Why Aren't You Wearing a Starbucks Bracelet?

Maybe it is ironically declasse in these austere times to frequent Starbucks, but I will admit that I cross the threshold of my local once a day on average. While I am there, my eyes more often than not settle upon something that I have never seen anywhere else (i.e. people's wrists); the patriotically-themed Create Jobs for the USA bracelet. While I certainly don't want to suggest that creating jobs is unimportant, and while I have noted in the past my sense that socially-driven (or at least socially-linked) spending by consumers can be a good thing, this campaign just doesn't seem very useful to me.

I am sure someone at Starbucks (or an expensively-retained marketing firm) felt that these accompaniments could be the next Livestrong bracelet, but jobs for others just don't seem to invoke the same kind of passion as cancer. I wonder if this has something to do with a deeper set of psychologic factors, e.g. reticence and resignation over unemployment versus the fighting spirit that many cancer patients exhibit. If so it could be worth a white paper from a regional Fed branch. Maybe people just don't like how corporate-y they are.

In any case, shareholders haven't fared too poorly since the bracelets made their first appearance, so maybe there is a little magic to them after all...


  1. Anonymous20/6/12 14:35

    Another problem with the bracelets for jobs, as opposed to cancer research, is that everyone understands how bracelets fund cancer research and no one understands how bracelets fund "jobs."

    Buy a bracelet, some portion of that money goes to scientists, and they use it for lab fees or payroll or late-night snacks while they try to cure cancer. Simple and charitable.

    Buy a bracelet, and some portion goes to "create jobs?" Is this research into the process of job creation? One can imagine the conversation: "Our preliminary research suggests jobs come from employers." "Intriguing. Tell me about these 'employers.'"

    Or more likely it provides funding for start-ups and small businesses. But how is any of that better at creating jobs than: "Buy a bracelet, and profits are used to cover payroll. Buy enough, and we'll hire more people!"

    The Starbucks jobs bracelets don't make sense because anything other than "Shop Local" and "Buy American" isn't a jobs program--it's corporate welfare. Giving some portion of profits to a nonprofit that "fosters" small business is an enormously inefficient way to create jobs. They are nothing like bracelets raising money for medical research; no, these jobs bracelets are more like raising money to research penicillin instead of BUYING PENICILLIN.

  2. Thanks for stopping by, I appreciate the thoughts.

    I will say that the program is a little more solid than dodgy research into how jobs are created. In other words, your intuition about small businesses was correct...from the website:

    "Starbucks has teamed up with Opportunity Finance Network® (OFN) to help create and sustain jobs. The Create Jobs for USA program provides capital grants to select Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs). The CDFIs will provide loans to underserved community businesses, which include small businesses, microenterprises, nonprofit organizations, commercial real estate, and affordable housing. The goal of Create Jobs for USA is to bring people and communities together to create and sustain jobs throughout America."

    However, I think you penicillin analogy is both apt and illustrative of some potential inefficiencies in the program.


  3. BTW, if you enjoyed this post, you might want to check out a more recent one on the same topic: