Full Disclosure: I like Starbucks and I spend way too much money there. However, their recent ad touting what they do for veterans is curious, if not downright disturbing. Frankly, it is enough to make me reconsider my patronage of the the business. That Starbucks is making a focused effort to hire veterans is certainly a good thing. That they then go on to suggest to their patrons something to the effect that “veterans are people too and really not scary at all” - and that is the not-so-subtle message in this ad - is patronizing at best. Insulting is probably more accurate. This ad plays on the unfortunate and inaccurate stereotype that veterans are a class of mentally damaged characters who do not fit well into the mainstream of society. What rubbish! (There is another term I could use but it would be inappropriate.)
It is a sad commentary that in a large swath of our society veterans are often treated as just another undesirable element. Thank you, Starbucks, for your part in “rehabilitating” these folks and at the same time warning your customers that you are doing so. After all, we would not want someone ordering a $5.00 cup of coffee to be frightened by the fact that their barista might be some dangerous ex-military type.
On the other hand, although its message is not artful - quite tone deaf, in fact - perhaps Starbucks’ campaign is not as misplaced as it appears to be at first. Among the more affluent and educated population of our urban areas, the text book Starbucks market, a huge proportion have no connection whatsoever to military service. Very few have actually served. Maybe a grandparent served during WWII or Korea, but that is about it. The parents of today’s so-called Millennials largely avoided service during the Vietnam era. I daresay that someone could easily get a college degree and enter the work world without ever knowing someone who actually served. Combine that unfortunate fact with the frequent media treatment of veterans as deranged or otherwise unstable folks and it is a bit easier to see why Starbucks might feel the need to reassure its customers. That it might see such a need is a troubling commentary on our society.
Veterans should be respected. Their sacrifices are often immense. They don’t need pity and playing on that angle is very wrong. Hiring veterans is the right thing to do. Starbucks patting itself on the back for doing so is not. One wishes that businesses and people would simply do the right thing just because it is the right thing.