Did Starbucks Refuse to Donate Coffee to U.S. Marines? - Urban Legends

Was It an Anti-War Statement?

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

Assessment of the Starbucks Coffee Donation

 It's unclear whether Starbucks ever actually refused to donate coffee to U.S. Marines who asked for it, but if they did it wasn't because they don't support the war and anyone in it, as claimed.

Starbucks' company policy restricts giving corporate donations to beneficiaries that fall under the definition of "public charities," which the military does not. Moreover, Starbucks as a company has not at any time taken a stand for or against the Iraq War.

Marine Sgt. Howard C. Wright, who authored the original 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.

In its own official response to the rumor, Starbucks explains that while the company has "the deepest respect and admiration for U.S. military personnel," corporate policy prohibits direct donations to U.S. troops because the military doesn't fall under 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.

On a related note, a 2007 variant of this rumor claims that wiener manufacturer Oscar Mayer refused to supply hot dogs to U.S. Marines.

Starbucks Coffee Donation Email

Here's sample email text about the Starbucks viral rumor, contributed by D. Fuller on July 22, 2004:

Please pass this along to anyone you know; this needs to get out in the open.

Recently Marines over in Iraq supporting this country in OIF wrote to Starbucks because they wanted to let them know how much they liked their coffee and try to score some free coffee grounds. Starbucks wrote back telling the Marines thanks for their support in their business, but that they don't support the war and anyone in it and that they won't send them the coffee.

So as not to offend them we should not support in buying any Starbucks products. As a War vet and writing to you patriots I feel we should get this out in the open. I know this War might not be very popular with some folks, but that doesn't mean we don't support the boys on the ground fighting street to street and house to house for what they and I believe is right. If you feel the same as I do then pass this along, or you can discard it and I'll never know. Thanks very much for your support to me, and I know you'll all be there again here soon when I deploy once more.

Semper Fidelis,

Sgt Howard C. Wright
1st Force Recon Co
1st Plt PLT RTO

Sources and further reading:

Starbucks Statement on Email Rumor
Boilerplate company response to email queries

Coffee House Percolates with Speicher Soldiers
U.S. Dept. of Defense News, December 9, 2003

GI Joe: Soldiers Set Up Coffee Shop in Iraq
State Journal-Register, Springfield, Illinois