A red-hot controversy

By: AISLING DOHENY, Lake Voice In my search for answers to the whole Starbucks ordeal, I came up empty handed.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking – it’s another freaking article about the Starbucks red cups and you just can’t. Well, it is true that Starbucks has been in the media more than once in recent times and I’ve heard my fair share of complaints from people about the not-so-important prevalence of these cups.

That’s the thing, though, isn’t it? Any time something seemingly unimportant occurs in the media everyone goes nuts.

Well, I had heard enough from the people on my Facebook feed and couldn’t help but notice that, among wild accusations and chaos, the so-called perpetrators had remained silent. I wanted answers.

I packed my notebook and set off on an adventure to the nearest and dearest Seattle-born coffee shop.

Inside the snug café I found decor and commodities of all sorts – ornaments, paintings, mugs, and *gasp* the wretched, fire-breathing cups themselves.

Was I introducing myself to some kind of abhorrent condemnation if I ordered a drink?

My thoughts raced and my morals questioned – but I put my order in.

Well, the barista was very friendly and my Caramel Brulée Latte was a little too delicious (maybe don’t tell my boss at Caribou Coffee this information). And I found the cup simple and pretty.

Now, my opinion on the cup is neither here nor there. I was here to pry open the corporate jaws of Starbucks.

“I’m sorry to be annoying, and I’m sure you’ve heard enough, but I’m just curious if you’ve experienced any interesting interactions with customers since the whole red-cup ordeal?” I asked the young woman, whose eyes told me she knew what I was about to ask her the second I opened my mouth.

She told me that she had been asked several questions from customers and that she would be willing to answer some questions that I had.

That is when I made a big mistake.

“Is your manager working, maybe I could talk to them, too?” I asked.

The barista told me yes and turned quickly to grab her boss. I told her I would hang out at a table nearby for a little bit. At this moment I felt excited and got the pre-interview jitters that come with any interview.

I felt excited that I might actually gather some useful information.

This feeling was short lived, though. About two minutes later, the manager from the downtown Starbucks emerged from the backroom with bad news.

“Starbucks isn’t commenting on the cups, and that’s that.”

Hannah, the manager, was firm in her response to my inquiries, but allowed me to give her my information in case she, or any other manager around town, were willing to discuss their customer interactions in the future. But I’ve awaited many phone calls and I’m almost certain one of this nature won’t come.

Maybe the exchange would have gone differently had I been some important New York Times reporter. Would a manager treat someone of that stature in this manner? 

So, my search for answers came up empty, and, like you, I’m left wondering whether or not Starbucks intentionally started this whole fiasco. Or, are they just as bewildered as me as to why this “war-on-Christmas” is even a thing? Could they have anticipated such a backlash?

Perhaps my questions will remain questions that I carry with me for the rest of my life. Perhaps the CEO will step forth with offerings of reasoning and logic.

I tried my hand at journalism-ing this out – but as I know too well, not every interview will get me something good. At least I got a taste of some really good coffee.

All in all, though, I reflected a lot about this interaction on my drive home.

Starbucks not saying anything, in turn, says more than any of us observers ever could behind our computer screens. Starbucks is a multifaceted, 70 billion dollar company. Their sole purpose is to make money, and you must keep people happy in order to make money. The engineers behind the company’s success know that what they say matters. And in this case, what they say (or not say) will have an effect on consumers.

Choosing to stay silent is something I’m just a little familiar with. So, despite my disappointment with the company regarding this search, I can see where they are coming from. They are waiting out this winter storm.


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