Starbucks 9/11 Free Coffee Offer Generates Controversy

Yahoo Contributor Network

If there's one subject Starbucks might have decided to steer clear of by now, it's the 9/11 terror attacks. Starbucks has an uneven history when it comes to 9/11 publicity. Residual distrust by the public may be contributing to the reaction to a current Starbucks campaign offering free brewed coffee to customers on the morning of 9/11.

"It's a day to come together," the in-store blackboards read. "Share free brewed coffee and conversation."

Daryl Lang, who filed a report on the offering at a Brooklyn Starbucks with Breakingcopy said, "I can't imagine it ever feeling right to connect 'free Starbucks coffee' and "9/11' in the same thought. This promotion feels ghoulish and trite, like leaving a stack of coupons in a funeral home that say, 'We're sorry for your loss. Please enjoy a free cup of coffee.'"

An Ihatestarbucks forum participant who identified himself as Dry Sharpie expressed similar feelings.

"It's deplorable how 9/11 evolved from a day of tragedy to a free coffee morning at Starbucks. I hope you enjoy your venti Pikes Peak because 10 years ago, someone dressed like you jumped out a burning building in order to get you free coffee. Enjoy every last sip of it."

Regardless of its intentions, Starbucks might have done well to remain silent about the anniversary of the terror attacks, particularly given past controversies:

* During the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, a Midwood ambulance employee asked at a nearby Starbucks for water to treat Ground Zero shock victims. Rather than donate the water, the Starbucks employee charged $130 for three cases. When Midwood later protested repeatedly, its complaints to corporate management fell on deaf ears- until the story went viral. Only then did the ambulance company get a refund and an apology direct from Starbucks' president Orin Smith.

* As the first anniversary of the terror attacks approached, Starbucks once again found itself at the center of a 9/11 controversy, this one involving a marketing campaign. Posters (pictured here) displayed two Starbucks cold drinks side by side with a dragon fly approaching at a downward angle. The slogan read, "Collapse into Cool."

While some viewers considered the posters much ado about nothing, others took grave offense. The drinks, they said, represented the twin towers and the dragonfly a plane approaching. Starbucks said the posters were intended to create an aura of magic and conjure up feelings of cooling off on a hot summer day. Nevertheless, they pulled the posters in response to a complaint by the New York Daily News.

Besides this 9/11 promotion, Starbucks has offered free brewed coffee on Earth Day and Election Day. On its own 40th anniversary, Starbucks sponsored a massive community service project in 2,000 communities worldwide, offering participants free coffee and pastries. Some Starbucks outlets offered free coffee to rescue workers on the days following the terror attacks.

View Comments