Starbucks doubling down on seasonal cheer? Where’s the beef?

Image result for Jesus in a Manger



You probably think I don’t know what Starbucks sells! “Hey dummy, they don’t do burgers….” Well, not yet anyway. But for those of you who remember one of the most famous and effective commercials of all time, circa 1984 (hmm, gives one pause), from the burger chain Wendy’s, featuring Clara Peller, that phrase caught on in the public ‘s imagination and became a catchphrase for questioning the quality of any product or idea. If you have never seen the commercial, it’s time. You know what to do (you’d better, if you are young enough not to have seen it). So what does that phrase have to do with Starbucks supposedly “doubling down” on seasonal cheer? If you can’t figure it out from the two pics above, I’m not sure I can help you.

From Business Insider: “Last year, the chain’s holiday sales slumped in part because stores ‘didn’t sufficiently reflect the festive environment,’ Chief Operating Officer Roz Brewer said on a call with investors on Thursday. Starbucks’ US same-store sales fell 2% in the quarter that ended on December 31, 2017, due in large part to the chain’s disappointing sales on holiday beverages, merchandise and gift cards. Starbucks is going all-in on holiday festivities this year, with stores getting decked out in seasonal decor and baristas donning red aprons starting this Friday. Friday will additionally see the return of Starbucks’ red cups and seasonal menu items. The company is also pushing its holiday assortment with a ‘more robust’ media plan. In years past, Starbucks has faced accusations of a lack of seasonal merriness, especially as it relates to Christmas.”

All-in??? Didn’t sufficiently reflect the festive environment??? What a lame, meaningless generality. Is she referring to Festivus, Mr. Costanza’s “holiday for the rest of us”? Okay, now what’s this old curmudgeon raving about? From the Festivus website: 

People have been inspired by this zany, offbeat Seinfeld holiday and now celebrate Festivus as any other holiday. According to the Seinfeld model, Festivus is celebrated on December 23rd. However many people celebrate it other times in December and even at other times throughout the year. The slogan of Festivus is “A Festivus for the rest of us!” The usual holiday tradition of a tree is manifested in an unadorned aluminum pole, which is in direct contrast to normal holiday materialism. Those attending Festivus may also participate in the “Airing of Grievances” which is an opportunity to tell others how they have disappointed you in the past year, followed by a Festivus dinner, and then completed by the “Feats of Strength” where the head of the household must be pinned.” 

But I digress. Notice any pattern in the colors of the cups? Red and green? Could it possibly be they’re trying to say Christmas without saying it? Just sayin. Why not write and say Christmas? Is that hate speech yet? But Uncle Curmudgeon, this season also includes Hanukkah, Kwanzaa (pan African), Omisoka (Japan), Saturnalia (pagans),  Boxing Day (Britain, nothing to do with the sport) and Fiesta of Our Lady Guadalupe (Mexican), not to mention Festivus (okay, I won’t). Yah, I know, but here in the good old USA, Christmas IS the season. There would be practically no celebration without it. Some ultra pious ministers of the gospel might point out that Christmas is not a real Christian holiday, because most traditions associated with it are actually pagan. Okay, there goes the Christmas tree, which is fine with me, since the cheapest ones I always buy leave needles all over the floor. But answer me this Batman (pagan savior?), why do we give each other presents? Without Christmas presents, capitalism would collapse, but that’s not the reason. Look at the picture of the angels and the manger. The wise men gave Jesus Christ presents, and so have millions of families throughout the years, so suck it up and pull out that plastic.

Once again, I digress. It’s an occupational hazard of being too creative….. or distracted, I forget which. But the whole point of this blog post is that Starbucks is trying to have it both ways: pander to Christians, who are still a majority of Americans, while not offending anyone else by not mentioning Christmas, instead using the code word “festive”. If this were a political campaign, I would call that a dog whistle (festive=Christmas but shhh). If I ever actually use that term, you have permission to blow my server up.

Having fun with “hate speech”(?)

In 2002, my favorite TV show of all time, Combat Missions, debuted. It featured real warriors from the most elite squads–Navy SEALS, Marine Force Recon, Army Special Forces and DELTA, SWAT–teaming up to compete in carrying out mock military missions. What I loved most about the show was the jibing, pranking and mock insulting that every warrior relished doing against their competitors, and even within their own team. It was just the kind of thing that, today, gets the PC crowd (I don’t even have to explain who I mean, you all know) worked up in a frenzy of high-minded, self-righteous offense, outrage, and whining. I have noticed that the most cohesive human working groups–military units, sports teams, law enforcement–thrive on insults and pranks. It’s a beautiful thing. Soldiers go into combat, chancing death or disfigurement, “not because they hate who is in front of them but because they love who is behind them” (Chesterton). 

When I was in the Army in 1969-1970, I was exposed to a whole spectrum of ethnicities, religions and physical characteristics…. and insults. I was on the receiving end of kike, hebe, sheney, yid; Southern white boys got cracker, redneck, hillbilly; Hispanics * got greaser, spic, beaner; blacks * got sambo, nigger (but only from each other), spade; orientals * got chink, slope, nip. So what? We were a team, we helped each other, got yelled at and abused by the drill sergeants equally, consoled each other, did our jobs, and in Vietnam had each other’s back and saved each other’s lives. The insults and epithets were a form of friendly banter, and almost everyone gave as good as they got, without getting upset. Maybe that’s just a male thing, because you can even observe similar behavior in sports bars and male dorms. That’s how it was in my dorm rooms from 1964 to 1967. Yet I never saw a single fight or even the telltale signs of real anger, like reddened face, threats, bared teeth and other physiological signs. We got along and had fun with each other. No more, I guess. Outrage is in vogue. It must be Trump’s fault.

If this blog survives my death and you are reading this in about 50 years from now, you may have to look up “Trump” to find out who he was. If we are all in peace and harmony 50 years from now, as we might be because trends are a pendulum, you might wonder what all the fuss was about.

Social media, the internet and partisan news exist to tickle the ears and attract minions, by convincing us how much worse things are today. NOPE. I graduated college in 1968, and things were much worse. Some of the headlines: January 30, the Vietcong launched the Tet Offensive, the bloodiest of the war; February 8, University of South Carolina, police open fire on students protesting segregation (remember what that was?), killing 3 and wounding 27; April 4, Dr. Martin Luther King was gunned down, touching off riots in over 100 cities, leaving 39 dead and 2,600 injured; June 4, Robert Kennedy was assassinated; June 8, Dr. King’s murderer arrested in London, extradited to the U.S.; July 18, Intel corporation formed, making both personal computers and the internet possible (so 50 years later we can assure each other how bad we have it); August 20, Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia, slamming the Iron Curtain down on freedom; August 28, police and national guard in Chicago go on a rampage, clubbing and tear gassing hundreds of protesters, media and bystanders; October 2, police and soldiers fire on a student led protest in Mexico City, killing and wounding thousands; November 9, after 267 years, Yale University decides to admit female undergrads (Whatt? Yale is a hotbed of liberalism!–today that is). I could go on, and I left out a lot of bad stuff and a lot of achievements. To those who still think things are worse today and progress is stalled, I tender a humble suggestion: “Get your head out of your ass” (or at least out of the cellphone). My diagnosis is cranial rectumitis. Here we are, 50 years after upheavals that would have destroyed some nations, and one of our biggest conundrums is how to regulate the flow of people fleeing their own country to get into ours!! Grow up, perfect justice doesn’t exist and never will when humans govern; you’ll just have to settle for the next best thing, as well as people saying stuff you don’t like. Too bad, no one can make you take offense…..but you.

I went into the Army in February 1969. The only times and places I saw real anger in the army were when we had no mission and were idle, when the more ignorant and frustrated guys would segregate themselves into homogeneous groups by race, whites fueling their prejudices and blacks doing the same. Then a job or mission requiring teamwork would come along, and we’d function as a team again, the same whites who were inciting each other to racism risking their lives to pull a black comrade away from gunfire, and blacks doing the same. So maybe there’s a lesson here. When I was growing up, my parents used to say to me, “idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” I might add, idle minds are the devil’s playground. 

* This edit took place on November 5. When I wrote the original post, I considered this disclaimer that I did not and never have taken part in the name calling, neither in the military or private life. Initially, I decided to leave it out, because I didn’t want to sound self serving or holier than thou. After days had elapsed, the thought kept coming up, “you know how things are today and how taking offense has become the true national sport. Someone will read this and decide you must be punished.” Therefore, I am adding the disclaimer. I have never said any of those derogatory terms used in the paragraph with the * to or about anyone, and never will. I will have to give an account of every word to God on the day I face him.