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November 02, 2008


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This is illegal in California the elections code specifically forbids giving incentives to people to either vote or not vote.


Here is the section of the Elections Code in case anyone wants to look it up.

18520. A person shall not directly or through another person give,
offer, or promise any office, place, or employment, or promise to
procure or endeavor to procure any office, place, or employment to or
for any voter, or to or for any other person, in order to induce
that voter at any election to:
(a) Refrain from voting.
(b) Vote for any particular person.
(c) Refrain from voting for any particular person.
A violation of any of the provisions of this section shall be
punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for 16 months or two
or three years.


promise any
or employment

So how does a free cup of coffee factor into those 3 things???

"any office, place, or employment"

How is free coffee an offer of an office or a job?

And for that matter....

"a) Refrain from voting.
(b) Vote for any particular person.
(c) Refrain from voting for any particular person."

The coffee is being given to those who have voted. It is not being given to people because they voted FOR someone or because they did NOT vote for another person, and it is pretty clearly a reward to people who did vote, not people who refrained.


It mentions influencing the person to refrain from voting or vote/not vote for a particular person--but nothing about encouraging someone TO VOTE, period. I'm thinking it's okay.


If what Bill said was true, then Obama and McCain are in trouble for urging people to vote.


Bill - It's always California with the interesting law. At one point eons ago, someone asked the question whether if Starbucks is gathering personal health information for them, is there a law violation? (this was a discussion related to baristas/premiums/ health questionnaires/insurance). I tried to figure out an answer and the best I could come up with was "maybe in California."

But back to your statutory analysis you've invited: Starbucks has 2 (or 3?) things that probably makes them safe.

First off, nothing they're doing is enticing one to refrain from voting, a large chunk of that code.

Next, the code talks in the future - that is changing the voting habits of someone who has not yet voted. Starbucks is targeting those who already DID vote. Come tell us you voted and you get free coffee. That may sound like it is splitting hairs, but that's an important distinction here.

Next, -- oh oh this is a fun legal problem you just gave out --- The first portion relates to employment or office - not relevant to Starbucks. The second portion talks about "any voter" and "that voter" and "any other person" - Starbucks is a corporation and not a voter or a person.

You may think I'm splitting hairs but what I've given you is likely a viable statutory analysis - the intent of the code was to prevent people, from interfering with other people who wanted to go vote that day.

Starbucks is fine!


they aren't enticing people to vote. they are offering something AFTER THE FACT. It is neither swaying their vote or being given to them before voting. i would change it to this:

if anyone voted for mccain they can buy their own cup of coffee. capitalism at it's core. we live in a society where the exchange of money for goods and services in the norm so hopefully they worked for that $1.85 and can buy their own cup of coffee.

if anyone voted for obama they can come in a take a coffee from someone who ordered more than one drink. the person that ordered more than one drink doesn't need that second or third drink so lets redistribute it to someone who needs it.

Mark Gallagher

Sucks for those of us that voted early to avoid all the nastiness of the the lines on Tuesday!


Since they're using the honor system, they're not going to deny you the coffee if you told them you voted early.


I agree completely and no, you aren't splitting hairs. They're telling us to get coffee AFTER we vote. This won't change who anyone votes for or get them to refrain from voting.

For the record, I think it's a good thing that they're doing. Starbucks isn't breaking any laws at all, so just relax and enjoy your free coffee!


Let's not forget that Melody is a highly respected attorney. Thank you, counselor.

Okay- SM here. Could we have maybe found out about this promo BEFORE the schedules were written and the products ordered?

This is so typical of this company. We found out with the rest of the world-which was last night if you were watching SNL.

I hope if we get a lot of people looking for free coffee, they don't mind the long wait. Great way to "attract new customers."


I'm just looking forward to my free tall drip. Yay Starbucks!


I am voting with or without my free coffee!

Thanks for the coffee offer! This is a very important day for the US history...maybe a turning point. I hope!



this is a good idea... nay sayers shut the f up. thxbyebye.


In Iraq, they got to vote for the first time and they had a blue thumb. Now here in America, you get free Starbucks coffee. Too bad, they didn't have cups that said, I VOTED!
Starbucks should donate coffee to voting facilities, especially in Democrat blue-collar precincts.


I like it. You already voted? Well, it says for us to use the honor system (the communication said that to partners) so come in and say you voted. Free *tall* drip.

The pain is going to be all the people who want a free venti XXX XXX instead of the tall drip. Oiy, oh well.

Coffee Soldier

To the anoynomous SM....

My DM called us all and emailed our stores on Saturday to let each of us SM's know so we could be sure to be prepared in case we needed to add on some cups or want to increase our pastry orders....So the DM's knew so I'd blame your specific DM not the company it would be your DM that didn't filter the information to you in a timely fashion when they received it.


Bill got pwned.

And, yeah, it's a little weird most of us (or, at least, me) are learning about this offer from a non Starbucks website. But whatever. But it's a good idea on Starbucks' part, considering how our new setup is happening on that day.

Closed Stores

Who the F*** cares who you vote for, just vote. Starbucks offering a cup of coffee doesn't sway who I am voting for. I appreciate the fact they care enough to get US out there to vote!


Ben & Jerry's is running a similar free cone campaign on Tuesday.

Effecting the vote is different than affecting the vote. Starbucks is promoting the former, the election code inhibits the latter.

It's a worthy enough action, but I don't think it was promoted nearly enough to incentivize an increase in getting out the vote (not that a free tall or a free cone is much incentive or "bribe" to get people to vote). Ben & Jerry's seemed much more on top of their promotional game on this.

From reading MSI and talking to my DM I knew something like this was coming and I already scheduled an extra person.


I wish SB had done the promo similar to what 7-11 did ... you can get your coffee in a blue Obama or a red McCain cup. It would have been a neat conversation-starter.


People should not care about voting. Your vote doesn't really count. It's a little thing called the Electoral College.
Also, everyone knows that Big Business runs politics. It's all about who you know.


Seriously, giving away free shit doesn't attract new customers. In fact, if it's free they really aren't customers at all. People come out of the woodwork for free shit and then slink back into it once all the free-ness is gone.

and now getting off my high-horse-- just get out there and vote!


i don't work tuesday. thank goodness.


It's amazing the things people will complain about...

I don't think it's necessarily going to make us significantly busier...but even if it does, it's just brewed coffee, which is a hell of a lot easier to prepare than if we were offering any tall drink.

I'm personally jazzed about this offer, b/c it really does get the word out about voting! And if it does entice one person to vote, then great!


Venti Urnex Latte

To Coffee Soldier,
If the DM fails to alert SM's about the free cup of coffee, how is that the DM's fault and not the "company's" fault?
Seems to me they are one and the same. The "company" should be responsible for employing DMs who do their job correctly and competently. (I know it is too much to expect that DMs would actually do their jobs more than competently.)

Very exciting! A little sad that Canada's election didn't get this (especially with one of the lowest voting count ever)... oh well. Even us Vancouverites are getting excited for the American election. Let's just hope you guys choose properly this time ;)


totally in line with the promotion from a moral and cultural and even political perspective, but man the SNL add was so preachy and stupidly contrived

I just think of the Nike adds during the olympics that sent shivers down my spine. If we are going to spend this kind of money, can't we at least put together a clip that actually inspires the soul!


leanna jackson

hah, loved the comment that mccain and obama are in trouble for urging people to vote. indeed.

re: the free coffee, sounds like a potential chaotic tuesday. i'm glad i'm off.


:) :) Well at least I don't have to work on Tuesday (Thank God!) I know the lines are going to be long @my polling location (even @6AM when they open.) So I will be bringing some reading material and my own cup of java to enjoy while waiting to cast my vote.

Pat Nerr

why don't they just make Starbucks the official place to vote or drop off votes. That would sure help traffic... The ballots could be stored in the huge back rooms


Here's a good question: how can Starbucks, who appears to be doing so poorly financially, afford to give away coffee?

I'm sure the coffee is cheap and they probably make a ton off of its sales, but those in the red cannot afford to give away merchandise. Now, some might suggest that Starbucks will draw in new customers with this, but I disagree. How many times has Starbucks done a freebie promotion and what is the return on the results? Has anyone working in the stores seen a freebie promotion create new recurring customers? I doubt it. Doesn't sound like from reading this board.

Free coffee is one thing, but then you have to deal with the labor used to dispense free coffee, etc. Doesn't seem too smart.

Oh well... it is concerning, though, if Starbucks did break the law in California.


I've been planning on voting all along (I hear Krispy Kreme is offering a donut), but I do think it's a nice gesture on SB's part.


Unfortunately I'm in Canada, but it sounds like if you plan your day ahead on Tuesday you Americans can live a whole day on freebies (coffee at SB, donuts at KK, ice cream an BJ), now there is just a bar and a pizza-place missing, but I'm sure if you look hard enough you"ll find one...
Have fun voting!


Oh and I think these specials do bring in new customers or such that didn't come for a while. The free coffee for teachers event in September brought in a lot of teachers that came back on other days paying for things. One said to me she wasn't in a starbucks in a long time and didn't realize she missed it until she came for the free coffee. And now she comes in again at least every other day.

We just have to make sure we don't have these offers too often. Because if people rather wait for the next free offer, since they expect it to be coming soon enough anyways, then it's not working in the long run.

Just look at sears for example. I don't understand how anyone would ever pay full price there for anything. You won't have to wait for more than three weeks until they are having whatever you are looking for on sale. If you press a salesperson they will even tell you things like suits are half price every third wednesday of a month or something like that. But wait, this is a SB gossip site, not a sears site. Sorry. :-)

SBUX Customer

If I do not get my gold card today, then I am going to order a coffee on Tuesday rather than the hot chocolate truffle. I feel so cheap going in just to get a free coffee and not ordering anything else.


its called a just say yes policy...
you dont really have to vote but say you did anyway.

oh and you can also ask for a free hot tea or tall iced coffee..but thats all we are allowed to give. Nothing from the espresso bar, but wait, what about the just say yes policy?

i dont understand.


I agree with Coffee Soldier, but also want to say that I found the info on the portal Saturday morning and posted it for my store so that we could staff appropriately... the information was easily accessible before the SNL commercial. Sounds very nice of Coffee Soldier's DM to be so informative, but any shift/asm getting on the portal to accept the daily manifest could have noticed it as well.

Also, it's day one of Holiday cups, so hopefully there won't be any problem with product shortage!

Nj Barista

all day today I have been promoting the free cup after voting and one lady, a regular, commented "did obama put you up to it?" half of us just turned and started laughing so hard. Although it was disrespectful, we couldn't believe she said that.


I also am hoping to get my gold card today...if I don't I will be calling them to see why! I was planning on the coffee anyway since I'll be voting, but I really would like to load the gold card and purchase something additional just to use it!! :)


'Just Say Yes' does not mean we can give everything out for free...

Whenever we've had the tall coffee offers, and somebody has asked for a free espresso drink or for the coffee price to be taken off the drink, we explain what the offer is (again) and that we have to punch in a specific code to apply the discount on the coffee/tea only.

Most people accept it, but anyone who insists beyond that is just abusing the system, and at that point I would send the request to the shift or the manager to say yes or no. We're already offering the honor system to everyone, so I don't know what more people could want.

Starbucks Customer

Hayley, I got my gold card today.
It also comes with a few 10% guest pass coupons to give to your friends.


Starbucks Customer 2000:

Are you seriously this blind to think Starbucks is doing this purely to draw in costumers? It's an incentive to get people to vote. Getting customers maybe a secondary or tertiary motive but if you watch the commercial or read anything it is to motivate other people and give them an incentive.

And to Boston Starbucks Rebel: People at my store have been donating their markouts to election headquarters and polling locations tomorrow, just do it on your own. I'm really hoping the last comment you left about voting doesn't matter was sarcasm seeing as how the last election came down to 500 some votes


"The ballots could be stored in the huge back rooms." - Pat Nerr

I'm laughing so hard right now. The manager at my neighborhood SBUX showed me the size of his back room. I've seen bigger walk-in closets! Too funny, Pat.


hear hear about getting this for canada! our turnout was horrendously low, around 55% Thankgod we still have a minority government- another election in about two years i predict, then for sure we'll have the same add airing for Canada!!!

(incidently, in my riding, some folks put up posters trying to encourage voters to go in and vote, with the slogan "change begins with me" Seems to be the same sentiment as the starbucks add!)


Dear Starbucks Customer 2000:

what on earth leads you to believe that Starbucks is in the red?

Sure sales growth is down, but this is still very much a profitable company.

Also, you obviously have no concept to the amount of coffee that we dump down the drains every half hour. This whole promotion basically amounts to us giving the coffee to people, instead of the trash can.

Herman M

"I feel so cheap going in just to get a free coffee and not ordering anything else."

And that's what marketing is depending on. If even ten percent of folks that take advantage of the free offer also get something else (out of guilt or out of hunger, it matters not) then the coffee and labor are paid for with a little extra on top. The nature of these offers for any marketing organization is to offer the cheapest item and look for the upsale. And you have just offered a wonderful proof that it works. Thank you! ;-)

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