April 14th, 2010 by Rachel | Tags: Anthropology, Commercial, Corporation, Material Culture, Money | 2 Comments »
While there are so much joys in drinking coffee around the world, unfortunately, what goes on in the lives of humans who produce the coffee is not very glorious.
Do advertisements promoting corporations’ good social responsibilities lure you to buy their products so that you are feeling good about supporting the workers and making good contributions to the world? Sure! I would be attracted to buy products from those places that promote this kind of advertising. However, through my extensive research, I have concluded that many companies are promoting propaganda through publicity to maximize their profits. As I mentioned in a previous post, Toyota, a manufacturer of vehicles, which publicizes itself as creating the ‘greenest’ car on the planet, is truly socially irresponsible as the company advocates against raising miles per gallon standards.
Starbucks loves to promote that its company is the most socially responsible and takes part in fair trade. Their visually appealing commercial is an example of Starbucks’ promoting their social responsibilities:
If we look beyond the publicity, Starbucks is really creating propaganda to attract customers to purchase their coffee. Time magazine featured an article regarding how much farmers are reimbursed for the coffee they grow and sell. In reality, even with Fair Trade in place, farmers in Mexico and Central America see a very small increase in their wages. It’s so little that many farmers’ “families have still been going hungry for several months a year.” Moreover, in some parts of the world, such as Sidamo, a province in the southern part of Ethiopia, where Starbucks purchases their coffee beans, children are seen working on the farms with their families to grow coffee beans.
I would be more than happy to see a higher price tag on Starbucks’ coffee and frappucchino to support the people who grow coffee beans. However, some customers may not agree to pay a higher price, such as one customer who was quoted in the Time article:
“‘Fair Trade “isn’t the only reason I drink Starbucks, but it’s a big one,’ says Connie Silver, a nurse, sipping a large, $4.15 Frappuccino outside a Miami store. Asked if she’d pay, say, $4.50 or even $5 to help absorb higher Fair Trade prices, Silver raises her eyebrows and says, ‘Wow, these days, that’s a tough one.'”
Also realize that this customer may be an average American who is certainly attracted to Starbucks’ propaganda of Fair Trade.
Issues at Starbucks do not merely exist in the landscape of coffee growers, but also many workers have been fighting for their rights to have a union and work full-time and earn a living wage that would allow them to have a decent lifestyle rather than living at a poverty level. According to some workers, Starbucks fails to pay a living wage and refuses to provide the workers a consistent number of hours and enough hours to earn a living:
“Starbucks refuses to guarantee baristas a minimum number of work hour per week; baristas thus face great difficulty budgeting for necessities like food, rent, and utilities. For example, a Starbucks barista may be assigned 32 hours of work one week, 25 hours the next week, and 12 hours of work the following week.”
After learning these facts, when I purchase a Starbucks coffee, I will make sure that I leave a good tip for the deserving workers.