The other day I walked into one of the Starbucks on the Upper West side of Manhattan disconcerted and ashamed. Disconcerted, because the Internet in the apartment I was renting for a two-week working vacation was on the fritz, the owner was nowhere to be found and I had to send email documents to my office and some clients. Ashamed, because I had vowed never to enter a Starbucks again since learning that it does not prohibit the carrying of handguns on its private property in those states that allow people to carry concealed or unconcealed weapons in public.
But desperate times call for desperate measures.
And then I saw a bin near the cash register overflowing with clear plastic bottles filled with water. Starbucks, which owns the company that packages the water, calls it Ethos, and in buying it the drinker is supposed to be “helping children get cleaner water.”
As I understand it, when you buy a bottle of Ethos for $1.85 in this particular Starbucks, (and probably in most others since the essence of all fast food franchises such as Starbucks is standardization), Starbucks/Ethos puts 5 cents, about 2.7% of the purchase price, into a fund that provides grants to international water projects that help children all around the world.
The very elegant Ethos website makes an exquisite use of soft watery colors and fluid movement (but using web software that makes it impossible to cut and paste copy). On it you can find water facts, some very general information about where the five cents goes, information about 2010 World Water Day and, of course, information about the Ethos line of products, which meet the need for a “convenient source of portable water.”
What a scam! Its Bernie Madoff meets a modernized old-fashion seltzer water, but instead of a two-cents plain, it’s a five-cent rip-off!
The water and cheap plastic bottle that contain it are a very small part of the cost of the Ethos portable water product, so Starbucks is minting money on this charitable venture. Shame on Starbucks for perpetrating this affinity marketing campaign on a public that has grown to like effortless charitable gestures! The coffee purveyor makes millions in exorbitant profit while producing millions of bottles that will end up in landfills.
And to those whose purchases of Ethos products has swelled the Ethos fund to $6.2 million, five cents at a time, consider taking these three simple steps:
- Contribute the whole two bucks (with tax) directly to water projects.
- Buy a stainless steel water bottle, a thermos or a bottle made of a high-quality washable plastic.
- Fill your reusable bottle with water from the tap or from your home-filtered water system (could be built-in, be Brita or a delivery service).
Now you’re good to go!