I’m never buying anything from Starbucks again.
Or at least not from a certain location, depending on how things pan out.
Last night I was driving around putting up posters for the Front Porch, at a few non-downtown locations for a change. Three Panera restaurants, a Borders bookstore, and… Starbucks.
As you may know, every Starbucks store has a magnetic board for community fliers and announcements. I went to the South Campbell location, and found that there was plenty of space for my poster… if I moved a few things around. It took me a minute, and business was slow, so one of the baristas asked me in a friendly tone if I was having fun. I said sure. I got my poster put up, and I headed out.
But I had a different experience altogether at the East Sunshine location, near Bass Pro. It was even slower there, and the situation was the same with the magnet board, so I started moving things around.
I was almost done when an employee behind me (presumably the manager) bluntly informed me that if I put up my poster, he would have to take it down immediately. Why? Because it’s corporate policy that nothing religious be placed on the community board. Nothing religious or political, he said. I could be wrong, but I sensed a smirk on his face.
Frankly, I was stunned. Religious and political censorship? In a coffee house? How many alliances and visions and revolutions have been birthed in coffee houses over the centuries? Paris… London… Boston… the coffee house was the community heartbeat for intellectual dialogue and sociological progress. Can you imagine if all these historic conversations had been interrupted by 19 year-old baristas with a warning not to cross corporate policy?
Does this manager mean to tell me that announcements for peace rallies, get-out-the-vote campaigns, church charity drives, and biblical counseling are all contraband?
You should see what’s left over. There was a notice of a lost dog, a certificate of thanks awarded to Starbucks for community investment of some kind, and a newspaper clipping. That’s it.
I will allow the possibility that this particular manager was mistaken, in addition to being rude. I sent an e-mail through their corporate website, asking if he was correct about corporate policy. If he was not correct, I hold nothing further against Starbucks, only their East Sunshine location. If, however, the coffee giant has gone so far as to turn their entire chain into an oppressively polite family dinner table, then I will have nothing further to do with them.
You may still want to go there… that’s up to you. But if you must discuss your opinions about Bush or Obama or Moses, I suggest you keep your voices down.
P.S. Or, if you must have your say, simply have your religious or political thoughts published on their cups… like Rick Warren did.