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Is Buying a Stranger a Cup of Coffee a Way to Stick it to Political Bickering?

Rodrigo Mejia

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is calling on his customers and citizens "to support and connect one with another, even as we wait for our elected officials to do the same for our country." How? Starting on Wednesday, Starbucks will reward customers buying someone else a drink with a free tall cup of coffee. But is this an empty gesture or a creative exchange you can get onboard with?

Let us know what you think of the program or share what you think would be a better way to go.

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  • War Child

    telling a person to buy a potentially $5 drink and get a small black coffee for your trouble does nothing for the political or social climate. forced gestures like these have no meaning

  • Carolyn Sams

    The thing that feels a little off about this idea is that there isn't much "reaching across the aisle" when you buy someone a cup of coffee...I would just give one to a friend or maybe someone hanging outside who wants one. I admire that Schultz is committed to finding a way to connect his political views with what happens in Starbucks....but how can this idea encourage people who don't agree on issues find a way to be friends? What are some ideas that other local businesses (like coffee shops) have done to connect people who would otherwise never work together/never see eye to eye?

    This also reminds me of a coffee shop featured on GOOD a few years ago:

    • Todd Tyrtle

      I like this for the reasons I said below and for another reason. Two people in a coffee shop who disagree about just about everything will likely still agree that they want something from the coffee shop. The relationship starts, therefore, with agreement.

      Bigger picture, I feel like while socio-political divisions may seem huge at times, we still have loads in common with each other. Recognizing that we all want meaningful work to support ourselves, health and happiness for us and our children, peace, and security is important. Where we disagree, most often, is in how we feel those goals will be met. Now add that layer of disagreement to the current manner of political discourse which so often seems like the worst of newspaper article common threads live and in person and you have a recipe for strife even when, at the bottom of it all, we agree on some pretty basic things when we're not trying to score debating points on each other or prove that the other is stupid or crazy. Starting off a discussion by breaking down a barrier could help with that. (And that doesn't even take in to account what a series of positive experiences at the hands of strangers does to one's personal outlook).

      • Carolyn Sams

        I guess I wonder how we can even identify "people in a coffee shop who disagree" and buy them a cup. I don't normally wear my opinions on my sleeve, and it's rare that I can see that in someone else. Maybe this is a push for me (and others?) to reach out to someone I actually know who I don't normally agree with. Thanks to Starbucks, this is a great change to have an open chat that celebrates our different opinions (and similarities!)... just hope others take this opportunity to try to have those tough coffee chats too!

          • Carolyn Sams

            Love this idea and couldn't agree more! And love the idea on your blog...a great "flash mob" of kindness. The GOOD community should seriously start staging these... have you posted this on GOOD?

            • Todd Tyrtle

              The only post from that site I shared was this one: a while back. Because the project hasn't been active I haven't shared more.

              I love the idea of staging them here. Let's do it!

  • Todd Tyrtle

    I am no psychologist but from what I have read, there's evidence that we don't just act how we feel, we can feel how we act. Acting genially toward someone you disagree with is potentially the first step toward opening a respectful dialog. And I think that needs to happen before we can get anywhere.

    I think it also has the potential to humanize those with differing opinions (I hesitate to call them enemies). I know there are a lot of stereotypes held by all sides of the political spectrum and there's nothing like replacing stereotypes with the reality that underneath it all we actually all have a lot in common.

    • Ben Goldhirsh

      love that thought - that we don't just act how we feel, but feel how we act. love that SBUX is pushing actions that can breed collaborative feeling. I'm a fan of Schultz. He's been (along with many folks on that team) a super cool partner to us as we've built this effort, but more importantly he's just been a cool animal to watch in the field - someone who totally gives a damn, and combines that with a proactive approach that yields outcomes. Is this going to end what's afoot in washington, nope. is it a pixel in a picture that needs to come together, certainly. so hell yeah. will be stopping by tomorrow to buy someone a drink.