Thursday, 6 December 2012

The end of the affair... falling out of love with Starbucks

Reader, dear reader, I am heartbroken. Once upon a time, I was in love. Now, no more. The objection of my affection has featured on these pages before. Back in March last year they were wowing me with their enthusiasm and theatricality.

Oh, I knew that their coffee wasn't the best - but I was in love with an idea. A contrived Americana on every corner. Years ago, at the height of my habit, in one store I used to frequent, they would be making my drink before I'd even got to the till. More recently, I enjoyed a weekly treat from Apple's iTunes - an App, or Book, or Song. They called me by name, they even made my previous drink of choice (a Double Tall Caramel Macchiato) into the standard Tall Caramel Macchiato. I felt, well, special...

My cousin and wife may have worked for Costa, the independent cafĂ© I visited every morning (£2.20 for Latte and Croissant) may make better coffee, but there was still a soft spot in my affections for... No, I can't even bear to say the name.

You see, dear reader, a month or so ago, news broke that my love had managed to arrange their affairs in such a way as to pay minimal tax. Now, there is nothing wrong with arranging your tax affairs so you don't pay more than you need to, or should do. But when you contrive your arrangements in such a way as to pay next to nothing - well, it crosses a line. A subjective, moral line perhaps, but a line none the less.

Despite appearances to the contrary, it now seems they declared losses in the UK in 14 of the past 15 years. A 15 year period of constant and rapid expansion - it seems odd, does it not, to keep flogging a dead horse for so long. Perhaps a shop on the next corner will be the one which makes us profitable...

Of course, all that time, they've reported to shareholders that the UK is profitable and promoted their UK head to a post in their home market. Indeed, they promoted their UK head, Cliff Burrows, to be president of their US business. Talk about reward for failure...

They've tried to win me back. The day after I discovered their dirty little secret, I received a voucher for a free latte (part of the regular reward programme). They've tried to explain themselves here and here. But, dear reader, it's all too little, too late. How can I ever trust them again?

And, like every break up, we need to work out whose stuff is whose. They had £10.40 of mine* - I'll be damned if they're keeping that. I don't think I have anything of theirs. Turns out, I was always the honest one in our relationship.

Now they're trying to make things up HM Revenue and Customs. Seeking to re-negotiate what they will pay tax on - volunteering not to offset the royalties paid to their EMEA Headquarters in the Netherlands against Corporation Tax. How very big of them...

But now, today, comes news that Starbucks are to seek to change the terms and conditions of their employees. They may be giving with one hand, but it looks like the other is ready to take away from their "Partners".

I'm not a fan of "Big is Evil" type arguments, I'm not normally a fan of consumer boycotts either, I know that Amazon, Google, Apple and IKEA (amongst others, and all of whom I have relationships with, such a tart as am I) all have similar practices, but it's time to draw the line. 

Starbucks is, it seems, one of the worst offenders - it's time to take a stand. 

You can sign a Lib Dem sponsored petition here and stop patronising them. Perhaps then they will stop taking us all for a ride.


*I've got special dispensation from Stephen Williams MP - the Lib Dem leading the charge against Starbucks - to use up the funds on my card. A Venti Gingerbread Latte and Mince Pie were much enjoyed last week; if you see me with another, that is my excuse...

1 comment:

Raybeard said...

I shall NOT be boycotting Starbucks - because I've never ever been in one.
(Mind you, having to think seriously about using Amazon again. As for Google, well, that's rather more difficult to avoid.)