starbucks challenge, attempt 1

i attempted the starbucks challenge today at the local eaton centre franchise in downtown montreal. cool experiment – i found out about it by reading over the shoulder of my sweet baboo the other day. the essence of it (according to the starbucks website [pdf]):

[…] In addition, Fair Trade Certified coffee has been promoted by Starbucks as a brewed “Coffee of the Week” and can be brewed by coffee press during store hours upon customer request. […]

my experience was pretty much identical to this one, in which i was told that it was not currently brewed, although they “do have some.” starbucks employees do regularly go the extra mile for me, though, by giving me free soy milk even though i remember reading on their price list that they’re supposed to charge me (like 23 cents) for it.

it is my opinion that starbucks does not go far enough in their policy. despite having it available for brewing at any time, the social pressures inherent in asking for something specially made, something which requires special efforts, will make people reconsider fair trade as they check their watch for the remaining minutes of their break. as a vegan, i often encounter waiters who, despite their courtesy, still make it difficult to order something that isn’t on the menu, and i gotta tell you, it isn’t fun if you have to do it every day (the soy milk is another example of that, since they don’t have it available with the rest of the sugar/milk/chocolate powder items). no one wants to be that asshole who makes the minimum wage labour monkey do that extra work – those people are already getting too much hassle for their hourly rate.

i’m not asking starbucks to always have my favourite fair trade coffee available. i am aware that, as a company, they have to cater to the desires of the usual consumer of their coffees. i think the next step, a very small one, is to always have one fair trade coffee every day. if i am serious about having fair trade, i will choose it over my favourite mild whateverthehell sumatra ultrasmooth bullshit coffee. take the lead: offer one every day, watch every other coffee company follow, bask in the glow of the good press it offers, and you will see a positive influence by an increasingly large market share of consumers who are willing take that extra step.





5 responses to “starbucks challenge, attempt 1”

  1. green LA girl Avatar

    Thanks for joining the challenge! If you go back to retake the challenge, you might ask — after the barista says no fair trade’s a-brewing — if they might French-press a cup of it for you…

    I totally agree with what you’re saying about the social pressures of making a specific request. Soy’s in easy reach in SoCal — no more difficult than asking for skim milk — but not fair trade so much. Which puts into doubt Starbuck’s contention that they’d brew fair trade more often if there were more of a demand for it. Well — if a company works to suppress demand…

  2. gzombie Avatar

    “no one wants to be that asshole who makes the minimum wage labour monkey do that extra work – those people are already getting too much hassle for their hourly rate.”

    Yeah, that’s exactly right. Well said.

  3. City Hippy Avatar

    Nice one Ground Control

    Have added you to the feed! at



  4. Starbucks Challenge

    Starbucks offers Fair Trade coffee for sale, but how hard is it to actually get a cup?

  5. green LA girl Avatar

    Darling — Another challenge anytime soon? Hoping 🙂

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