It is entirely possible that someone in management at Starbucks one day thought “You know, our country really needs more people to get out and volunteer to help their communities and the people around them. Wouldn’t that be great if we could encourage that? What if we gave away a free drink to encourage that kind of behavior, and then maybe people would get hooked on volunteering and keep doing it?” And so they came up with this campaign to encourage volunteering. It’s also entirely possible that Starbucks, faced with challenges due to the economic downturn, talked to their new ad agency and said “We need something to boost our image and draw new customers into the stores” and the ad agency said “What if you gave a free drink to people who volunteer in their communities? This will get people into your stores who have never been in before, and it also makes you look good?” And the management was pleased, and the ad agency smiled, and the grace of Lady Starbucks was upon them.
Whether this came about the first way or the second, Starbucks had to face up to the one risk that could doom the entire campaign–Mormons. The problem with Mormons is that the every Mormon church you see is run by volunteers. There is no paid clergy. Nobody gets a dime for the work they do at a local level (at LDS Church headquarter they do have paid employees, of course, and there are a limited number of church officials who receive a stipend for living expenses if they’re serving full-time in a particular role). If you walk into a Mormon church on a Sunday (they love visitors, by the way) and see a guy leading the congregation who seems to be like a pastor, he’s called a “Bishop” but he’s not earning a cent, even though he may spend 20-30 hours per week doing his duty.
But it doesn’t stop there. All Mormons receive “callings” or a certain responsibility in their church, from teaching Sunday school classes to managing the nursery to cleaning the building and on and on and on. Every single member of the congregation is expected to gladly accept a calling and to spend time fulfilling it. In other words, almost all Mormons spend at least 1-2 hours per week volunteering. But wait, there’s more. Mormons are also encouraged to volunteer at food banks, help people and families in need, mentor teens and/or children. In other words, a large sub-section of the millions of Mormons in the United States could get the five hours of volunteering necessary to get the free drink before Thursday.
But Mormons are not ideal customers of Starbucks, because they don’t drink coffee. They would be coming in to Starbucks to get a hot chocolate, and that would be the last Starbucks would ever see of them. Millions of dollars would be spent but it would go down the tubes and not accomplish its purpose. But finding a solution wasn’t that hard–don’t let volunteers get just any drink, make them get a coffee. That would ensure the Mormons didn’t even try to get in on the action.
And so I ask, is Starbucks sincerely trying to do good in the world, or are they a pack of murderous, bloodthirsty villains who have teamed up with nuclear-bomb-seeking terrorists bent on destroying everything that is good and right in this country? I’ll let you be the judge.