Agraphia Medical Tragicomedy

22May/07Off

Fuck you, Starbucks. Seriously.

Alright, folks. It's time for me to get this off my chest.

Starbucks' Ethos water and Einstein's Breast Cancer Awareness Mug promotions are really, really getting to me. I bought an Einstein's bagel this morning for breakfast, and on my way out of the store I noticed this: For every $17 mug you buy, Einstein's donates $1.50 to breast cancer research.

At Starbucks, every $1.80 bottle of Ethos water contributes a whopping $.05 to "helping children around the world get clean water". For that matter, American Idol's Idol Gives Back campaign raised $60 million... while every 30 second ad spot on the show runs for over $750,000 a pop.

Look, I think it's great that some kids in Ethiopia are going to get $10 million worth of clean water from Ethos. Or that $60 million went from Idol to UNICEF and others. Or that Einstein's is giving some money to fight cancer, or whatever†. But what really gets me going is that these companies are profiting off the guilt of some yuppie who just spent $5 on a mocha-latte-frappucino-extra-foam-hold-the-cinnamon-i'm-on-a-diet and wants to "help" the wide-eyed photogenic African kid in the glossy photo.

Lets rag on Starbucks for a moment, because it's just so blatant. Current market price for a bottle of water is $1.00. If Aquafina, Dasani, or Deja Blue decided to charge $1.80 for their water, they would be laughed right in to bankruptcy. So what did Ethos do?

They realized that they could effectively charge $1.75 for the same goddamn water by claiming that it would help charity.

And then Starbucks decided it was a good PR move and sponsored Ethos in all its stores. Same goes for Einstein's. $1.50 off a $17 mug that cost you $4 to make? Charity is about giving, not recieving. Didn't your parents teach you that?

So, this is me, giving the proverbial finger to all you corporate chains that are profiting off the backs of other people's misery. And because I know corporations can't have feelings, ethics, or morals, instead I'm pointing that finger directly at the CEOs and CFOs of all three. I sincerely hope you can't sleep at night.

†Actually, I think this is what irks me the most. We med students have strong feelings about fighting breast cancer... our team raised almost $10,000 last year on our walk.

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  1. Hmmm. I agree and disagree. In once sense, charity should be charitable. In another, what’s the harm in corporations profiting from charity?

    Appealing to people’s sense of charity is hard, and not sustainable. That’s why you need constant fund raisers: people’s desire to help fizzles out over time. Hot issues become cold. People move on to the next tragedy.

    Appealing to people’s sense of greed is natural and sustainable. If a company can profit, it will continue to sell. If it can profit more by donating to charity, it will continue to donate to charity.

    What these countries need is recurring aid they can count on, not a one-time donation. Realistically, starbucks raising their prices by 10% and giving 5% to charity is going to have a longer lasting benefit than a single fund raiser that donates 100% of its proceeds to charity.

    I think in this case, the ends justify the means. It would feel warmer and fuzzier if their donations were more substantial, but even if they donated 100% of the profit from the water to their cause, people would still say that it was just Starbucks running a PR campaign to make themselves look better. They’d still be vilified for being a giant corporation.

    Besides, the root of the problem is the consumer, not the corporation. You can’t get people to donate $.10 to charity, but they don’t think twice buying a bottle of water with an $.80 markup on it. Starbucks is simply helping people already do what they’re going to do: make themselves feel like they’re helping while essentially doing nothing.

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