Starbucks to add political message to cups of coffee

NEW YORK — Starbucks is using its coffee cups to jump into the political fray in Washington.

The world’s biggest coffee chain is asking employees at cafes in the Washington, D.C., area to scribble the words “Come Together” on cups for drink orders today and Friday.

Chief Executive Officer Howard Schultz said the words are intended as a message to lawmakers about the damage being caused by the divisive negotiations over the “fiscal cliff.”

“Rather than be bystanders, we have an opportunity – and I believe a responsibility – to use our company’s scale for good by sending a respectful and optimistic message to our elected officials to come together and reach common ground on this important issue,” Schultz said on the company’s blog Wednesday. “It’s a small gesture, but the power of small gestures is what Starbucks is about!

“Imagine the power of our partners and hundreds of thousands of customers each sharing such a simple message, one cup at a time.”

The campaign, which was to run Wednesday through Friday, is the first time the company has asked its employees to write a specific message on customers’ cups, he said.

“We’re paying attention; we’re greatly disappointed in what’s going on and we deserve better,” Schultz said in an interview with Reuters. “If (talks) do not progress, we will make this much bigger.”

This isn’t the first time the coffee chain is using its platform to send a political message. In the summer of 2011, Schultz also asked other CEOs and the public to stop making campaign contributions until politicians found a way to deal with a crisis over the debt ceiling that led to a downgrade in the country’s credit rating.

For the latest push, Starbucks is taking out an ad in the Washington Post on Thursday showing a cup with the words “Come Together” on it.

Schultz said Starbucks will use social media and online and print ads to explain the campaign.

Schultz said the message is a way to underscore the damage being done to the “consumer psyche and behavior” by the talks. Although he says Starbucks sales haven’t been affected, he points out that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. CEO Mike Duke warned that fears over the fiscal cliff could cause Americans to pull back on holiday spending. Early figures have shown a relatively weak shopping season.

As for the negotiations, Schultz isn’t taking any sides on the issues of tax increases or spending cuts.

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