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Laissez Faire

Posted Nov 06 2008 11:38pm

According to this article from The Wall Street Journal (subscription required), which also appeared on here (think it's available to all), Starbucks would not let the words "laissez faire" appear on one of their customizable gift cards.

Because "laissez faire" is either "threatening," "derogatory," or I suppose "overtly political." Uh huh. (By the way, I disagree with author's assertion that laissez faire is part of what made Starbucks a successful company, since laissez faire has not--if ever--existed in this country for a good. long. while.) Here is the policy:

We review each Card before printing it to make sure it meets our personalization policy. We accept most personalization requests, but we can't honor every one. Some requests may contain trademarks that we don't have the right to use. Others may contain material that we consider inappropriate (such as threatening remarks, derogatory terms, or overtly political commentary) or wouldn't want to see on Starbucks-branded products.

Sure. Rejecting trademarks is the right thing to do. And of course Starbucks gets to refuse whatever they like--it's their company and they can do what they like. That's the beauty of (mostly) free enterprise--if you have a company and don't want to use your company's products to promote things you don't like, then you don't have to do it.

And as a consumer, I don't have to go there either--not that I go there all that often, but there is one close to my house and it's nice to swing by some mornings. But still, the coffee isn't all that great and it's just as easy to make better coffee here at home.

I am very curious, though, about this anti-laissez-faire stance they've taken and decided to test it for myself. I have requested a custom card that says "Ayn Rand was right!" I'm just wondering if that statement would be threatening, derogatory, or overtly political in the view of Starbucks. And if it would be worth the $29 for them to reject it. I suspect it might be rejected. If not, then I guess I've got a whole bunch of mornings of paid-for coffee coming to me.

I'll let you know how it turns out. Either way, I think I'll make even less of an effort to get to Starbucks in the future. Caribou Coffee is a bit further, but the coffee is better anyway.
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