Saturday, May 8, 2010

Grammatical Error, Unintentional Truth

Well folks, the cat is out of the bag, or perhaps more fitting, "the coffee is out of the factories". 

Who was the marketing executive who approved this billboard? Really Starbucks, you're going to put up a sign that proclaims to the world the truth of your crappy coffee sourcing? I realize what the message was supposed to convey, but major AD FAIL by the Green Mermaid on this one, ouch. Thank you, SPRUDGE.

While we're on the topic of Starbucks and it's relation to farm-sourced coffee, I want to bring up the Farmer Loan program by Starbucks. This loan program is set up with the intention to give lower-interest loans to farmers who need extra liquid capital while their crops are still ripening, allowing them to bring their crops to fruition and sell them at maximum prices to international specialty markets instead of local garbage collectors. This program sounds legit and helpful, but let me share with you some potential abuses I see coming down the road. 

Starbucks is giving these very needy people a hand-up, and I can appreciate that along with everyone else in the world with a soul. I'm not trying to be a huge downer, but the temptation to lock these farmers into no-option sales is obvious. By giving them the loans (even if it is at a lower rate), Starbucks could very easily slide in a fine print clause stating something like, 
...and the terms of the 16 percent loan will never increase unless the farmer elects to sell the fully-grown product to another buyer, namely any competitor to Starbucks Corp. or its affiliates.  Upon breaking the terms of the low interest loan, the interest rate will rise to the regional standard, 43 percent. ...
Although the previous excerpt is completely hypothetical, meaning there is no evidence for this practice taking place (at least that I'm aware of), but hopefully this illuminates what could easily happen without a watchful eye on the situation. These farmers could be lured into low-interest loans which would result in their loss of independence and acquisition of new de facto owners; their labor would not be their own, but owned by Starbucks. I think this is even more likely to take place now due to the rise of the Third Wave of coffee roasters, which put increasing pressure on Starbucks' quality standards, and their identity as Specialty Coffee; this also helps to create a great alternative buyer of high-end specialty coffee for growers. Let's pray Starbucks doesn't attempt to pervert this loan program and use it to fix their sourcing prices by securing their business from outside competition. 

Lord, thank You for good companies doing good work. I pray You protect their minds from the attacks of greed and harmful self-interest. Keep my head deflated and on straight. Here we go.  

(I apologize for the crazy fonts. Blogger is being a jerk-face today)

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