It’s currently Fair Trade Month @ Starbucks, I know because I work there. If they are not willing to french press fair trade for you at any time they are going against policy.

    Feel free to send the comment card to corporate and tell them that they are doing things wrong. I’m sick of Starbucks getting a bad wrap, when it’s just a couple lazy employees.

  2. First off this isn’t my campaign so I don’t know the ins and outs of this but what I can gather from reading this stuff so far is that the people behind it know the company policy better than the employees and the lazy ones are the norm. It looks like most of the reports are people saying Starbucks wouldn’t make them the Fair Trade stuff when asked. I think that is the heart of the issue, that corporate isn’t doing the job of letting the employees know policy well enough so that this kind of thing is allowed to happen. There’s no complaints that people asked for Lattes and were told no, so corporate policy about serving lattes when they are ordered is pretty obvious – this one isn’t.

  3. Just what we need — something else to complicate the Starbucks ordering process… short, tall, grande or venti… regular or decaf… whole milk, percent, skim, or soy… and now fair trade or capitalist pig.
    Don’t those coffee bean pickers understand what we already go through for our $3 cup a joe?

  4. In response to what Greg has to say about “lazy employees” I don’t know what store he’s working at but I can’t recall ever coming across any lazy employees at any of the four stores I worked at. When there’s 50 million people in line and you can barely keep the three daily coffees brewed that are required it is the most pain in the ass thing to get stop for 15 minutes and go through the process of brewing someone a french press of fair trade – and a really long wait for the customer who has to wait. Don’t blame the employee because corporate hasn’t standardized fair trade long ago. It should just be the daily mild.

  5. While I agree with Kelly that Corp should have made it easy a long time ago by making a daily Fair Trade coffee I gotta disagree with the “it’s too busy” agurment. If it’s company policy it’s part of the job description and it should never be too busy. If people get pissed off they are waiting maybe they will go someplace else and starbucks will get the clue and fix the hold up but employees deciding on the fly what policies to follow and which ones to ignore based on how many people are in line is never a good idea when it comes to the public image of the company. That’s they there’s this arguement in the first place.

  6. Sean — Thanks for joining the challenge :) This month is indeed fair trade month — not just at Starbucks, but everywhere, theoretically. In any case, Starbucks put out a press release yesterday saying that they’ll have fair trade coffee brewing all week in N.American stores — so at least for this week, you won’t have to wait for a French-pressed cup.

    I checked a couple of my local Starbucks — They do indeed have Cafe Estima (the “rebranded” name of Starbucks’ fair trade coffee) brewing. This isn’t true, however, for some of the other stores around the country that challengers have dropped into — It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out, both during and after this “fair trade week” —

    I sit somewhere between Kelly and Sean in terms of the “too busy” argument. Yes, the company needs to accomodate its policies, but it seems that an unfair burden falls on the poor baristas, who for the most part seem spastically busy as it is. Which is to say that for kind hearted would-be fair trade drinkers, there’s a lot of social pressure to NOT request fair trade.

    Still, continued and persistent requests for fair trade seem to be the most effective way of getting the message across to Starbucks. After a while, I’m hoping that the baristas themselves will start putting pressure on the company to brew fair trade daily, if for no other reason than to give the baristas a break.

    On the whole, the Starbucks baristas I’ve met — and I’ve met quite a few now — have been friendly, hard-working, and accomodating as long as I am friendly yet firm about my fair trade requests. Some even care deeply about fair trade themselves, and are glad to get the request —

  7. Awesome set of comments…thank you all!

    I agree that if it is policy it should be no harder to get Fairtrade than regular…then there would be no problem and Starbucks would look truly committed. PLUS more people would almost certainly order it.



  8. walked up to melrose and am pleased to report they are serving the esteemed “cafe estima” in lieu of house blend right now. They also have a giant display offering two types of fair trade coffee beans right inside the front door.

  9. Hey Ryan — Do you remember the address or cross streets of this Starbucks? Is this the one close to Fairfax High? Used to go to that one for orange juice on the way home from school — In any case, would appreciate it if you could let me know — Trying to put together a comprehensive list —

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