Starbucks Employees to Write Come Together on Fiscal Cliff on Cups in Washington, D.C.

(Image: Starbucks Blog)

NEW YORK (TheBlaze/AP) — If you’re in Washington, D.C., and order a grande skim double espresso shot latte with hazelnut syrup, you might see some words other than the Starbucks lingo explaining your complicated drink to the barista on the cardboard cup. You might see the words “Come Together.”

This isn’t coaxing the perfect blend between espresso and milk either. With these words to be marked on cups Thursday and Friday, Starbucks is alluding to the “fiscal cliff” and is using its coffee cups make its first jump into the political fray in Washington.

The world’s biggest coffee chain is asking employees at cafes in the D.C. metro area to scribble these words, which CEO Howard Schultz explained are intended as a message to lawmakers about the damage being caused by the divisive negotiations over the “fiscal cliff.”

It’s the first time employees at Starbucks cafes are being asked to write anything other than customers’ names on cups.

While companies generally steer clear of politics to avoid alienating customers, the plea to “Come Together” is a sentiment unlikely to cause controversy. If anything, Starbucks could score points with customers and burnish its image as a socially conscious company.

This isn’t the first time the coffee chain is using its platform to send a political message. In the summer of 2011, Schultz also asked other CEOs and the public to stop making campaign contributions until politicians found a way to deal with a crisis over the debt ceiling that led to a downgrade in the country’s credit rating.

Here’s more from Schultz’s blog post explaining the action:

In the spirit of the Holiday season and the Starbucks tradition of bringing people together, we have a unique opportunity to unite and take action on an incredibly important topic. As many of you know, our elected officials in Washington D.C. have been unable to come together and compromise to solve the tremendously important, time-sensitive issue to fix the national debt. You can learn more about this impending crisis at www.fixthedebt.org.

Rather than be bystanders, we have an opportunity—and I believe a responsibility—to use our company’s scale for good by sending a respectful and optimistic message to our elected officials to come together and reach common ground on this important issue. This week through December 28, partners in our Washington D.C. area stores are writing “Come Together” on customers’ cups.

It’s a small gesture, but the power of small gestures is what Starbucks is about! Imagine the power of our partners and hundreds of thousands of customers each sharing such a simple message, one cup at a time.

Starbucks is also taking out an ad in the Washington Post on Thursday showing a cup with the words “Come Together” on it.

The “fiscal cliff” refers to the steep tax hikes and spending cuts set to take effect Jan. 1, unless the White House and Congress reach an agreement to avoid them.

As for whether customers will be confused by the “Come Together” message or understand that it’s related to the fiscal cliff, Schultz said in an interview that there’s wide public awareness about the negotiations and that Starbucks will use social media to explain the effort. The Seattle-based company says test runs at select stores showed operations wouldn’t be slowed.

Schultz says the message is a way to underscore the damage being done to the “consumer psyche and behavior” by the talks. Although he says Starbucks sales haven’t been affected, he points out that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. CEO Mike Duke warned that fears over the fiscal cliff could cause Americans to pull back on holiday spending. Early figures have shown a relatively weak shopping season.

As for the negotiations, Schultz isn’t taking any sides on the issues of tax increases or spending cuts.

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