General Question

Myotyarla's avatar

Is Starbucks ethical?

Asked by Myotyarla (35points) October 14th, 2008

My friend has a go at me for buying Starbucks coffee as she says that the company is not ethical, is she right? I love frapaccinos!

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20 Answers

EmpressPixie's avatar

Yes and no.

If you can reach the promised land of being full time, they give positively amazing benefits. However, they keep the majority of their baristas just below the “full time” threshold to avoid paying out these benefits.

But your friend is probably referring to their coffee which is either all fair trade or the weird Starbucks plan wherein they made deals with farms for the exclusive rights to their coffee, paid above the normal cheap values but it is up in the air as to if they paid a “fair” value, and worked with the farmers to improve the growing lands and processes. They take a lot of bad press for not being fair trade certified, but their program is better than most coffee roasters attempt.

jvgr's avatar

Whose ethics are important in your question?

cheebdragon's avatar

I ♥ starbucks.

hoosier_banana's avatar

Well if this is a relative thing then no, not as much as lots of other brands can be. Right now they are taking heat for their waste of 6.2 million gallons of water a day(some of it in drought areas). They have improved their sourcing principles alot in the last 3 years with C.A.F.E., but they are still at odds with fair trade and will not set a minimum price in case the market drops. They are defininately better than folgers but not as beneficial to the world market as fair trade or specialty direct trade roasters. Green Mountain Coffee Roasters is the best big name brand out there. Intelligentsia is probably the best direct trade roaster. Starbuck’s shops also DO suck more money out of the local economy than local coffee joints, and I have read that their treatment of employees is downright shameful.

EmpressPixie's avatar

@hoosier: if they were full time, the treatment would be okay, but they basically block anyone from reaching full time. Thus, shameful.

jca's avatar

many retailers have all part-timers as employees now (wal-mart, kohl’s are two examples)and they make them work 35 hours/week but consider less than 40 as being “part time, therefore ineligible for benefits.” i think it’s wrong wrong wrong.

smullane's avatar

one negative mark against them is that they don’t support the troops and they are really stingy with hours… Both are ridiculous

cheebdragon's avatar

didn’t they charge 9/11 rescue workers $1 for a cup of water?

nayeight's avatar

@ smullane – Why is not supporting our troops a negative? They are a company, not a charity.

shadling21's avatar

@Myotarla – What exactly are you referring to? Ethical with regards to what?
On the whole, Starbucks is a great company to work for. As for its fair trade etiquette, I’d suggest you do a Google search. There are plenty of helpful links out there.

@hoosier – Great response. What did you hear about their treatment of employees?

@cheeb – Not just a cup. It’s important to remember that there are many people involved in a company, and had it happened at a different location, I’m sure there things would have happened differently. Not all managers think the same. Here’s a very different take on the subject.

cheebdragon's avatar

i knew i read something about it before, thanks for the link

hoosier_banana's avatar

The mentioned hour disputes, understaffing, crazy managers who will take you off the schedule if you refuse to run errands with your own vehicle without reimbursement. I understand they have really fast turnover so most employees are still working close to entry level. The whole cold corporate culture thing has kept me from setting foot in a sbux for some time, I can’t imagine having to give up my individuality for a job or a cup of coffee.

cheebdragon's avatar

I can, I love their iced chai…..

Myotyarla's avatar

wow thanks for all the answers guys ! By ethical, I’m not even sure what I was referring to really, as it was my friend who thought they were somehow a symbol of all evil, but is suprisingly vague about exactly why she thinks this. I think it’s because they’re running independent coffee shops out of business and taking the character out of individual towns and villages. I was in Leeds the other day on a busy Saturday and it was crazy how there were massive ques (sp!) coming out of all the Starbucks – there’s even 2 starbucks facing each other across the road – and then the few local independently run coffee shops were pretty well empty – but then this isn’t anything to fault Starbuck’s with – they’re just an amazingly successful business – but it was a little scary. Not sure what the purpose of this story is really! We eventually found a starbucks with a reasonably short que so all was well lolzz

shadling21's avatar

I’ve heard about the company running smaller shops out of business, too. But I can’t help but think that those coffee shops wouldn’t have a leg to stand on if it weren’t for Starbucks – the company has completely reformed the coffee industry. Most of those independent shops wouldn’t exist had it not been for the customers that Starbucks created.

EDIT: I love finding blogs on the subject.

EmpressPixie's avatar

The popularity of Starbucks is both help and hurt to local coffee shops. Coffee—especially espresso—was re-popularized in America by Starbucks. And in a new, “it’s okay to pay $5 for a cup of joe” kind of way. However, Starbucks uses a special system of ordering that is very easy to use habitually. It’s like going to McDonalds over the local drive in because you know everything that will be on the menu and it cuts down the decision making at the last second in line.

Accordingly, Starbucks both makes those coffee shops viable and competes them out of business.

hoosier_banana's avatar

@shadling21; fair enough, I never thought of it like that before, the market would be in a sad state by now if we were all still buying Chock Full O’ Nuts.

shadling21's avatar

@Empress – Yeah, good point. Starbucks has lost its “gourmet” feel and is now very much part of the convenience culture. I think a lot of people are recognizing this and turning to independent coffee shops (also in the search for fair trade coffee).

Quality control and rapid expansion are causing re-training and store closures… I wonder what the future holds for the company? As an employee, I hope that we don’t turn into some sort of fast food joint.

hoosier_banana's avatar

The automated espresso machines sealed Starbucks’ fast food fate if you ask me, the magic is gone.

auhsojsa's avatar

4 years later and Starbucks is still going strong! As a matter of fact, so strong McDonalds has since then introduced it’s own McCafe to compete. We have a drive-thru Starbucks around the corner and I love it.

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