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Starbucks strategy

Raymond Barglow
Tuesday October 15, 2002

To the Editor: 


May I briefly take exception to Mark Tarses’ letter (Forum, Oct. 11) on Berkeley's coffee debate? He notes correctly that Starbucks’ claim that it purchases organic, shade-grown and Fair Trade certified coffee is misleading, since “those purchases are just a tiny percentage of the total.” Tarses then concludes that “Starbucks would be doing itself a big favor by being more candid about the issue. People don't like the feeling that they are being played for suckers.” 

I believe, rather, that some people will welcome Starbucks’ half-truth, since the illusion that Starbucks is “doing the right thing” permits them to avoid taking responsibility for their coffee-consuming actions. Coffee is to Starbucks what oil is to U.S. oil companies, on whose behalf the Bush administration proposes to go to war. In both cases, propaganda – even if we sense that it is deceptive – is found acceptable if it promises to guarantee an uninterrupted supply of a commodity upon which our creature comfort seems to depend. 


Raymond Barglow