I am not going to use the coffee company’s name when writing this entry; I feel they already have enough press. But, calling it “The coffee company that shall not be called by name,” is a bit long so I think, for this piece, I will call this coffee company by the name of Self-Absorbed Joe.
I remember a few years back, when Self-Absorbed Joe came to the Midwest it was all the rave. This coffee was marketed elite coffee for the elite. If you were somebody, you were walking, holding a Self-Absorbed Joe paper cup and cardboard sleeve. It was a status symbol and Self-Absorbed Joe only would build stores in neighborhoods with high income, upper-middle-class neighborhoods. In 2008 Bobbi Bowman wrote about using Self-Absorbed Joe as a demographic indicator (you can read her piece here.) In her piece she writes, “For some time, S******ks owner Howard Schultz didn’t think black people (and poor people) drank coffee or fit his business model, or so goes the history that former Sacramento Kings basketball star and subsequent businessman Kevin Johnson recounted to members of the American Society of Newspaper Editors in 2006.”
Next, we have the hoopla of the “paying it forward” shenanigans. Apparently their idea of paying it forward is to have the barista let you know that someone bought you a cup of coffee and ask you if you want to buy the next customers coffee. So basically, 1 person gets a free cup of coffee and the rest pay for their own overly priced coffee, but are able to feel like they did something nice for someone else, who is well off enough to buy their own expensive cup of coffee. Self-Absorbed Joe then sent out press releases to show how wonderful they and their customers are. If someone decided to opt out of the pay if forward chain, the press was also handed that information. I guess by shaming in the press, this would discourage anyone else thinking about breaking the pay it forward chain. Who really benefited from this campaign? The only one I can think of is Self-Absorbed Joe.
Now we have a new Self-Absorbed Joe campaign, the race together campaign. It is so lovely we have an elitist company to talk at us about racism. I had no idea baristas were trained experts in racial relations. It is incredible that a company that feels its stores are too good for lower income neighborhoods is going to talk to us about human respect. Perhaps instead of the race together campaign, Self-Absorbed Joe could learn the true meaning of charity as well as contemplate their contribution to class warfare.