The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Starbucks Makes Themselves Hard To Swallow For [Some] Shareholders …
April 2, 2013, 6:13 am
Filed under: Comment

How about that for a post title eh?

Who the hell do I think I am, the Daily Mail?

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Starbucks.

On one hand they do so many things that utterly piss me off [see here and here and here] and yet they also make a coffee that is less shit than many other places make it here.

And they once gave me a little birthday party.

But recently I came across a news story that made me like them a whole lot more.

No … they’re not going to start selling diet coke [ice, no lemon] in their stores.

No … they aren’t going to offer an in-consumption experience that features a none-stop stream of Queen songs.

No … they’re not going to play a video of Nottingham Forest’s glorious European Cup victories on an endless loop.

Basically, what it was, was founder Howard Schultz telling a shareholder to fuck off … albeit in semi-polite terms.

What happened was at their AGM, a shareholder – Tom Strobhar – said he was unhappy that Schultz has used the company to support gay marriage and claimed it had impacted their share price.

In fact his actual words were:

“In the first full quarter after this boycott was announced, our sales and our earnings – shall we say politely – were a bit disappointing”.

That’s fighting talk.

Now to be fair, while Strobhar is openly against same-sex marriage – being a major player in the ‘Corporate Morality Action Center’ – he arguably had a point, because once Schultz had made his announcement about Starbucks endorsing the same-sex marriage bill in Washington, conservatives and opponents to gay marriage openly stated they would boycott the brand.

Given we live in a World where companies do all they can to avoid or appease any possible negative publicity – even if created by extreme minority groups – Schultz response was rather daring.

Instead of apologizing and bending over to appease the outspoken shareholder, Howard Schultz said this:

“This is is not an economic decision, the lens in which we are making that decision is through the lens of our people. We employ over 200,000 people in this company and we want to embrace diversity.”

At this, the audience cheered and applauded wildly.

When things calmed down, Schultz continued …

“If you feel, respectfully, that you can get a higher return than the 38 percent you got last year, you can sell your shares of Starbucks and buy shares in another company. Thank you very much.”


Utterly, utterly brilliant.

This has single-handedly made me actually like Starbucks a whole lot more.

Whereas so many companies pander to anyone who challenges their actions or decisions, Schultz had the strength of character that I wish was present in their grande latte’s.

In that moment, he made Starbucks have a point of view. He made it a brand that lives by sacrifice and stubbornness. A brand people will start to associate with as much for their values, as their products.

And while you could say that he has broken the law by openly admitting he is doing something for his employees rather than shareholders [which is technically illegal when you’re the CEO of a listed company] he can argue that not only did he achieve a return of 38% which is much, much higher than current market levels, but by representing the diversity of their employees, he is ensuring their loyalty and commitment which can have a massive impact on improving the bottom line,

More companies should take note.

Anyway while you watch Schultz try and pull off his best Al Pacino impression [which is maybe why I like it so much], I’m going to buy me a Venti somethingorother. Ta-ra.

21 Comments so far
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“Schultz had the strength of character that I wish was present in their grande latte’s.”


Good on you for admitting (suggesting?) the reason you like this story is because it panders to your triumph over adversity fixation. Except to be fair, it’s more adversity over adversity because Schultz is hardly an underdog. Nice post though Robert. It’s not another April 1 joke is it?

Comment by Bazza

You’ve got to admit Rob, Baz nailed you on this one.

Comment by Pete

Baz nailed Rob? I didn’t even know they were seeing eachother.

Comment by DH


Comment by Pete

Yes, I had noticed the ‘triumph/adversity’ potential in this story but like you, I also noticed Howard Schultz is not exactly a victim. That said, I love the audience reaction when he cuts his shareholder opponent down to size and for that alone, I am willing to accept there is more than a hint of Hollywood in all of this.

Comment by Rob

I don’t drink coffee. I am a tea person (very questionable statement if you are going by Northern’s standards). I am definitely having a coffee next time I see a Starbucks.

Comment by Ciaran MCCabe

They do tea too Ciaran. I’ve never had it and it might be indistinguishable from the coffee, but it might make up feel less of a traitor.

Comment by Bazza

youre headline is exactly like the daily mail. shit.

“raise your paper cups to starbucks” would be better. or if you want to get fucking clever, “raise a roast to starbucks”.

i dont give a fuck what people think, i like their 99% milk 1% coffee brew so all this post has done is make me want to drink more of their coffee flavoured milk so they can continue to fuck off any bigoted twat who uses “family values” as an excuse to bitch they want more money out of their shares, regardless of cost to the business or the employees.

family values? dont make me fucking laugh. wankers.

Comment by andy@cynic

Great post Rob and a great point Andy. When shareholders complain about 38% increases, you know it has little to do with company policy and everything to do with greed.

Schultz was well within his rights to put Strobhar down and I like him a lot more for doing it.

Comment by Pete

A Schultz and Andy collaboration could solve the North Korea crisis.

Comment by DH

Am I the only one who is actually getting quite nervous about this escalating situation? I know China is North Korea’s supposed “friend”, but living so close to a place that could have a nuclear war is hardly doing my blood pressure any good.

Comment by Rob


Comment by DH

I’m not so nervous. I reckon China will deal with the situation themselves. Having a raving nutter hanging around next door, raving at your biggest customer, is bad for business… plus it means we might finally get a sequel to Team America.

Comment by Shackleford Hurtmore

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’ll end up in nuclear war because as you said, China will sort them out in the end, but I just don’t like the idea that a country is making these sorts of threats – however utterly insane they might be.

Comment by Rob

Spot the new Dad! Ha.

You’re bang on though – this has little to do with anything approaching family values. In fact, I’d argue it’s totally the opposite, being far more about trying to justify prejudice than anything else.

Comment by Rob

It’s nice that Mr Schultz has a reasonably progressive view on gender and relationships.

It would be nicer if he also have a more progressive view on corporate taxation. Robbing b#####d.

Comment by luoanlai

That’s a very good point, it’s also interesting that [as far as I know], none of the shareholders had an issue with that. Of course, I’m not really surprised – but I do find it interesting that many are very quick to judge but very slow to accept the implications of that judgement.

Comment by Rob

Great post and pleasantly surprised to be pleasantly surprised about the lack of swearing in the comments (but it better be back soon).

Was shocked to find myself returning to Starbucks over and over on recent US trip… Too often it seemed the best of a very bad bunch of quantity-over-quality ‘alternatives’. I now feel entirely justified, thanks to a smarmy CEO. Cheers, Rob

Comment by @MurrayDG

I’m sure the swearing will be back in force soon … or it will be when Andy comes back to alienating everyone on here fulltime.

Comment by Rob

That’s excellent. Shame his views on paying tax aren’t as progressive.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

So Starbucks is now in the social engineering business. Wonder when they’re going to get into coffee?
Here in China, they only sell warm milky beverages.

Comment by Ian Gee

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