Backlash: Starbucks takes a beating after plan to hire 10,000 Syrian refugees backfires

A recent poll on YouGov BrandIndex is showing a negative correlation between Starbuck’s brand perception before and after they announced a plan to hire refugees, and it should be cause for alarm for the coffee giant.

On January 29, 2017, Starbucks CEO Howard Schulz announced that the company would implement a five-year plan to hire 10,000 refugees worldwide. The stance was in protest against President Donald Trump’s then travel ban on refugees from certain countries already outlined by the Obama administration. The announcement caused outrage and concern among many Starbucks customers, some of whom called for a boycott. People all over the country took to social media to express just how upset they were about the announcement.

The biggest issue raised among people that weighed in was that an American company was being so quick to come to the aide of refugees, but it felt as if American citizens, particularly veterans, were being ignored. Ultimately, Starbucks felt the pressure and issued a second statement to explain to America’s military veterans that the company also had a plan to employ them.

If Starbucks thought this would blow over, they were sadly mistaken. Since the January announcement, consumer perception levels have fallen by two-thirds as measured by YouGov BrandIndex’s Buzz score. The perception tracker measures if respondents have “heard anything about the brand in the last two weeks, through advertising, news or word of mouth, was it positive or negative.” The recent responses show only 24 percent of consumers polled saying they would consider patronizing Starbucks, while two days before the announcement, the results were at 30 percent, the highest proportion in almost a year.

YouGov conducts surveys of about 4,800 people each week day as a representation of the U.S. population, and they say that there’s reason to believe the backlash will impact the chain’s bottom line. (RELATED: Get all the news Google is trying to hide at

It appears Schulz has not learned his lesson that mixing liberal political agendas and coffee does not work out well, or perhaps he is just too cocky to care. Who can forget the failed “Race Together” stunt where Starbucks encouraged its baristas to write the phrase on cups for customers to start a discussion on race? And there was the uproar caused when Starbucks stripped all Christmas themed images from their cups to “promote inclusiveness” back in 2015.

Whether or not this decline in positive public opinion or potential loss of revenue will affect Schulz’s refugee hiring plan remains to be seen. Most of us know the best way to get action out of a company is to hit them where it hurts – their bottom line – and that appears to be happening right now.


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