By now, most of you have seen Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz’s open letter. Before I go over where we went wrong, I want to point this out as a template for other companies looking to avoid inserting themselves into the gun debate to avoid like the plague. If Starbucks’ goal was to end the open carry demonstrations, without pissing off the rest of the gun community, this letter is full of fail. Let me explain.
That’s why I am writing today with a respectful request that customers no longer bring firearms into our stores or outdoor seating areas.
OK, but you see about 6 million to 8 million of us are licensed to carry firearms, and in at least one large state there’s no license requirement at all. Additionally, in several states, open carry has long been accepted and normal. When you say you don’t want firearms in your stores, you’re essentially saying you don’t want us in your stores, spending money. So don’t be surprised when a lot of people respect your wishes and take their business to your competitors. A simple change of one word in this sentence, changing “bring” to “display” would address the perceived concern in a way that doesn’t alienate people who just want to “carry” and not make a big stink about it. Presumably Starbucks doesn’t actually believe that people carrying concealed, or openly in places that’s accepted and normal, is a problem for them. The problem for them was the folks turning Starbucks into a gun show.
Recently, however, we’ve seen the “open carry” debate become increasingly uncivil and, in some cases, even threatening. Pro-gun activists have used our stores as a political stage for media events misleadingly called “Starbucks Appreciation Days” that disingenuously portray Starbucks as a champion of “open carry.”
OK, there’s a lot of “pro-gun activists” who think what the open carry activists are doing with Starbucks is supremely unhelpful, and have tried to discourage it. Some of those people even previously encouraged “Starbucks Appreciation Days,” where we called on people just to go and spend money, and tell corporate they appreciated their position. We don’t think there was anything “misleading” about it. We did not wish to drag Starbucks into the gun debate in a public way. By not separating the clownish behavior from those of us who advocated a more measured approach, you actually just insulted the very people who would have been able and willing to advocate against the kind of open carry activism you were concerned about.
To be clear: we do not want these events in our stores. Some anti-gun activists have also played a role in ratcheting up the rhetoric and friction, including soliciting and confronting our customers and partners.
I don’t blame Starbucks for not wanting these events in their stores. This has gone way beyond what we initially advocates. To be honest, if they had banned only open carry in their stores, I wouldn’t have blamed them, and would have said the open carry activist community brought this on themselves by pushing the company way beyond their comfort zone. But that’s not what Starbucks chose to do. Whether willfully or ignorantly, they’ve informed millions of American concealed carry licensees they’d prefer not to have our business. If that wasn’t their intention, they needed to take more care in their ultimate statement. This is a good lesson for companies who may end up in Starbucks’ position.
37 Responses to “Where Starbucks Went Wrong”
- Why I Will Still Shop at Starbucks | - [...] explain a better way out of this for Starbucks, other than a change in the wording to the letter, …
- Friday news and opinions | Walla Walla TEA Party Patriots - [...] Where Starbucks Went Wrong [...]