The Ad Starbucks Doesn’t Want You To See… Because It Sucks.

I generally wouldn’t post something so smugly self-serving as this mock Starbucks ad, but I want to point out that there’s a lot of money we spend that could be used to send to starving children. But that presumes that charity and welfare can solve extremely difficult political and social problems.

If your metric is merely how many children you could save by not doing something as a first world citizen, there’s no point being one in the first place. How many children could you have fed for a week by not buying that black Gap tank top? Or the camera you used to film the mock ad? Or the Evian you calmly sipped between takes? Or your skull full of Bed Head?

I’m a huge fan of internationalism. I always have to restrain a frown when one of our readers’ emails complains about tech support in India. Not because I disagree that it can be terrible for the consumer, but because I ultimately think it’s worth it to raise people out of squalor and misery, and I really don’t think that’s likely to happen without the investment of established countries and corporations. Likewise, I’m a huge opponent to this sort of hyper-charity mindset, where we shouldn’t enjoy our lives because others can’t enjoy theirs. Send enough business their way and the third-world peasant will be able to.

Thanks to David for the link! I mean, I think the message sucks. But thanks!

Comments

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  1. rikomatic says:

    There are certainly many non-essential luxuries that one could point to as potentially taking money away from worthwhile causes. As a sometime political activist, I believe in fighting for everyone’s right to livelihood, peace, justice and happiness. That includes my own right to happiness.

    EVERYONE deserves good food, tasty beverages, silly entertainment, and play. I don’t want to live in a world where everyone is equally miserable. But I do want to live in a world where more people can enjoy the fruits of their labor, and yes, taste a caffeinated, creamy beverage once in awhile.

  2. Jack Gilbert has a great poem (“A Brief for the Defense”) on this topic. It part it goes:

    We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
    but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
    the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
    furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
    measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.

  3. “In part” that is.

  4. As Rikomatic said, anything that places one’s standard of living above an African refugee can be used in this “ad,” not just Starbucks.

    It’s a good point to send across to people though, that paying outrageous prices for something as simple as coffee is conspicuous consumption, but why stop there? What about all the luxury cars and designer clothing we awful capitalist dogs buy?

  5. bambino says:

    When you give up your wireless and live in a hovel, call me. Or smoke-signal me.

  6. Jess A. says:

    What about feeding poor, hungry kids here in the United States?

    And did they buy a frappucino just to make this “ad”?

  7. Hooray4Zoidberg says:

    Oops the cost of the bandwidth you used to upload this video could have supported a goat in the Ukraine for 7 months. But nobody cares about the goats anymore.

  8. Triteon says:

    Maybe to save money on production they got the cup from a dumpster…

  9. Tony Bullard says:

    Kinda not on the topic, but the whole “helping India via call center work” stuff doesn’t really do it for me after seeing the 30 Days episode on the subject. From that show, it looks to me that Indian’s are getting just enough money to do ok, and the rest of the profit from the companies go back to american businessmen. How much of the money made in those call centers actually goes back to India itself? They still seem to be struggling terribly. Even the people with jobs still live on dirt streets.

  10. Spiny Norman says:

    Okay, the YouTube spot was a little bit self-righteous and preachy, but…

    It’s time to think globally and act locally. Go ahead and drink your Mochachino, but do it on break while you’re helping out at the local food bank.

    So much for that soapbox…

  11. North of 49 says:

    I was training at a call centre outsourcer for many American companies and I can tell you this: even the internal tech support hates dealing with India. And it isn’t the accent either. Its how it takes several attempts to get the idea across to the India CSR that this is an internal call and not just joe bloe customer. It has gotten to the point where several of them just hang up and try redialing to see if they can get any of the other internal call centres instead of India even though that activity is frowned on by their supervisors. There’s been a few times where the person I am in contact with has come back on the line after listening to what the Indian CSR was saying and apologized profusely for the inconvenience and more that was caused.

    So, there’s what that documentary “showed” and what is happening in reality. If Businesses can’t bring CSR jobs back to North America because they would rather save a few pennies, then they can expect more customers to continue to get extremely p’o’d.

  12. Insertion of phrase “half caf” into coffee order == COMEDY GOLD

  13. Marcus says:

    I think we’re all missing the most obvious, most important point here:

    She must be right. Why?

    Because she’s pretty freakin hot. I mean… I’d agree with her, if she smiled at me.

  14. Rick Dobbs says:

    hahahah! Ben shops at The Gap! hahahahaha

  15. SpecialK says:

    Yeah, only a hot chick would get away with saying something so frickin stupid. What really pisses me off is she probably thinks the dweeby little shit who wrote it is, like, really really, you know, deep.

    By the way, North of 49, do I understand you correctly that corporations who outsource to India expect to be treated better than just the “joe blow customers” who have to deal with Indian outsourcing on a daily basis? Well, pardon my french, but fuck those corporations. They should be treating the customer better than that.

    I’d also say I don’t have a problem with Indian tech support. What I do have a problem with is tech support–regardless of accent–who starts referring to the same owners manual I have or the same help system I have. I TRIED THAT ALREADY DOUCHEBAG!

  16. North of 49 says:

    By the way, North of 49, do I understand you correctly that corporations who outsource to India expect to be treated better than just the “joe blow customers” who have to deal with Indian outsourcing on a daily basis? Well, pardon my french, but fuck those corporations. They should be treating the customer better than that.
    That’s just it – the India call centre is part of the “internal” for the company. I can’t say which one cause I’d be violating my NDA. Let’s just say Company A has Company B do its CSR work. Company B has outfits all over the world (Several cities in Canada and the USA, Several European Countries AND India) but its Company A that trains, or rather sets the training requirements, for their outsourced CSR. It just seems that the outfit in India isn’t getting the same training that the other countries are. Instead of “phone number and serial number of X” which is what the India CSRs repeat add infinitum (I’ve listened into those conversations when I was training), the CSR is told “This is Company A internal.” That should bypass the “serial number and phone number” part but it doesn’t and it frustrates the hell out of the employees here. My contact spends hours lamenting about those tech support calls and how frustrating it is to try and get through to the India CSR.

  17. L33tminion says:

    Obligatory link to The Singer Solution to World Poverty. The makers of this ad seem to be reiterating that argument.

    I’m disappointed that you don’t reject the line of argument honestly. For example:

    But that presumes that charity and welfare can solve extremely difficult political and social problems.

    This is false. The argument presumes that some charity saves lives more effectively than the consumption of luxuries (in this case, coffee). That’s it.

    Likewise, I’m a huge opponent to this sort of hyper-charity mindset, where we shouldn’t enjoy our lives because others can’t enjoy theirs.

    This distorts the argument by completely ignoring the rather crucial bit about life and death.

    Send enough business their way and the third-world peasant will be able to.

    This is, at best, ignoring the immediate problem. At worst, wishful fantasy.

    Of course, your criticism of the ad’s makers (hypocritical, smug) is mostly accurate. (I don’t see how they’re “self-serving”; how do they benefit from this?) But that has nothing to do with the validity of their line of argument.

    Anyways, why don’t you bite the bullet? Reject utilitarianism and say that it’s okay to consume luxuries instead of saving lives. Or say that it’s okay to be immoral some of the time. Really, it’s not that hard.

  18. Jason says:

    Wanna help a starving person in a poor country? Don’t give up your mocha. Support capitalism that in that country, even if the wages are low. If it’s worth it to someone to work for a certain wage, it beats starving without any job or any money.

    Keep on sippin’.

  19. mechanismatic says:

    I agree with Jess A. What about the American’s who lost their jobs because the tech jobs went to India? You’re gonna hurt someone by sending a job somewhere else.

    If you (and about 50k other people) stop buying Starbucks coffee, what happens to the coffee growers? Is someone else going to spontaneously demand more coffee beans at higher prices? Of course not.

    The sooner you die from high blood pressure from too much stress and work and coffee, the sooner all your hard earned money goes to someone else who didn’t have to work for it. So die already and make life better for someone else.

  20. garret2600 says:

    just eat the freaking delicious Sudan kids and be done with it…

  21. Paul D says:

    heheheh.

    I love dimples.

    mmmm…dimples.

  22. Jess A. says:

    machanismatic wrote:
    I agree with Jess A. What about the American’s who lost their jobs because the tech jobs went to India? You’re gonna hurt someone by sending a job somewhere else.

    Well, or what about the Americans who just plain don’t make enough money to live on, like the huge majority of Americans working in the service industry. It’s not just about outsourcing tech jobs to India (or wherever).

    I think there’s something fundamentally short-sighted about making noise about helping all the starving people all over the world while ignoring the fact that (depending on where you live) there are probably needy people less than 10 miles from your house. Skipping the frappucino once or twice a week and donating that money to your local foodbank might actually make a quantifiable difference.

    I guess I’m mostly annoyed at the “ad” because it calls to mind that “clean your plate because there are starving people in Africa” mindset. It’s a fashionable kind of guilt that doesn’t really accomplish either giving aid to people who need it (wherever they are), or impacting Satrbucks’ bottom line.

  23. karl hungus says:

    “Hi, I’m the girl from the video… I go to [insert state university here], and a few months ago I totally met this guy who is like, sooooo deep and insightful… He’s always out on the quad reading the newspaper, or even poetry! I said to him, how can I be as deep and thoughtful as you?”

    Just looking at the comments on the youtube site, its amazing how easily a completely hollow message can come across so much better when coming out of the mouth of a fresh-faced young lady such as this one.

    My favorite:

    eltejano: “this ad sucks. and she never takes her shirt off. . . .”

  24. I agree with crayonshinobi. If they’re going to guilt people for buying something nice for themselves why bash them for buying coffee?

    Why not XBoxes or Nikes? Why not iPods or HDTVs? You don’t see anyone making an ad like this berating the people who, collectively, spent over 1.8 trillion dollars to see the Titanic in movie theaters.

    But no, buying coffee is what’s immoral.

  25. Mr. Gunn says:

    The question, “Why coffee and not HDTVs?” is a good one, and reveals that the original question is a poor one. The coffee may be 4 dollars whereas the HDTV may be $2500, but considering that the cost to Starbucks is about a quarter, the profit to the company is way higher. Business costs are what stimulate the economy, because those are, by default, reinvested in production. Profit isn’t earmarked for anything. For all we know the execs could be spending it on hookers. Now, I’ve got nothing against people making a buck or two, but you can’t assume the company is going to reinvest all that profit in sustainable agriculture. Some may do that, and Fair Trade is pretty good, but much of the profit they make from your expensive coffee goes to buy them expensive ludicrously-large vehicles to tool around the suburbs in, which helps noone except for Middle-Eastern warlords.

    Then there’s the pragmatism angle, wherein you acknowledge that you’re far more likely to get someone to drop $3.50 in the charity bucket and brew their own cup than you are to get someone to trade their GMC DeathStar for a Kia and donate the balance to the Red Cross.

  26. AcilletaM says:

    No, filling a cup with flavored high fructose corn syrups and various other fillers and still referring to it as coffee or a coffee drink is immoral.

    Ask for the Fair Trade coffee, they are supposed to always have a pot on hand but many don’t.

  27. Hi all and greetings from this piece’s creator. I want to thank everyone for engaging in such a spirited and (mostly) thoughtful discussion. Turns out, this was all I hoped for.

    If you liked the piece or hated it you can see more of my work at http://the-poor-bastard.blogspot.com/

    And I want to add that all those who think I have gone about this all wrong, please make something wonderful and add it to the mix. That’s what makes all of this so exciting.

  28. NineTailedFox says:

    Either liking or hating it would be an overreaction, I think. Briefly note the inanity, and move on.

    (moves on)

  29. LeopardSeal says:

    I’m with NineTailedFox on this. Something like this doesn’t warrent disscusion or debate. To me, it’s akin to when as a child you didn’t finish your dinner and your mother complained that you were wasting food while children were starving in Africa.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to hop into my SUV and pop on over to Starbucks.

  30. cityrocker says:

    Dammit…I use Starbucks to take hot chicks like her on first dates…why do starving third world people have to ruin everything?!