Starbucks made both real news and fake news this week.
First, it announced a new front in the war on Christmas, apparently by deciding not to include images of snowflakes, snowmen, and children sleighing on its red holiday-themed coffee cups this year.
(I'm kidding of course--well, kidding about the idea that anyone really takes this seriously.)
In fact, before I heard about this silly social media meme (including a pastor who accused the company of hating Jesus), I was in a Starbucks in New York City, where I was struck by how many references to Christmas there were, including Christmas blend coffee and Christmas-themed decorations including an Advent calendar.
The unfortunate thing about all this goofy fake outrage is that it's overshadowing the real news--something good the company is doing for America's veterans.
Last year, Starbucks announced it would offer full scholarships for its employees to attend Arizona State University; this week the chain announced that any employee who is a veteran or active-duty military member can transfer that benefit once--to a spouse or to one of their children.
That's actually a significant benefit that fills in the gaps, potentially, for a lot of U.S. veterans--well, if they want to work at Starbucks anyway. The U.S. government now has a pretty awesome education benefit for veterans who served after September 11, 2001, called the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill. There's a mechanism that allows veterans to transfer the benefit to their spouse or children, but only if they agree to stay on active duty.
It's not all altruism, of course; it's also about recruiting and retaining employees, especially veterans. As The Washington Post reported:
In conversations with the company's Armed Forces Network and with other military employees, Starbucks realized many of its veterans weren't using the benefit, because they either already had a college degree or planned to pay for college through the G.I. Bill. They wanted to know whether they could share the benefit with someone in their family.
"There's a benefit from this as a recruitment tool as well," [Adrienne Gemperle, Starbucks's senior vice president of global human resources operations] said. "It allows our veterans to look across their family's goals in the way that's most meaningful to them."
Additionally, Starbucks announced that it will pay military reservists for up to 80 hours of active duty time per year (a benefit that a lot of other big companies already offer), and open new "military family stores" near military bases. The company also said it has hired 5,500 military veterans in the past two years, as part of its commitment to recruit 10,000 veterans and military spouses by 2018.
That seems a lot more important to me than what kind of clip art Starbucks uses on its cups. What do you think? Let me know in the comments or contact me directly.