Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Bean to Pick with Starbucks by Lannon McGregor

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I woke myself from a short sleep to greet Monday with saggy, heavy eyes. The morning air was topped with a crispy crust of fog with a mist and cloud-filled center.

Habit forced me to stop for my usual Starbucks' fix. Lucky for me, I had half a dozen Starbucks' outlets to choose from during my five-minute walk to the Sky Train Station in downtown Vancouver.

While I was waiting for my Venti Americano (aka extra-large coffee), I impulsively grabbed a bottle of water and paid $1.99 for this 'seemingly' normal beverage.

Now, allow me to confess: I am not known for "paying" for water. Call me crazy, but I believe the freshness of water tastes just the same from the tap as it does bottled (aside from the general smug feeling one gets from the obviously elitist choice to pay for water), and such was the case with my purchase of Starbucks' "Ethos" water except Ethos had a promotion which spoke to my innermost humanity.

After looking at the heart-tugging, subliminally prompting, (the image was of clearly thirsty Africans) and reading the "Help the World", or some equally similar hippie-bullshit promotion, I assumed that my Ethos water-purchasing-coins would contribute to implementing change in an otherwise, impoverished country.

And then I scanned the information on the back label which read:
... only 10 cents of my $1.99 contribution would go towards building wells for villagers in Africa...
and, I've gotta tell you, I was appalled. Here's a company which can afford to put two outlets directly across the street from each other, but can't afford to dish out more than 10 cents per bottle towards the promoted charity? Yet somehow they can justify charging two bucks for a bottle of water, by disguising the sale as a lame-ass excuse for a humanitarian mission instead of as the marketing ploy it is? I mean 10 cents? C'mon! That's not even 10% of the proceeds yet the charitable aspect is 90% of their campaign to sell the product. It's ridiculous to think we have to pay as much as $2.00 for water just to get a company to take some responsibility in helping someone.

This whole scheme is marketing at its best. We are always force fed guilt like it's our job, as middle class working stiffs, to help the poor whom these corporations are generally getting rich from. Why do we have to buy a happy meal from billionaire corporations like McDonalds just to encourage their (tax-deductible) charitable contribution of 10 cents to Childrens' Hospital?

Corporations are the only groups with the means to help and provide REAL change, yet time and time again they are ignoring their obligations by constantly passing off the responsibility to their consumers by using these charitable marketing schemes to play on our compassion.

The funny thing about it is, I passed a homeless man on the way in who asked me for change and I told him to get a job. Had I given the clearly, alcohol-dependent man the $2.00 I spent on the water, at least I would have been giving to a more immediate cause, rather than having my money sucked into the vacuum of a faceless corporation. After all, everyone's gotta drink something.

On the plus side, I am glad to see Starbucks do SOMETHING for a country they have been raping for all these years. I wonder how much those Ethiopian bean pickers make per hour?

I wonder if it's more or less than a bottle of Ethos water?

I hear it's awful hot over there...

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