Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Better Ways to Spend Your Money

I'm not a big Starbucks guy. I have no problem if others want to spend their hard-earned dollars on their products. We all have our ways to spend our money, so if my friends want to double-latte themselves, have at it. Truth is, I'm not a coffee drinker at all, and fortunately I have a wife who is very content with the 99 cent cup of coffee or cappucino from the local Speedway.

And I've really only been in Starbucks a few times. Most of those visits were made on a trip to the Philippines with a group of guys, and every time we saw on, we had to pull in. I think I had an over-priced muffin, but that's about it.

They do sell bottled water there, and the pitch that's used is that you and I can help with the worldwide clean water crisis, which is very real and something I hope we all pay attention to and respond. But the Starbucks approach with their Ethos brand water is troubling, misleading, and a huge waste of money.

Ethos, a brand of bottled water acquired by Starbucks in 2005, is sold at locations throughout North America. Ethos bottles feature prominent labeling stating "helping children get clean water", referring to the fact that $.05 from each $1.80USD bottle sold ($.10 per unit in Canada) is used to fund clean water projects in under-developed areas. Critics have argued that the claim on the label misleads consumers into thinking that Ethos is primarily a charitable organization, when it is actually a for-profit Starbucks brand and the vast majority of the sale price (over 94%) does not support clean-water projects. Although sales of Ethos water has raised over $4,000,000 for clean water efforts, the brand is not a charity and has added to Starbucks revenue. The founders of Ethos have stated that the brand is intended to raise awareness of third-world clean water issues and provide socially responsible consumers with an opportunity to support the cause by choosing Ethos over other brands.

Well, that's all fine and sounds good. My, those socially-conscious folks at Starbucks...let's give them a hand!

Not so fast. I've been told that the water actually costs a more than that (remember, I don't frequent SB, and I live in a town where...believe it or not...we don't have one), and some report that only $.02 of each bottle goes to fund water projects in these under-developed areas of the world. But let's stick with the $.05 per bottle. Guess how many bottles had to be sold to come up with $4 million bucks?
How about 80 million. OK, so maybe there were donations along the way, etc. to help them get the $4 million. So lets say they sold 40 million bottles - still seems like a lot, but 40 million bottles at $2 each is $80 million bucks....of which $4 million went to the cause they use to market the water.
What if each of those people took that $2 and instead of buying over-priced, trendy water which really pads Starbuck's bottom line more than it helps provide clean water worldwide....and gave it away instead? If 80 million of these bottles have been sold, what if instead...that money was just given to Blood:Water Mission, or any number of reputable groups who are really in it to serve people and not make a profit? $2 x 80 million....$160,000,000.
I think a lot could be accomplished in the worldwide clean water crisis for those kinds of dollars. Don't you?

Oh, and on a side note of great importance...Starbucks WASTES over 6 MILLION gallons of water EVERY DAY!

I know this controversy isn't new - others have pointed it out long before me, and much more convincingly. Doesn't seem to change much of what Starbucks is doing with Ethos. Funny, the definition of Ethos from Websters is 'the character, customs, and habits which distinguish a people or community from another.' Well, with Ethos, Starbucks doesn't appear to be distinguishing itself from anything. Just another way to make a buck and make us all feel like we're helping in some way.

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