Ardent Eden

Ardent Eden is a place to explore my thoughts about the interdependence of life - humanity and nature - and to engage with others for collective problem-solving.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

It's All Relative: Another Starbucks Challenge

I still haven't done the Starbucks Challenge myself, but I have been evangelizing about it quite a bit. It must be working because I got the following email from my sister-in-law reporting on the results of the challenge she took last Friday:

Store Address:
Galleria at Mt. Lebanon
1500 Washington Road
Pittsburgh, PA

Positive but not total victory

We waited in a line out the door of a Starbucks in a local mall on Black Friday for a coffee. No Fair Trade coffee brewed but once we asked for it, they immediately offered to french press one for us and indicated the display of Fair Trade coffee which we could purchase. It would have been nice if it was already brewed.

A quick question about the challenge: What if you want a cappuccino or latte? Particularly, this time of year it is nice to get a egg nog latte or gingerbread latte. Is the coffee used in these drinks Fair Trade? If not, is it possible to get the coffee in these drinks Fair Trade as well?

My sister-in-law's questions about Starbuck's espresso beans are good ones, especially when it's obvious from any trip to a Starbucks location that many customers order the specialty coffee drinks that really make some dough for the company. Green LA Girl addressed this question here. The answer is that Starbucks does not use Fair Trade espresso. Seems that Starbucks is blaming the lack of Fair Trade espresso on a dearth of customer demand for it. The idea of the omniscient marketplace silently responding to customer demand seems a bit insincere given the way that many of the Starbucks locations have failed to provide Fair Trade coffee even when a customer asks for it. If you'd like to order a soy latte or some other expensive and yummy caffeine concoction and you'd like for the farmers who grew those espresso beans to be paid a fair wage, why not drop the folks at Starbucks headquarters a line and demand it? The comment form is here.


  • At 3:21 PM, Blogger Laurie said…

    Thanks, I just sent them a comment, although I support my local coffee shop on the rare occasion that I don't brew my own. This whole thing surprised and baffled me. I just figured that their prices were high because they were supporting fair trade. I'm naive, I guess.

  • At 3:47 PM, Blogger Siel said…

    Sadly, the Starbucks' comment form's a joke. You'll likely get a form email back, asking you to call their 800# with a reference code. And if you bother to call, the rep'll give you the usual runaround. Totally idiotic.

  • At 4:21 PM, Blogger lauren said…

    Hey Laurie - Me too. I usually brew my own coffee or go to a local cafe. I'm going to have to dust off my espresso maker for one of those soy lattes that I'm craving. Trader Joe's has a Fair Trade espresso blend.

    Hi Siel - I guess I shouldn't be surprised about the comment form after reading about Starbucks' antics on your blog for the past few weeks! I figure it can't hurt to send in comments.

    For anyone who's interested, here's the address for sending snail mail: Starbucks Customer Relations, PO Box 3717, Seattle, WA 98124-3717. In addition to the email comment, I'm going to send a letter to them too.

  • At 2:48 AM, Blogger Siel said…

    Good idea. Hey -- BTW -- I got a letter back from Trader Joe's. Didn't reall say much, but they were cordial and nice and answered all the questions I had --

  • At 1:31 PM, Blogger Laurie said…

    I got an email back telling me pretty much the same thing they say on their FAQ - that they sell it by the bag and pointing out vaguely that they will feature it once a month as their Coffee of the Day - whoop-t-do.

  • At 4:55 PM, Blogger lauren said…

    As Siel predicted, the email responses from Starbucks leave a lot to be desired! Mine was even lamer and more non-responsive than the response that Laurie received. I specifically mentioned the lack of Fair Trade espresso beans in my comment but the response only mentions the lack of brewed Cafe Estima at stores. Here's the response:

    Thank you for taking the time to share your frustration with us regarding the availability of brewed Cafe Estima at our stores.

    Your feedback is essential to Starbucks continued growth and progress. Therefore, I have shared your comments with all of the appropriate individuals within our organization.

    Should you have additional questions or concerns, please call our Customer Relations department at (800)-23-LATTE to speak with a representative or email us at

    Best Regards,
    Minh Le
    Customer Relations Representative
    Starbucks Coffee Company

    In going through the gigantic stack of mail that accumulated during our two week trip, I noticed a reply from Trader Joe's about the lack of Fair Trade chocolate. It sounds pretty similar to the letter that Siel got. It's just a reminder that we need to keep at it because "consumer demand" rules the day...


Post a Comment

<< Home