This morning I was watching FOX News Channel’s FOX and Friends and the hosts were talking about the recent request by Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz for customers, even in open carry states, to not bring firearms into the Starbucks stores. I think that’s just the way it ought to be. Private businesses setting policy for their stores, or in this case just making a request of their customers, instead of the government mandating it. Then, let the public decide if their policies reflect the values of a company they’d like to do business with. In the case of carrying guns into a Starbucks, I think it’s a reasonable request and I don’t think that this issue is a motivator for very many consumers, even very pro-gun people like me. So, I don’t think it will amount to much one way or another.
The discussion on FOX this morning got me to thinking about other issues. This principle can be applied to a number of other high-profile issues that have been in the headlines recently. From wedding cakes to chicken sandwiches to advertising campaigns – it seems like there is always a boycott or PR stunt of some sort going on to protest one corporate policy or another. I’ve been thinking a lot about it lately, and I have come to believe that the public relations battles are good things. Public relations battles are way better than public policy or legislative battles any day. Let the public decide what corporate policies they are willing to support, and what policies will cause them to take their business elsewhere. Don’t legislate it.
I think that a lot of regulations and things such as non-discrimination laws or gun control laws limit our freedom to live free in a free society. In the case of non-discrimination laws, I think that in 2013 people should be free to discriminate if they want to. I think it’s a very stupid business practice, but people should be free to be stupid. They should be prepared to accept the public relations consequences of their discrimination and the impact on their bottom line, because our society has decided that discrimination of any kind isn’t something that we should support.
There are other issue where the same principle can be applied. I think the same could go for polluters, or companies who ship jobs over seas, or any other unpopular business practice. Go ahead, do it. Then face the consequences when the public decides against you and your business dries up. That’s the market at work in our free society.
I haven’t always thought this way. I used to lobby for more government regulations and protections against anti-gay discrimination. Now, I think enough is enough. Now I draw the line now against more government – no matter how worthy the intent.
Now back to Starbucks, I have to share a kinda funny, kinda related story – A few years ago a friend of mine was in a Starbucks. She was putting some Splenda in her coffee and took the opportunity to put a few extra Splenda packets in her purse for another time. That’s when she saw the store manager looking at her. The manager didn’t say anything, and my friend left the store with her coffee.
The fact that the manager had seen my friend taking extra Splenda’s with her began to eat at her. She felt so guilty that she went to the grocery store and bought a box of Splenda to take to the Starbucks to replace what she had taken. When she got to the store, she went up to the same manager and apologized and presented her with a new box of Splenda. The manager replied something like this, “Oh, everybody takes the Splenda! I was looking at you because the man next to you had a gun, and I wasn’t sure if we were about to be robbed! I was trying to get your attention to try to make you aware of the situation.” Ha!
So, now with the “no guns” request, Starbucks store managers can go back to policing the Splenda supplies and spend less time worrying about whether their gun carrying customers are about to rob them. BUT hopefully they’ll have a gun behind the counter for their protection – just in case.