False Rumor Claims Starbucks Refused to Donate Coffee to U.S. Marines

Starbucks customers using the Starbucks smartphone app
Susie Wyshak

A viral message circulating since May 2004 accuses Starbucks of refusing to donate coffee to U.S. troops on the grounds that the company has taken a stand against the Iraq War "and anyone in it." This viral rumor is false.

Analysis

It's unclear whether Starbucks ever actually refused to donate coffee to U.S. Marines who asked for it, but if Starbucks did refuse it wasn't because the company doesn't support the troops, as claimed.

The coffee giant's company policy prohibits giving corporate donations to beneficiaries that are not "public charities." Moreover, Starbucks as a company has not at any time taken a stand for or against the Iraq War.

Retraction of the Original Viral Email

Marine Sgt. Howard C. Wright, who authored the original viral email in May 2004, issued a subsequent statement in which he took back his words and apologized:

Almost 5 months ago I sent an email to you, my faithful friends. I did a wrong thing that needs to be cleared up. I heard by word of mouth about how Starbucks said they didn't support the war and all. I was having enough of that kind of talk and didn't do my research properly like I should have. This is not true. Starbucks supports men and women in uniform. They have personally contacted me and I have been sent many copies of their company's policy on this issue. So I apologize for this quick and wrong letter that I sent out to you.

Official Starbucks Response

In its own official response to the rumor in 2005, Starbucks explained that while the company has "the deepest respect and admiration for U.S. military personnel," corporate policy prohibits direct donations to U.S. troops, as the military doesn't meet the strict definition of a public charity.

Individual employees are free to donate their weekly pounds of take-home coffee, however, and according to Starbucks' statement, many have done so.

Starbucks updated its 2005 statement on its website in 2013. The company said that it had made an effort to hire thousands of veterans and military spouses over the last five years. Starbucks also expanded its community store model in five military communities and shared a portion of the profits to fund local programs that assist veterans re-entering the workforce. The company said that it was partnering with the American Red Cross and the United Service Organizations to provide coffee for conflict-relief efforts and in care packages for U.S. troops.

In 2015, Starbucks announced that it had delivered tens of thousands of VIA Ready Brew Coffee packages to U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The company also said that it was on target to hire 10,000 veterans and military spouses by the end of 2018. In addition, the company has supported the Concert for Valor to raise funds for organizations supporting active duty military and veterans.

The Bottom Line on Viral Emails

Internet rumors never seem to die. The fact is that Starbucks has been active in supporting the U.S. military, and the author of the original viral email has retracted his claims.

If you see a similar online rumor in the future, do not repost it until you have taken the time to find out if it is true.