General Question

elbanditoroso's avatar

Will you be going to Starbucks this week to have a meaningful dialog with your barista about race?

Asked by elbanditoroso (29912points) March 19th, 2015

Perhaps the worst company promotion ever. Worse than New Coke.


I don’t question that race is an important issue. But chatting with a barista isn’t going to accomplish much.

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29 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

If the nearest one weren’t 25 miles away, I might (but it is unlikely since the last cup of regular coffee I drank was in 1984.)

kritiper's avatar

No. Even if I went to a Starbucks I wouldn’t engage in such a conversation, or any conversation outside of the business at hand since the barista is on the clock and doesn’t get paid to converse at random on random subjects. Race is something that just is and should be accepted quietly. It isn’t something to make a big deal out of or it becomes racism, good and/or bad.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Race doesn’t mean much to me. If you’re black, you probably know you’re black and I can see you’re black. You can probably see I’m white too. No big deal. Now if you’re funny, I want to hang with you. Humor is a gift. Keep on giving it. Same with any other peeps.

cazzie's avatar

I live in an horrendously racist, ignorant, and un-self-aware country. There is no talking to most people, especially the small minded, non-traveled child-like minds behind most counters.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@cazzie I know you’ve commented on how cold the people can be there. But that would seriously bum me out. Some of the best times I’ve had out and about have been with total strangers (at first).

Buttonstc's avatar

Ha ha. I don’t go to Starbucks normally (their coffee is harsh, acidic and burnt tasting) so I’m certainly not going just to chat with a Barista to seek his wisdom :)

LuckyGuy's avatar

This reminds me of the Veridian Dynamics Diversity ad. Hilarious.

“Hey Barista! The cream in this container is white! You got a problem with black cream?”

They did get a lot of press so apparently the nonsense worked.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

No, not with strangers. But I applaud CEO Howard Schultz’ effort as I think it came honestly and from a good place from a good man. And hey, it came with a 2-to-1 stock split.

I’m also saddened by the cynical, hostile reaction. Once again, the immature, ignorant and vociferous appear to carry the majority opinion in America.

@Buttonstc …with a Barista to seek his wisdom.”
That would be a baristo. Plural is baristi. It’s an Italian thing.

cazzie's avatar

Ah…. I guess that this is an ‘American Only’ Starbucks question….. so I abstain…. even though the Starbucks logo stains the center of my city here in Europe with its viral bullshit and logo.

cazzie's avatar

Hey! Barista! Leave them kids alone!..... ‘all and all it’s just a…. nother cup in the wall.’

prettypenny's avatar

It takes me a long time to become alert in the morning. The last thing I want to do is have a conversation with a stranger. I’ll stay home and drink my Folgers in peace.

Blackberry's avatar

Maybe about a specific race. A race to the bed…....


LuckyGuy's avatar

@prettypenny Hah! Me too!
That sounds like the quote in the article: “Gwen Ifill, the co-anchor of “PBS NewsHour,” wrote in a tweet on Tuesday: “Honest to God, if you start to engage me in a race conversation before I’ve had my morning coffee, it will not end well.”

LostInParadise's avatar

In addition to the whole idea being in the “what were they thinking?” category, I don’t understand what is meant by race together. Is this a play on the word race? Are we supposed to be running toward racial harmony? Are racial relations a type of competitive sport? Does it relate to the “race to the top” education policy, another phrase I don’t much care for. Alternatively, are we supposed to be blending our races? I don’t get it.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@LostInParadise The meaning is clear. It means one of the top brass has a close relative or friend who owns an advertising/marketing agency and could use more business. StarBucks will spend a few million dollars (a pittance for them) on creative licensing, trademark registration, advertising, and printing and the agency will get a shot in the arm like a Grade double-caf shot of espresso.

I’m too lazy to investigate this but I’d bet a coffee that I’m right.

jca's avatar

I don’t usually go to Starbucks but this type of thing, especially when I’m in a hurry, especially if there’s a line of people behind me, especially before I’ve had my morning coffee or tea, this type of thing is not for me.

Just to clarify, they were discussing this on The Today Show and they said that the discussions are not only about race. Race is just one example of what they’d be discussing. Gender equality, economy, etc. are other topics. I’d take my cup, smile and say “thank you” and then keep it moving.

ragingloli's avatar

First of all, I do not get the outrage.
Second of all, and most importantly, I am not stepping a foot into a starbucks. Bad coffee, at extraorbitant prices.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Seriously? While we’re at it let’s throw in discussions about religion, abortion, global warming, and cancer while waiting. I think a quick, rote comments on weighty subjects is an insult to the topic and the customer.
It is a marketing ploy that worked. (Maybe)

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Coffee houses have been centers of social interaction, especially political discourse, since at least as far back as Mecca in the 1500’s (until the Imams outlawed them as hotbeds of political intrigue) right up through the 1960’s beatnik culture. It has only been in this latest turn of the century incarnation that these places have been frequented by uncommunicative misanthropes who are too rude and “busy” peering into phones and laptops to even look up at the baristi or table server when they make their order. Until now, they have been the source of cultural and political change, both minor and major. The New York Stock Exchange was created at a set of tables set out by a widow selling hot coffee under an elm tree against a stone wall on what is now called Wall Street. Llloyds of London started in a coffee house. The French Revolution was hatched in coffee houses, the Revolutions of 1848. During a time in Paris when it was illegal for more than two people to stand on a sidewalk and talk, the al fresco cafe culture was born—there was no law against sitting on the sidewalk and having a cup of coffee with friends. The greatest art movements in modern history were incubated in coffee houses. These have traditionally been places where people felt free to talk and share ideas. This is what coffee houses were for. The fact that this is considered a radical and disturbing idea is brand new, and is itself yet another unsettling sign of an increasingly impersonal culture of isolated, neurotic individuals.

LostInParadise's avatar

You make a good point. Starbucks is uniquely positioned to have done this the right way, instead of literally shoving it down our throats. At a typical Starbucks there are several discussion groups as well as book signings by authors. Starbucks could have used the occasion of the recent Selma march anniversary to have set up such a forum in its various stores. They could have brought in writers of books and articles to have led discussions on various social issues. Granted that Starbucks is a pale imitation of the historic Arab and European coffee houses, it still can play a role in getting people to talk and think about important issues.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Discussions can take place now. Why make it the job of the Baristi to bring it up? They are there to prepare and serve coffee and pastries. I do not have the statistics but I can make a fair guess when I say most people want to minimize standing-in-line time. They want to get back to their seat and connect their devices to the wifi.
For most people having a baristo bring up race relations will be about as welcome as a religious missionary ringing your doorbell on a Saturday morning.

cazzie's avatar

Good points about how coffee houses used to be places of conversation and such, but we don’t know each other anymore like we used too. We are billions of people now, so for every person you know or have an acquaintance in common with, there are several thousand in your area you don’t know. Ever hear of the Dunbar number?

So, the problem isn’t so much standing in line and bad service and being rude to each other, it is just that there are more people than we could ever be friends with or comfortably socialise with. Simply more strangers on the planet than there used to be.

Besides, if I wanted to discuss topical news or controversial issues, I certainly wouldn’t do it with a bunch of strangers…. ummmm…. wait now, wha? *smile

LostInParadise's avatar

Maybe I should have made myself clearer. The idea of having the store employees offer discussion of social issues along with frapuccinos is totally goofy. There are better ways that Starbucks can foster such discussions.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I corrected @cazzie ‘s link above. Dunbar Number

cazzie's avatar

@LuckyGuy thanks… sometimes my linkie stuff doesn’t work because my computer is a bit ‘Norwegian’.

LostInParadise's avatar

We are more closely connected than the Dunbar number would indicate. At 150 acquaintances per person, the entire world would be connected by around 4 degrees of separation, though 6 to 10 degrees is probably more realistic.

cazzie's avatar

@LostInParadise that article was written in 2008 quoting a figure of 6.6 billion. We now are estimated at 7.125 billion. I guess I’m a glass half empty of friends more than a glass half full of friends sort of person.

LostInParadise's avatar

The percentage increase 6.6 billion to 7.1 billion is not all that large. If 6 links was previously sufficient then 7 links should be more than adequate. For 7 links to work, everyone would have to know only 26 people, and this will work until we reach 8 billion.

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