Risky Starbucks initiative tanks early

The initiative was not only controversial to begin with, but awkward for the barista and customer to partake in. (Photo provided by Esparta Palma via flickr)
The initiative was not only controversial to begin with, but awkward for the barista and customer to partake in. (Photo provided by Esparta Palma via flickr)

What if our morning coffee could spark more than just our energy? Popular coffee giant Starbucks implemented an initiative last week to ignite conversations involving race.

Baristas wrote “#RaceTogether” on each drink they made, hoping that coffee lovers would see it and be prompted to think about and discuss the topic of race.

This initiative was laid to rest on March 22 after mixed emotions from consumers, according to The Washington Post.

Though the in-store conversation starter has ceased, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz ensures that the initiative will live on in other ways, such as forum discussions and special sections in USA Today, according to The Washington Post.

The topic of race has been prominent in the media this past year and has lit a conversational and opinionated fire within many of us.

The “Race Together” campaign comes off as progressive, but poorly executed.

Race is a sensitive topic for many, so feeling forced into expressing your opinion when all you wanted was a frappuccino can seem a bit daunting to the average Starbucks customer.

One of the biggest problems I saw with this initiative was the lack of efficiency. It seems that it would be uncomfortable to talk about such a heavy topic with a complete stranger who, up until now, had made your coffee for you and nothing more.

Also, if customers were asked to speak about race with Starbucks employees, wouldn’t that hold up the line for others waiting for their coffee?

I don’t see how an educated or meaningful discussion on such an in-depth subject could be produced in the small amount of time it takes to make a cup of coffee or latte.

I feel there would be many things left unsaid by both the barista and customer, which could lead to confusion or a bad taste in either party’s mouth.

It’s extremely important to open our minds to sensitive issues and topics such as race, but is engaging in this type of conversation while grabbing a quick coffee the optimal time and place? Maybe for some, but for me, it seems rushed and uncomfortable.

It’s also hard to express an opinion to a stranger when there is no way of knowing what their reaction will be. People thrive on making good first impressions, so if your views on racial issues don’t match those of the barista sparking this conversation, things could become a bit unnerving.

Also, does this imply that baristas must remain neutral on the subject whilst speaking to customers as to not offend anyone? If so, the conversation has potential to come off as superficial instead of informative and genuine.

It’s possible that this marketing fiasco will be able to spark an interest in other major companies to implement the same type of idea, but execute it in a more comfortable manor for its consumers.