Skip to comments.A Cup of Civility: The Lesson in the Starbucks Non-Backlash
Posted on 10/07/2013 4:12:27 AM PDT by Kaslin
It has been more than two weeks since Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz issued a "respectful request" for customers to stop bringing guns into his company's coffee shops, and the response by and large has been one of courteous compliance.
Considering how polarized and emotional America's gun debates usually get, some people were sure Starbucks was in for weeks of controversy. "The backlash and boycott talk has already begun," reported the Los Angeles Times the day Schultz's open letter appeared. Entrepreneur.com's Ray Hennessey, an experienced business editor, warned that Starbucks risked "alienating a large portion of its customer base."
That didn't happen. And to judge from a new nationwide survey, it isn't going to.
Asked about the Starbucks no-guns request in the latest Quinnipiac University poll, two of every three respondents 66 percent call it a good idea. Even among individuals from gun-owning households, 52 percent support Starbucks' position. The overwhelming majority, 72 percent, say it won't make any difference in where they get their coffee. The scale of that placid response is the same across every demographic subgroup: Democrats and Republicans, men and women, Northeasterners and Southerners, city-dwellers and rural residents and, yes, gun owners all say by lopsided majorities that Starbucks' shift on guns isn't going to change their economic behavior.
For the record, I've long been a Starbucks customer. I've been a supporter of gun rights for even longer. I often find myself in the minority on political or cultural questions, but on this I share the mainstream view: I have no problem with Schultz's request, and my coffee-buying habits won't change.
Some anti-gun advocates applauded Starbucks' appeal to customers last month as a gain for their side "the first step to setting boundaries for America's gun-loving culture," as an admiring essay in National Journal was headlined. But the broad approval measured by the Quinnipiac poll is clearly no proxy for public feelings about guns or gun control. Most states allow citizens to carry firearms openly, and opposition to stricter gun restrictions is at its highest level in over a year.
It's just as clear that Americans aren't backing Starbucks so strongly because they can't live without the company's grande lattes and double espressos. Half of the voters surveyed by Quinnipiac never even go to Starbucks.
The lack of an anti-Starbucks backlash isn't about brand loyalty and it doesn't reflect hostility to guns. Rather, it suggests that Americans appreciate the civility of Schultz's request, and instinctively sympathize with the right of a private company not to be turned into an ideological battleground against its wishes. In his letter, the Starbucks CEO acknowledged the "deep passion for and against the 'open carry' laws adopted by many states" and expressed dismay at how "increasingly uncivil and, in some cases, even threatening" the debate over gun rights has become. The company preferred not to take sides, and its longstanding rule had been to defer to local law, permitting customers to openly carry guns in states that allow it.
But with pro- and anti-gun activists "ratcheting up the rhetoric and friction" and using Starbucks cafés to force the issue, Schultz pleaded for a truce. People who want to fight about gun laws should use the "legislative and policy-making process." Starbucks is for people who want coffee, tea, and free Wi-Fi. Plenty of people disagree with Schultz's decision. But the majority of Americans including a majority of gun owners are OK with it.
If only this were the norm when it comes to the intersection of private companies and public controversies.
If a traditionally Christian florist wishes to politely decline the offer to arrange the flowers for a same-sex wedding, why shouldn't she be free to do so? If a passionately liberal shopkeeper courteously asks a customer not to come in with a T-shirt proclaiming "Impeach Obama," or a conservative landlord says he'd prefer not to rent to an unmarried cohabiting couple, would it be so terrible to shrug and let it go? If a restaurant owner has no objection to letting customers smoke, couldn't diners accept the house rule gracefully and go elsewhere if they want a smoke-free meal?
Under current law, scenarios like these are often grounds for a lawsuit or prosecution. Must that be the case? Most merchants are not in the habit of turning customers away, and in general commerce operates to break down bigotry and irrational discrimination. But life isn't always so tidy. Sometimes there are rifts between a private company's idea of what's good for business and other people's idea of what all right-thinking people should believe. The world won't end if everyone doesn't march in lockstep.
The Starbucks non-uproar is a reminder that we could do with a little more live-and-let-live in this country. The hardliners on divisive issues may always be spoiling for a fight. They needn't be encouraged to wage their battles with other people's livelihood.
Well folks will simply go to DD, McC’s, or to the local coffee shop, that is all.
This doesn’t surprise me. Starbucks didn’t say no guns and those who wish to bring them, still can. Their business, our money. Freedom is making choices.
I’m glad. There were always so many guns at my local Starbucks before. /sarc
A substantial portion of the poll sample were not Starbucks customers to start with. Those people’s opinions don’t affect the business at all.
For example, I’d have responded that Starbucks’ policy “won’t make any difference in where I get my coffee.” I’ll continue getting it in bags at the grocery store, for preparation and consumption at home.
Good article. I’ve never been in a Starbucks and probably never will, not for political reasons, I just prefer my home made Folgers.
I have a list of places (not a written list) that I boycott for various reasons but feel no need to try to encourage others in joining my personal boycotts.
I couldn’t even join in the BUYcott for Chic Fil A, I detest ALL chicken.
-——I couldnt even join in the BUYcott for Chic Fil A-——
I’m reminded of the expression......
Try it, you might like it : )
No, not really. The point of the article was that more people should adopt the same civility and live-and-let-live attitude. Re-read the last couple of paragraphs and you'll see what he's getting at.
Personally, I always hope there is a good guy (or gal) with a gun in any business I patronize.
The owner was tired of a bunch of showoffs using his store as a stage for open carry demonstrations.
Most folks think a business owner is not obligated to provide a political stage.
Check back next year and you will see business has increased, not decreased.
28% reduction in customers is a non-backlash?!
Worst article ever indeed. [hey the author deserves it since he ‘went there’ - coffee]
Where does it say this? I thought it was a good article and if more people did what the author wrote about in the last paragraphs the country would be better off. If you don't like the coffee don't go the author won't mind.
This is the crux of this article to me, the FREE MARKET which allows me and the merchants to decide on service and custom. While I firmly believe that it is STUPID for merchants to deny service based on skin color and other historical biases, to force non-monopoly service that violates personal principals is even more wrong!
Hmmm... What’s the difference between the ‘offended’ groups at Starbucks and the other incidents?
Oh - that’s right! Starbucks offended the conservative side, which doesn’t generally resort to terroristic physical or legal tactics, in contrast with the liberal factions.
Those of us who respect the Second Amendment also respect private property rights.
It is wholly within Starbucks’ right to decide they don’t want guns on their property.
Just as it is my right to decide to buy my coffee someplace else.
Freedom works just fine if you let it.
The point he should be making is that creating gun free zones will cause deaths......it is only a matter of time.
No more Starbucks for me.....and I have (had) their Gold Card.
“Those of us who respect the Second Amendment also respect private property rights.
It is wholly within Starbucks right to decide they dont want guns on their property.
Just as it is my right to decide to buy my coffee someplace else.
Freedom works just fine if you let it.”
Agreed. And I also thought the letter had an admirably civil tone. He did not criticize gunholders.
Worst. Article. Ever.
I agree, pretty poor. If I am out and about and armed (as I usually am), I am not going back to my vehicle to stow my weapon to comply with the Starbucks CEO's wishes. But then, I carry concealed. I think his complaint was mainly with "open carry". Last time I was at a Starbucks it was one of the mini ones in a Kroger grocery store. I was, as usual, armed.
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