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Starbucks Responds In Kind To Oxfam YouTube Video

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the better-latte-than-never dept.

492

Kligmond writes "Last week, Starbucks placed a video on YouTube responding to a video posted by the Oxfam Charity. The Oxfam video was launched in conjunction with 'Starbucks Day of Action,' held December 16th, when activists visited Starbucks locations across the world in protest of the coffee retailer's alleged mistreatment of Ethiopian farmers. The Starbucks video calmly addresses the Oxfam allegations, citing an impasse over Ethiopian trademark legalities. Starbucks claims the refusal to sign a trademark agreement with Ethiopia is a stumbling block they hope to resolve on behalf of the farmers. The coffee chain's representative goes on to refute the contention that Starbucks refuses to pay a fair price for its coffee reserves and, in fact, routinely pays well above commodity price, and above fair trade price. Unlike many recent ineffectual corporate reactions to social journalism and networking eruptions, Starbucks' response is unique in that the corporation managed Oxfam's unconventional assault in a very unconventional way, via YouTube. Regardless of the outcome of this particular incident, the move on Starbucks' part comes off as unmistakably in touch with today's communication modes and methods."

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492 comments

News For Nerds How??!! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17436430)

Excuse me for asking, but I don't really see what this story has to do with news for nerds or anything that slashdot usually posts. This isn't a tech issue or anything, who cares about Starbucks public relations operations or their corporate policies? So they and Oxfam are having a pissing match, big whoop. That doesn't mean it should be posted here.

Re:News For Nerds How??!! (5, Insightful)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436480)

Beacuse this would be a new use of the technology, rather than "hippies in Seattle march with signs, corporation issues press release denying charges"?

Re:News For Nerds How??!! (2, Funny)

IflyRC (956454) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436658)

Anything that keeps hippies off my doorstep or street I'm for. At least the cities can save some money on cattle prods, rubber bullets and tear gas.

Re:News For Nerds How??!! (1, Insightful)

Kohath (38547) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436802)

It's still 2 groups of irrelevant blowhards in a pissing contest, regardless of what technology they're using. Relevancy used to be a criteria to define what is news and what isn't.

Coffee! (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436524)

Coffee is more Geeky than this newfangled internet thing or this youtube thing.

The nerdy navigators of old drank it and pretty much everyone else since then.

Re:News For Nerds How??!! (2)

stuartrobinson (1003887) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436630)

I think it's the fact that the pissing match is taking place on YouTube that makes it worthy of Slashdot interest.

Re:News For Nerds How??!! (5, Insightful)

Run4yourlives (716310) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436720)

I'm only responding because you were modded insightful:

This is news for nerds not because of what is happening, but because of HOW it's happening.

Not only is Oxfam going directly to the internet to mount a campaign against a corporation (in and of itself a cool thing - proving yet a gain the power of the internet), the corporation responded in kind.

This type of one to one presentation of views has never happened before in such a powerful way. It could herald a new method of consumer/producer interaction, which of course may spill into political spheres. All because of the internet.

It is proof that the internet is radically changing the face of our entire society, so much so that we are only on the cusp of realizing what may happen. Geeky enough for you now?

The reason this was posted (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17436764)

This story is guaranteed to pucker righteous liberal rectums with the injustice of blood coffee and cause others to point out this will amount to $88 million corporate shakedown dollars in Eithiopian coffers for ethnic militias and forced relocation programs and not one wit of benefit to the poor coffee farmers. In any case, bet on lots' o comments, page views, page views, and more page views. Its all about the page views.

Re:The reason this was posted (1)

loraksus (171574) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436790)

"blood coffee"

That's the funniest thing I've heard this week.

Re:The reason this was posted (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 7 years ago | (#17437146)

"That's the funniest thing I've heard this week."

It's not that funny to those of us that have developed a taste for Raktajino.

Re:News For Nerds How??!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17436878)

Just in case you haven't noticed, Slashdot is now a far left moonbat blog. The slash should be a backslash \. Watch this post. It will disappear in a few minutes. Left Opposing comments or insults to Pedophiles are stricken from the record.

Re:News For Nerds How??!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17436932)

"I don't really see what this story has to do with news for nerds"

Ummm, let me help you clarify what it has to do with Slashdot:

1. Nerds drink coffee, lots of coffee.

2. Nerds watch lots of video on youtube, lots of video.

Re:News For Nerds How??!! (2, Insightful)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 7 years ago | (#17437124)

"This isn't a tech issue or anything, who cares about Starbucks public relations operations or their corporate policies? So they and Oxfam are having a pissing match, big whoop."

a.) Lots of nerds care about what happens to Starbucks.
b.) They used YouTube.

Slashdot isn't always going to have news you're interested in. Sorry.

And me thinking it was Kara who posted... (5, Funny)

thrill12 (711899) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436442)

...a response...

But why ? Does she crave for good coffee on the Battlestar ? Didn't the 12 colonies invest in fair trade coffee ? Why is she all of a sudden so sensitive about why Oxfam posted a youtube video anyway ?

What new plot twist of BG do I not understand ?

In other words: Oxfam just got own3d! (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17436452)

Next time do a little research Oxfam. Starbucks is one of the most socially responsible companies out there. They are pretty much why their is such a thing as "fair trade" coffee.

And to all the people that say *bucks pushes out the mom and pops: when was the last time they offered carreers or health insurance?

Re:In other words: Oxfam just got own3d! (4, Interesting)

bladesjester (774793) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436946)

I think my main complaint about starbucks is the fact that they don't seem to know how to *not* burn their coffee beans.

I'm glad that they are relatively socaially concious, but my personal opinion is that their coffee sucks. When I was still on campus, I really prefered the one coffee shop off campus that was also all fair trade stuff.

Re:In other words: Oxfam just got own3d! (5, Insightful)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 7 years ago | (#17437016)

Starbucks is one of the most socially responsible companies out there. They are pretty much why their is such a thing as "fair trade" coffee.

Starbucks is certainly quite successful at projecting an image of social responsiblity, yes - so much so that uninformed people like you believe that they created the fair trade movement, when actually Fair Trade is a decades old idea and Starbucks use of a tiny amout of Fair Trade coffee is just greenwash [organicconsumers.org].

While Starbucks is certainly not the Pure Concentrated Evil of, say, a Halliburton or a Monsanto, neither are they the angels that their PR department would like you to believe. That they seem to treat their direct employees fairly well, is no indication of what ethics apply (or don't apply) to their deals with suppliers.

And to all the people that say *bucks pushes out the mom and pops: when was the last time they offered carreers or health insurance?

Uh huh. So rather than owning one's own small business, being a successful entrepreneur, the new American dream is to work for a national franchise, so that you can get health insurance. How incredibly fscking sad is that?

Good for Starbucks (4, Insightful)

p0tat03 (985078) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436468)

It's nice to see a company address accusations directly, without resorting to lawsuits or just more propaganda. These points were well refuted in the vid, though I would personally like to see a bit more documentation provided to show that they're not just pulling things out of their collective asses.

I wish other companies would follow this lead - transparent, straight-forward, no-BS rebuttals of claims against them. Apple, where's your rebuttal against Greenpeace?

Re:No Good for Starbucks (0, Troll)

mpapet (761907) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436734)

Bah.

More cleverly packaged propaganda from some of the best packagers in the world.

How do I know that?

1. Starbucks is not a philanthropic organization.
2. The complicated way they are dancing around the issue. All plausible reasons but no one wants to or cares to find out they are in fact clever propaganda. Note, I did not say lies.
3. "in fact, routinely pays well above commodity price" Let's look at some approximate facts from the cia world factbook. https://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos /et.html [cia.gov]

Median age:
total: 17.8 years
male: 17.7 years
female: 17.9 years (2006 est.)

Population below poverty line:
50% (2004 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 3%
highest 10%: 33.7% (1995)

"Above market" means lots of things, most of which don't make starbucks look very good once the general conditions in Ethiopia are added to the discussion.

Re:No Good for Starbucks (5, Insightful)

lostatredrock (972881) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436922)

What does that have to do with anything? From the intro to your post I was expecting some refute to the claim that Starbucks pays higher than market value for their coffee. Instead you offered a bunch of proof of the fact that the average Ethiopian is poor. How is that Starbuck's fault? They are not responsible for the welfare of the Ethiopian people, they do appear to be trying to help, but to use the fact that Ethiopians are poor as 'proof' of Starbucks not being socially responsible seems to be a bit of a stretch.

Re:No Good for Starbucks (3, Insightful)

mi (197448) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436984)

"Above market" means lots of things, most of which don't make starbucks look very good once the general conditions in Ethiopia are added to the discussion.

What would you rather they do instead? Stop buying Ethiopian coffee at all? Pay even more for the stuff grown in Ethiopia and thus attract even more growers to the already saturated market [economist.com]?

If Oxfam were really concerned about the third-world farmers, they would've been making noise against Europe's farmer-subsidies, against the smaller-but-still-significant American ones, and against Japan's protectionism. Instead Oxfam goes against a prominent corporation — they are well aware of the shortness of the attention span of their contributors... Much easier to bash a corporation (especially an American one), than to be "against the small farmers", is not it?

Re:No Good for Starbucks (3, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#17437042)

If Oxfam were really concerned about the third-world farmers, they would've been making noise against Europe's farmer-subsidies, against the smaller-but-still-significant American ones, and against Japan's protectionism.

I think they'd be going after non-shade-growing coffee farmers, since they're the ones who created the oversupply in the coffee market. As a bonus, they could get a greenpeace tie-in, since removing the shade plants has devastated the biota in many locations.

Re:No Good for Starbucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17437150)

All nations, large and small, need to insure their domestic food production. It is a profound national security issue, as well as a local economy issue. Once that is accomplished you can talk about alleged and so called "free trade".

One of the primary functions of "governments" is to protect it's people. The word protect is clear there. And that means as many as they can, not just the wallets of the top 1%. Ethiopia is well within their rights to try and protect their farmers as much as possible, injcluding protecting their trademarks and other IP which is at the heart of this issue. Exactly the same as the US or the various nations in the EU should.

It is clear that relying on foreign energy sources is not the smoothest move in the world, so when it comes to food, even if it is just coffee, it should be even more clear.

Re:No Good for Starbucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17437034)

>"Above market" means lots of things, most of which don't make starbucks look very good once the general conditions in Ethiopia are added to the discussion.

Starbucks only has to respond to Oxfam's purporting that Starbucks is into cheap-bastardry. They have done so. Since Oxfam only staged protests outside Starbucks and not any other coffee store means Oxfam only cares if Starbucks is cheap. Since they are not (they pay more than normal) Oxfam is therefore wrong.

Here's a comparison: Let's pretend company X pays it's workers $8 per hour in the US. A low wage, to be sure. However, companies A through W pay an average of $6.15 per hour. Even lower! Now, a set of people, let's call them Y, step into the picture. They stand outside company X and accuse them of paying ridiculously low wages! Anyone with a brain would see the predicament Y has stepped into: They have accused the best paying company of being the worst! Y should have investigated better and protested the company paying $2.13 per hour.

Well, guess that, Oxfam did what Y did. They didn't bother doing the math and instead targeted whoever is biggest. That's just sheer stupidity and has ensured that Oxfam is on my list of never-donates (along with PeTA [animal death freezer] and the Canadian Legion [poppy trademark bullshit, freedom my ass!]). Hopefully that lady that said she'd never go to Starbucks IF Oxfam was right now will instead never donate to Oxfam.

Re:Good for Starbucks (4, Insightful)

Otter (3800) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436744)

It's nice to see a company address accusations directly, without resorting to lawsuits or just more propaganda.

I had the same reaction at first, but you know -- if Starbucks is correct (*If*. I have no idea.) and a very large, very wealthy group is engaged in a completely dishonest, high-profile smear campaign against their business, that group should get its pants sued off.

Technicaly It Is (3, Insightful)

Mateorabi (108522) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436772)

Well technicaly this video is a form of propeganda. Then again, so is the original Oxfam video. Propeganda is an extremely broad category and doesn't always have to mean dissembling or promoting falsehoods. Unfortunately the word 'propeganda' has lost it's neutrality in the modern lexicon and often has negative conotations for people.


Propeganda is merely an attempt to sway a group's opinion through communication. "Getting your message out." That message can be truthful or lies, honest or deceptive, present all facts or cherry pick; it just needs to be pursuasive. I think sometims the negative connotation actualy discourages non-deceptive propeganda from more honest parties because they feer being accused of engaging in 'propeganda'.

Re:Technicaly It Is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17437092)

What is this "propeganda" you have written so much about. I've not heard of such a word before, yet there it appears again and again in your post. I tried to find a definition, but it seems all the dictionary writers have overlooked this word, an amalgum of letters that you seem to have so mastered as part of your vocabulary. I can only conclude that this is not actually a word of the (American) English language, which, technicaly speaking, renders your post giberish.

Good for Google (1)

megaditto (982598) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436866)

Seing how their US$ 1 Billion is about to go down the drain the moment all copywrighted content is pulled, Google must be very pleased that YouTube is becoming something other than a repository of ripped TV shows and RIAA-infringing wannabe "artists".

--
Your gene pool needs some chlorine.

Rebuttal of Greenpeace (1)

john82 (68332) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436896)

Sometimes it's difficult to rebut the kind of shoddy investigation that underpins such ecological or political protest as Greenpeace. Then again, one has to wonder whether such misinformation is the result of incompetence or outright lying to gain support. In the case of Greenpeace vs. Apple it [apple.com] seems [roughlydrafted.com] Greenpeace [roughlydrafted.com] lied [eu.int].

Apparently, sensationalist lies tend to generate more checks for the cause.

Hooray for YouTube! (0, Offtopic)

slapys (993739) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436472)

It's great to see another instance of YouTube being used for constructive purposes. Time and time again, videos like these [youtube.com] remind me how the internet is a necessary cornerstone for communication in today's world.

Re:Hooray for YouTube! (1)

p0tat03 (985078) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436542)

Not only is the internet proving to be crucial for communication (we've known that for a while now)... it is quickly showing its value in preserving freedom. Never in history has the average man been given such power to influence so many, it truly levels the playing field to a large degree.

Who's next? (1)

PurifyYourMind (776223) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436492)

We've already seen traditional advertising via the tubes. I guess all that's left is for the next presidential candidates to launch attacks/defenses on there.

ex-starbucks employee (4, Informative)

the dark hero (971268) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436498)

While working at starbucks they urge you to be an absolute coffee enthusiast(not necessarily a drinker), but they really do well in taking care of its employees, surrounding community and the farmers.

Here is the mission statement that they live their lives by:

Establish Starbucks as the premier purveyor of the finest coffee in the world while maintaining our uncompromising principles as we grow. The following six guiding principles will help us measure the appropriateness of our decisions:

* Provide a great work environment and treat each other with respect and dignity.

* Embrace diversity as an essential component in the way we do business.

* Apply the highest standards of excellence to the purchasing, roasting and fresh delivery of our coffee.

* Develop enthusiastically satisfied customers all of the time.

* Contribute positively to our communities and our environment.

* Recognize that profitability is essential to our future success.

Re:ex-starbucks employee (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17436588)

Embrace diversity as an essential component in the way we do business.

For a company that exists purely to homogenise and standardise everything about the way it operates, that's a hilarious thing to have in their "mission statement".

Re:ex-starbucks employee (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17436754)

They're embracing in an ever-tightening stranglehold of compassion.

What they should be saying (3, Insightful)

Bryansix (761547) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436608)

1) Promote conformity by putting a Starbucks on every corner and making each one look the same

2) Promote Brand loyalty by pushing Gift Cards thereby forcing even non-customers to occasionally consume Starbucks

3) Say that we embrace diversity while actually embracing conformity (see above)

4) Reduce the number of artistic venues by putting small coffee shops out of business with our pre-packaged experience

5) Raise the prices on our addictive substance every six months

6) Profit!!!

Re:What they should be saying (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436854)

> 5) Raise the prices on our addictive substance every six months

Nothing wrong with selling addictive substances to adults, but I'm surprised at just how much they charge. It's something like £2 - £2.50 for a cup of coffee at Starbucks. Why?

Re:What they should be saying (3, Insightful)

Itchyeyes (908311) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436982)

For an in depth explanation I would point you to "The Undercover Economist" by Tim Harford. In short though, the answer is simply "that's what people are willing to pay".

Re:What they should be saying (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17436860)

If anybody is putting those small coffee shops out of business, it's the clients who *prefer* Starbucks over the small coffee shop, for whatever reason (probably not price).

That said, I prefer the underdogs, as long as they make good coffee.

Re:What they should be saying (3, Insightful)

Itchyeyes (908311) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436934)

I find it very ironic that the most apt rebuttal, I can think of, to the arguments you present would simply be to refer you to the very episode of Southpark that you reference with the way your formatted your post.

Re:What they should be saying (1)

Dionysus (12737) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436966)

2) Promote Brand loyalty by pushing Gift Cards thereby forcing even non-customers to occasionally consume Starbucks

Someone gives you a gift card and suddenly Starbucks is putting a gun to your head and forcing you to use it? Wow... didn't know they had that kind of power. So what happens when you don't use it? Thugs come by and beat you up?

4) Reduce the number of artistic venues by putting small coffee shops out of business with our pre-packaged experience

Nobody is forced to go to Starbucks. If people like those small coffee shop, why don't they continue go there? Or is it more the case that you personally don't like the choices other people are making, and want to force them to do what you think is best?

5) Raise the prices on our addictive substance every six months

And if you are not willing to pay for it, don't. Go to the store and buy your own coffee. Cheaper too.

6) Profit!!!

<sarcasm>Which is so wrong in a capitalistic society<sarcasm>

cry me a river (2, Insightful)

Imazalil (553163) | more than 7 years ago | (#17437096)

1) You do realize that ( at least to my knowledge ) just about all Starbucks are franchises. That means that independent business types approach Starbucks to open shops wherever they open shops, sure Starbucks could be a good samaritan and turn people down, but the fact remains that people approach Starbucks to open stores. Yeah it sucks that some very good and unique coffee shops go under because Starbucks moves into the neighborhood, but it is the local people that vote with their wallets, don't like Starbucks don't buy their stuff, convince people to support the local shops, in essence you only have your neighbours to blame.

2) What larger chain isn't pushing cards, don't like'em don't use'em, and tell your friends/relatives to not get them.

3) Sure only if you buy into the conformity - again don't go to Starbucks if you don't like them. Some people like to walk into a shop in Anytown USA and get a consistent brew of coffee and environment.

4) Again see 1 & 3, just go and support your own local shop with their 'art' or just go visit a local art gallery or artist run center.

5) Boo hoo cry me a river, don't like the price don't use the product, coffee isn't exactly an essential service you know.

6) Damn straight, and it's on the backs of you 'but they are an evil large chain and hurt the local shops and artists who I choose not to support' types.

Re:ex-starbucks employee (1)

ray-auch (454705) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436638)

Here is the mission statement that they live their lives by:

If they are really living their _lives_ by their _employer's_ mission statement, then something is seriously wrong - that is slavery, not employment.

Re:ex-starbucks employee (1)

the dark hero (971268) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436822)

If they are really living their _lives_ by their _employer's_ mission statement, then something is seriously wrong - that is slavery, not employment.

I meant corporate lives their work life by those guidelines. same as the employees must generally abide by these guidlines. say what you want, but it works.

So, you worked for Starbuck's, eh? (5, Funny)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436690)

What's the freakin' deal with making up new words for small, medium, and large?

Re:So, you worked for Starbuck's, eh? (2, Interesting)

the dark hero (971268) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436756)

there is an actual "small" size, but it was widely unpopular to us fat americans that love to consume so much. :P

seriously, there is a small size(which i forget the name of),tall is the medium, grande is italian for large and venti is italian for 20 as in 20oz of zomg expensive coffee.

Re:So, you worked for Starbuck's, eh? (1)

kaizokunami (982824) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436838)

I believe the smallest size is called a "short".

Re:So, you worked for Starbuck's, eh? (5, Interesting)

I'll Provide The War (1045190) | more than 7 years ago | (#17437044)

Here is a very interesting story about the "short" cup at Starbucks.

http://www.slate.com/id/2133754/ [slate.com]

Starbucks Economics
Solving the mystery of the elusive "short" cappuccino.

Here's a little secret that Starbucks doesn't want you to know: They will serve you a better, stronger cappuccino if you want one, and they will charge you less for it. Ask for it in any Starbucks and the barista will comply without batting an eye. The puzzle is to work out why.

The drink in question is the elusive "short cappuccino"--at 8 ounces, a third smaller than the smallest size on the official menu... ..continues

Re:So, you worked for Starbuck's, eh? (5, Funny)

angst_ridden_hipster (23104) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436986)

True story:

So a certain anonymous individual went into a Starbuck's one morning, a bit cranky because he had to be up earlier than usual. He spoke to the individual at the cash register...

Anon.: I'd like a medium chai, please.
Register Person: Do you mean tall or grande?
Anon.: I mean medium.
Register Person: We don't sell a size called medium.
Anon.: "Medium" is a description, not a name. You sell three sizes. I'd like the one in the middle.
Register Person: We call that size "grande."
Anon.: Right.
Register Person: So what is it you'd like?
Anon.: I'd like a medium chai, please.
Register Person: You mean a "grande."
Anon.: Haven't we already been through this?
Register Person: I just would like to be certain.
Anon.: You can be certain I'm not going to use your ridiculous trademarked name, when a descriptive adjective completely connotes my intent.
Register Person: It's not a ridiculous name -- it's Italian!
Anon.: Yes, and "chai" is either Chinese or Sanskrit. What's that got to do with it? The word I want in English is "medium."
Register Person: Dude, what have you got against Italians?
Anon.: Nothing. Well, perhaps they bear some responsibility for Madonna, but I think she's actually from New York.
Register Person: Bay City, Michigan, actually. That'll be $3.50.

Re:So, you worked for Starbuck's, eh? (1)

gatesvp (957062) | more than 7 years ago | (#17437004)

OK, the official sizes are Short, Tall, Grande and Venti (20).

In the beginning, there was no Venti, only the first three. The Short was unpopular, so Venti became the "new Large", but Short still exists. You see menus with four columns are tough to read and people like the 1,2,3 style of sizes, so short is off the menu but still on the tills.

Truth is, it's not only Starbucks. We have a Robin's donuts that has S, M, L & Jumbo, and the perennial Canadian favorite Tim Horton's has S, M, L and XL. But nobody really buys the S except for the seniors. Typically they hang out and get refills so it could really be any size; but with the cup being the most expensive part of the coffee, it's just more efficient to give them the tiny cup.

Re:ex-starbucks employee (1)

PenGun (794213) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436894)

Corporate babble speak. Jeez it's pretty simple make good coffee. Not on the list but that's all that matters you weasels.

  MAKE GOOD COFFEE

  I'm yelling to try to get the concept accross.

How hard is it? (3, Insightful)

Kelbear (870538) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436520)

"Regardless of the outcome of this particular incident, the move on Starbucks' part comes off as unmistakably in touch with today's communication modes and methods."

The final comment of the summary does have the ring of truth(or shall I say, truthiness?).

But then I stop to think...c'mon, this is Youtube. How hard is it to post something on Youtube, a free service? What's more interesting is that this move is a suprise rather than the suprise itself.

Re:How hard is it? (1)

rilister (316428) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436578)

That totally stood out to me. PR-speak if ever I saw it.

Let's see. I'm guessing Starbucks don't have movie-makers on their books. Perhaps they employ a... erm.. media relations/PR consultancy of some sort? And perhaps that PR consultancy is enamoured of "grass-roots" style communications?

Hmmm. That would explain the (admittedly impressive) YouTube response. And the subsequent posting of said response to Slashdot.

Someone earned their dollars today. Congrats,kligmond. (or prove me wrong)

Re:How hard is it? (5, Insightful)

oni (41625) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436804)

>> How hard is it to post something on Youtube, a free service?

uh well, it's easy to post on youtube, but I think you're missing the point.

Most big megacorps don't "get it" Their decision making process involves things like lawyers who always fail on the side of caution. That's why, if you posts some completely made-up allegations about, for example Bank of America, then (if they even noticed what you had done) the Bank of America corporate execs would have a meeting in their conference room on the 400th floor of some far off building. They'd have to call in the CTO to explain to them exactly what this "ewe toob" thing was. Then the lawyers would caution against making any kind of direct rebuttal, because that might be seen as *insert lawyer-speak here*

Meanwhile, Starbucks goes, "wtf, get a webcam we're going to respond to this bullshit"

So you see, the point here isn't the ease or difficulty of youtube. The point is the that one corporation gets it and made a simple, common sense move.

(btw, I hate Starbucks)

Sounds Good To Me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17436582)

3 a cup actually sounds pretty good to me. I expected it to be a lot less. When you actually think about how many actually coffee beans go into a cup of Starbucks coffee, it's not a lot. The problem is that people are willing to pay $3.50 for something that only costs 10 in raw materials...and then Starbucks gets all the profit.

so the problem is the free market? (1)

Dr Kool, PhD (173800) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436888)

What a bunch of idiots spending $3.50 for something "that only costs 10 in raw materials". That's outrageous, there should be laws against such idiocy. We should make economic freedom illegal.

Re:Sounds Good To Me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17436912)

Well, given how far 3 cents goes in Ethiopia that's hella more than the 4.5 cents bands get from Sony off iTunes sales.

Probably a non story (2, Interesting)

edwardpickman (965122) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436594)

Starbucks is actually well known for it's good treatment of it's employees. A significant amount of your coffee purchase goes to health insurance where as most large retailers have gone to mostly part time policy to avoid paying benefits. I'm guessing it's their size more than their practices that are making them the target. If you attack Joe's Coffee Hut for paying 20% below market price for dirt cheap beans raised by slave labor you ain't gettin' much press interest. Attack the king of the hill and the press takes notice even if they are in fact paying a fair price for the beans and there really is no story. I used to be a big fan of invegative stories but all too often these days the story is manufactured and once you know the details many turn out to be bogus. Starfbucks may not use Blue Mountain beans but they use good quality beans so I have to believe they pay a decent price for them. They sure charge enough. I use their Expresso beans because the supermarket brands are awful. $10 for a pound of coffee that will last for weeks isn't that bad.

Re:Probably a non story-More of a Rant. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17436652)

Of course you guys are the most socially responsible company in the world...you have bought up all of your competition to become that way. But always talking about how much money you throw at people is not going to take away from the fact that even the most uneducated coffee person can still pay upwards of $5 for the worst cup of coffee in the world by standards of roasting. Bloated prices and a sub-standard product...now thats what I call socially responsible. Oh well, you guys just bought Diedrich Coffee so now you don't have to listen to anyones critique. I hope Walmart buys you guys out! PFFFT!

Did you spell espresso correctly? My argument in full fruition exactly. How can you care about the passion of a product of it is not even spelled correctly?

Plus Starbucks uses the part time issue to avoid paying benefits too. Just ask part time employees how easy it is to hit the ceiling of their part time hours status.

-Inoyun

Re:Probably a non story-More of a Rant. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17436718)

Bloated prices and a sub-standard product...now thats what I call socially responsible

Evidently, the rest of the planet disagrees with you, or they would never be able to sell sub-standard coffee at bloated prices. What color is the sky at your house?

Re:Probably a non story-More of a Rant. (1)

PenGun (794213) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436800)

Interesting ... you believe in free will. Actually the conditioning starts at birth. It is very difficult to own your own head, takes years of serious effort.

  Most Starbucks coffee is mediocre. Any speciality roaster should just kill them for quality. In my little town even Thrifty's, a supermarket chain, has better coffee.

Re:Probably a non story-More of a Rant. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#17437088)

It is very difficult to own your own head, takes years of serious effort.

Amen to that. I can't find a citation but I'm told that Ben Franklin once said or wrote "nine tenths of all men are living suicides". I couldn't agree more. Most people might as well be dead for all the enjoyment and just plain living they get out of life. Grind 9-5 so that you can come home and grind on the weekends too? Fuck that. I have a 9-5, actually, but it's usually not horribly strenuous (although dealing with some of the people here can be downright sickening, let alone tiring) and I'm working my way to somewhere. Preferably out of the country before the USD collapses completely.

Most Starbucks coffee is mediocre. Any speciality roaster should just kill them for quality. In my little town even Thrifty's, a supermarket chain, has better coffee.

Interesting, out here Thrifty's is a drug store, although I think they bought or were bought by Long's or something, and they're all called Long's now? Maybe that was Vessey's, I can't remember.

But it's totally true! Actually even trader joe's has better coffee on the shelf than you can get at starfucks. My lady and I like the Cafe Pajaro, which has a picture of a couple of parrots on it.

Re:Probably a non story (1)

nuzak (959558) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436674)

> they use good quality beans

Then they burn the shit out of them. Roasted beans are supposed to be shiny with the oils that come to the surface. Starbucks beans are dessicated. Thank god I live next to a Peets.

Re:Probably a non story (1)

zoftie (195518) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436770)

.."I'm guessing it's their size more than their practices that are making them the target."...

Its their visibility. Kraft and Nestle buy way more then any of the coffee chains even combined. .."I use their Expresso beans because the supermarket brands are awful. $10 for a pound of coffee that will last for weeks isn't that bad."..

You should try Cape vinta, but thats only available in phillipines.

20% below market price (1)

Dr Kool, PhD (173800) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436782)

The only way to pay 20% below market price for anything is by buying from a fool or by use of force. If the price of coffee is 20% less than it was a few months ago then that's still the market price.

I buy fair-trade products too (4, Insightful)

Dr Kool, PhD (173800) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436670)

The fairest trade system in the history of man:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capitalism [wikipedia.org]

Re:I buy fair-trade products too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17436776)

Except that it favours the rich over the poor. It favours those that have the infrastructure in place to produce efficiently while the ones that don't fall further behind and resort to resource exploitation, produce, or tourism for their economy.

Re:I buy fair-trade products too (1)

TheWoozle (984500) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436828)

Oh, so all the rest of us just imagined the biggest failure of capitalism:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monopoly [wikipedia.org]

Re:I buy fair-trade products too (2, Insightful)

bmajik (96670) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436916)

Monopolies cannot exist without government blessing. The failure of the market to prevent monopoly is not the fault of capitalism, but rather, the fault is with government involvement in the marketplace that allows and entrenches monopolies

Examples of government blessing of monopoly:
- land usage easements (for utilities, etc)
- the copyright/patent system (for intellectual property)
- airwaves / frequency ranges (for cell carriers, radio stations, etc)

Can you think of some monopoly in the US that isn't supported by decree of government?

Re:I buy fair-trade products too (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#17437148)

Can you think of some monopoly in the US that isn't supported by decree of government?

I would have said Microsoft (although I'm not sure that they qualify for monopoly status any more, what with their falling market share) but then they got let off the hook after getting totally busted by the DOJ...

Re:I buy fair-trade products too (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436990)

To be fair, "feudal contract" systems was a bit more fair with retirement benefits.

Of course in 1200AD most people didn't live past 40.

Re:I buy fair-trade products too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17437018)

Capitalism was awesome until people got mixed up in it.

The result is just a mess of companies demanding that they somehow deserve cheap labor, using the suggestion that people somehow deserve $1 burgers to convince the government to look the other way while they pay illegal immigrants a few dollars a day. Supporters of this behavior argue that "labor is only worth that much", an argument based on handwaving and a complete and most likely intentional ignorance of supply and demand. Meanwhile, in American markets where illegal immigrants are not readily available by the truckload, the actual wages for labor has risen over the federal minimum in nearly all occupations.

Re:I buy fair-trade products too (2, Informative)

SydShamino (547793) | more than 7 years ago | (#17437078)

Nonsense. Capitalism is a failure unless it is tempered by regulation:

1. Capitalism allows for and indeed promotes exploitation of common resources, putting immediate profits over long-term sustainability in things like the air and water quality, fish populations, or eco-diversity. Not even post-damage litigation can undue the damage done, and in many cases post-damage litigation is hampered because the original instigators are dead or retired or have spent all their gains. The short-sighted nature of capitalism is one of its biggest drawbacks, and it must be constantly balanced with the long-term views of governments and social groups.

2. Because of the barriers to entry in many markets, capitalism's long-term stable state is that of monopoly. Monopolies can be the logical result of some markets, but exploitation of a monopoly in one market to affect other, developing markets goes against the principles of capitalism. In other words, without regulation capitalism destroys itself.

3. Capitalism encourages greed. Without question, money can be a good driver for innovation, which can in turn benefit more people than those who got rich. At the same time, greed to the point of exploitation, creating a poverty class to finance the wealth of the upper class, is not stable in the long term due for political reasons (namely, revolutions). As the political instability will itself disrupt markets, capitalism must be throttled to maintain a minimum standard of living for the poorest classes.

Regulated capitalism is the fairest trade system in the history of man. That regulation can include fair trade/fair price practices. Unregulated capitalism is a cancer that will eventually kill itself and, possibly, everything else.

Re:I buy fair-trade products too (1)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 7 years ago | (#17437132)

Yeah, right. Capitalism is so fair that Starbucks can frickin' trademark the Italian word for "twenty", but when poor farmers try to trademark the names of their coffee varieties (which is what this dispute is about), they get the shaft.

Just another example of why "libertarian capitalism" or "free market capitalism" are contradictions: capitalism is reliant on a powerful state to create and enforce all sorts of artificial property rights, from trademarks and copyrights to corporate charters to land deeds. And once the state has concentrated weath into the hands of a few, those few can then exercise that wealth to unduly influence the state. What a perfect system of trade.

Their coffee already costs a fortune... (0, Troll)

Peyna (14792) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436706)

Starbucks coffee is already overpriced, so I imagine there is plenty of room in their profit margin to absorb paying the farmers a little bit more if they wanted to.

Somehow every other coffee place I've been to charges 50-75% less than Starbucks and tastes just as good if not better, and I doubt it's because those coffee places are stiffing their suppliers any more than Starbucks is.

yep (2, Interesting)

BitterAndDrunk (799378) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436760)

It's because they actually pay for benefits for their workers, even part time. Whole Foods suffers from the same markups.

why can't you pay more? (1)

Dr Kool, PhD (173800) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436826)

Let's see your tax returns buddy. I hear your profit margin is pretty large, you made more than $50K last year? Why don't you pay Ethiopian farmers more.

Re:Their coffee already costs a fortune... (1)

sean_ex_machina (1026748) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436970)

Somehow every other coffee place I've been to charges 50-75% less than Starbucks

Strange - in every city where I've ever bought coffee, Starbucks is no more expensive than any other coffee shop.

Re:Their coffee already costs a fortune... (1)

All Names Have Been (629775) | more than 7 years ago | (#17437176)

Somehow every other coffee place I've been to charges 50-75% less than Starbucks and tastes just as good if not better

Not sure where you live - every place I've ever been coffee prices are remarkably consistent between coffee shops. Keep in mind that buying coffee at 7-11 or the gas station down the street doesn't count.

And you can bet the farm that those mythical cheaper shops aren't paying for health insurance for their employees.

Biggest question (1)

rasjani (97395) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436712)

Is now, which side has valid claims ? But then again, news reports in Finland didnt actually say that Starbucks is the bad corporation that is not paying Fare Price for the farmers, just that they didnt sign the copyright agreements about the ethiopian coffee brands and that they are still using those even there are other big coffee companies that have agreed to sign the papers. By copyrighting the name, the farmers & trade commission tries to raise the price as farmers are getting a very small share where ethiopian coffee is held as one of the best coffee brands in the world and thus also the most expensive..

The real facts (1)

mgemmons (972332) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436742)

I am all for making sure a fair price is paid for goods, but we should all beware the "think of the children" appeal without giving due-diligence to the facts. Starbucks typically pays higher than market prices for Ethiopian coffee. Am I missing something or is there some reason they should have to pay even more? Also, America's National Coffee Association was responsible for requesting that the trademarks not be honored, not Starbucks.

Seems fair enough (2, Insightful)

kentrel (526003) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436752)

It's not Starbucks I worry about - I've researched this before and to my satisfaction they seem to be doing as good a job as they can with ensuring fairtrade in the coffee industry. It's not just a moral issue, it actually makes good business sense in the modern Western world to be concerned for the welfare of 3rd world countries. Starbucks is one of the top targets for the anti-capitalist movement, simply because they are a huge corporation, which to some anti-capitalists is a crime in itself. I think, for the most part most sensible people ignore the anti-capitalist movement simply because they are wrong or narrowminded on a lot of issues. Being unethical would be bad business for any large company like this, and the claims made about their practises are simply misinformed. Sure, they may be cutting corners here and there like you would expect any company to do (not that I'm saying that's right), but to me they seem to have more concern for "the little guy" than the opposition would have you believe.

That said, what I'm far more concerned about is the other little known coffee companies. Starbucks coffee is expensive, and we're assured that's partly due to the costs being passed onto the coffee farmers. For the sake of argument let's assume that's true. Now, look at the coffee in your local supermarket, particularly your "value" Kwikkymart type supermarkets. In my local one I can get a 1KG tub of coffee for 1.99 and they sell like hotcakes. For those prices I really doubt much of my money (if I was cheap or tasteless enough to buy it) is filtering down to the farmers, if any at all, and I wonder what kind of money any of the related industries (transport, packaging etc) are getting. Who knows what those guys are getting away with?

Bear in mind, I'm also wondering just how much of that 1KG is actually coffee :)

Women (5, Funny)

ch-chuck (9622) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436794)

I like my women like my coffee: expensive and easily available on many street corners.

Did a little research for those who care (5, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436798)

And I do mean a little research... First, I watched both videos. The most notable thing is that neither Oxfam's video-mentioned webpage nor the video itself actually says what Starbucks is doing. They say that starbucks is preventing the manufacturers of this coffee from using the names of the coffee, but that's as close as they come to discussing the actual situation. I was however able to find the information on Oxfam's site using google: http://www.oxfam.org.uk/press/releases/starbucks26 1006.htm [oxfam.org.uk]. Here's the meat:

Last year the Ethiopian government filed applications to trademark its most famous coffee names, Sidamo, Harar and Yirgacheffe. Securing the rights to these names would enable Ethiopia to capture more value from the trade, by controlling their use in the market and thereby enabling farmers to receive a greater share of the retail price. Ethiopia's coffee industry and farmers could earn an estimated £47 million extra per year.

£3.2 billion company Starbucks prompted protests against the applications to be filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The USPTO has denied Ethiopia's applications for Sidamo and Harar, creating serious obstacles for its project.

What, exactly, does "prompted protests" mean? It's a little further down.

Starbucks intervened in the USPTO decision by prompting the National Coffee Association of USA, Inc. (NCA), of which it is a leading member, to oppose the approval of the trademarks.

At a meeting held this past July at the Ethiopian Embassy, Embassy staff and advisers met with the NCA president to discuss a letter of protest filed against Ethiopia's trademark applications. Ethiopia had submitted its applications about one year earlier. According to staffers, when asked why after a year of doing nothing the NCA had decided to take action, the president of the NCA told them Starbucks had just brought it to the NCA's attention.

Okay, so if Starbucks is part of the NCA, then they didn't prompt anything - they just did it.

Let's take one more look at the press release.

The Ethiopian government presented an agreement for Starbucks to sign in September, recognising the country's rights to the names Sidamo, Harar and Yirgacheffe and stating that additional benefits generated would go to small-scale coffee farmers who are currently living on the brink of survival. However, Starbucks has yet to respond affirmatively.

"Starbucks works to protect and promote its own name and brand vigorously throughout the world, so how can it justify denying Ethiopia the right to do the same?" asked Phil Bloomer.

Starbucks claims that to do so would be illegal, as far as I can see from their video. I don't know how that works out - maybe a lawyer can explain. But September? It's probably taken this long for their legal department to figure out what it says, let alone how they feel about it. We're talking about a document that would have legal repercussions in at least two countries, and possibly in every country in which Starbucks does business. I wouldn't sign the fucker either.

Now let's take a look at some other documents I just googled up...

http://www.coffee-tea-etc.com/coffee/faq [coffee-tea-etc.com]

The cost associated with coffee is only 15c/lb, which is less than half a penny per cup of coffee.

There's about 25 16oz (coffeeshop standard) cups of coffee per roasted pound. Three cents per cup would be $0.75/lb. Starbucks claims they pay over the fair trade price, which is under a buck and a half per pound.

http://www.theotherjournal.com/article.php?id=198 [theotherjournal.com]

During the world coffee crisis of the 1990's, tens of thousands of farmers lost their land and livelihood because of the drop in coffee prices. Fair-trade farmers are protected from market fluctuations. They get $1.26 per pound, or $1.41 per pound for organic coffee regardless of what's happening on the futures market in New York City.

Starbucks claims to pay multiples of the market rate (not hard to do - when prices dip they're often under a quarter per pound) and that they have paid over the fair trade rate for some time. The allegation is that this coffee would be worth ten times as much (maybe more) if they were using the proper name, and starbucks would have to pay more for the coffee. That's possible, I suppose; but if there's such a market for this coffee, why is it being sold to starbucks instead of into a market where they pay more for it? To me that would seem to be the fatal flaw in the argument. After all, Starbucks is allegedly preventing them from getting the trademark only in the US.

Anyway, here's another tidbit for you:

http://www.tradeforum.org/news/fullstory.php/aid/7 87/Coffee_Growers_Discover_That_Quality_Pays.html [tradeforum.org]

What in the world happened to coffee prices?

The real price of coffee has dwindled to its lowest level in a century, dramatically affecting the livelihoods of 20 to 25 million families. The collapse of world coffee prices is causing many exporting countries to suffer their worst economic crisis in years.

How did this happen? The coffee crisis is the result of market oversupply, caused by several factors: the rapid expansion of production in Viet Nam and new plantations in Brazil; higher yields; increased efficiency; and incentives to expand production as liberalized markets in the 1990s raised farmers' share of the export price. Added to this is what could be called "under demand". Analysts tend to concentrate on oversupply and overlook the effects of market trends and new technologies in consuming countries.

Now, one of the things that resulted in oversupply was that a lot of farmers were conned into ramping up coffee production by moving away from shade growing. This destruction of the natural habitat, as any reasonably competent gardener can tell you, meant that the natural systems of pest control were thwarted. This meant that they also had to use modern pest control techniques, et cetera. This is the same system being pushed on third world countries today by Monsanto. The oppression of coffee growers goes back at least to this event.

But that particular force is, well, the free market. People anywhere with appropriate weather can grow coffee - it's even possible in some parts of the continental U.S., although the weather is not conducive to large yields like it is in the places coffee is actually grown. There is bound to be upheaval.

I'd just really like to know if there's anything to Starbucks' claims that it would be illegal for them to participate in the trademarking of the names.

Brilliant (2, Insightful)

bahwi (43111) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436858)

That's just awesome. It's just as accessible as the Oxfam, less boring, and more straightforward. You can repost it on MySpace or wherever you need to.

Aside from that, regional trademarks == bad bad bad. Form Blue Mountain's wikipedia entry:
"Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee is protected worldwide as a certification trademark meaning that only coffee certified by the Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica can be labeled as such."

So, say the Ethiopian Board of Coffee doesn't like a farmer, I mean hell, there's a lot of problems in that area, it'd be pretty easy to pick some farmers you don't like, whoever the new gov't is, and put a lot of people out of work.

Starbucks is big and therefor evil (1)

Gray (5042) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436862)

I find it ironic that Starbucks now widely perceived to be in the same big-bad-bin as McDonald's and Coke. It's the first time I've personally witnessed such a transition.

As usual, it's easy to sympathize with the little guy and easy to attack the big guy. The powerless are innocent, the powerful are guilty.

Starbucks is attains self preservation by way of selling things. Oxfam and IFAT are attain self preservation by way of finding people to attack and making people feel guilty.

At least Starbucks is responsible to the market. If we all stop buying their coffee, they're toast Who are Oxfam and IFAT responsible to?

I used to work for SBUX (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 7 years ago | (#17436904)

I worked there 20 hours a week while doing contracting. Why? Benefits, paid vacation, and tax-free tips. They're a decent company.

2.4mil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17436924)


Those who can't do currency exchanges, $2.4mil equals 21,166,918.9452 in Ethiopian Birr.

Response to the first port:
Many nerds drink lots of it to stay awake late nights.

The issue isn't even about the farmers! (2, Insightful)

fluffy99 (870997) | more than 7 years ago | (#17437032)

The trademark and licensing issue isn't about the farmers at all. It's the ethiopian government trying to bilk Starbucks out of some extra money. That money will not go to the farmers, but will fund the ongoing wars. Kinda like blood diamonds....
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