I want to talk for a moment about Starbucks in the United Kingdom. This won’t be as fun and uplifting as some of my other articles. Starbucks has recently committed to a change in their practices in how they pay taxes in the UK. One blogger (Caleb Storkey) responded with a thoughtful blog article suggesting ways Starbucks could donate monies, create a Chief Listening Officer, and other proactive changes to rebuild lost trust in Starbucks in the United Kingdom. While I don’t agree with all of his suggestions, I like the thoughtfulness and deliberation in Caleb Storkey’s discussion.
Whatever happens, I have great trust that Starbucks will work to rebuild that trust, and listen to their customers. That is one thing that is the hallmark of Starbucks. It doesn’t matter if we’re discussing cochineal extract or the transition to all Fair Trade espresso in the UK, Starbucks is not one to bury their head in the sand like an ostrich.
I recognize that there will be plenty of naysayers reading this. One customer in Seattle probably isn’t going to change anyone’s position about Starbucks operations in the United Kingdom.
I mention all of this at a time when protests are planned in the UK. I’m writing this at 9:30 p.m. on December 7, 2012, in Seattle, but it’s already the 8th in London, and today is the day that a UK organization is planning more than 40 protests at Starbucks stores. According to the news, the UK organization “is planning more than 40 demonstrations across the country, “transforming” Starbucks stores into refuges, creches and homeless shelters.”
As I said, I totally realize that one blogger in Seattle isn’t likely to change anyone’s thoughts about Starbucks in the UK.
I do, however, genuinely hope that some protestors may recognize that store-level protests simply antagonize the hard-working baristas who bring you a great cup of coffee. The partners inside Starbucks stores in the UK — those same people who know your drink, make your favorite beverage, and try to connect with you — are not in any position of decision-making power regarding taxes in the United Kingdom. If you’re protesting in London, please treat your store partners with respect and do not hold them personally responsible for whatever grievances you have with the financial operations of Starbucks UK.
And partners in the United Kingdom, I wish you the best, and you have my support. I just wanted to tell you that.