Starbucks will offer guests who buy a drink for someone else a free tall brewed coffee through Friday in an attempt to send a message to Washington, which remains mired in a federal government shutdown.

“In times like these, a small act of generosity and civility can make a big difference,” said Starbucks in marketing materials. “If actions define us, let’s be known for acts of kindness.”


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The move follows a call for civility and leadership posted earlier this week by Starbucks Corp. chairman, president and chief executive Howard Schultz regarding the shutdown. He said he was “utterly disappointed by the level of irresponsibility and dysfunction we are witness to with our elected political leadership.”

Schultz called on American business leaders to “help shift the norms of our country back toward civility, compromise and problem-solving,” saying he’s heard from other leaders concerned about the relative silence in urging politicians to act on behalf of citizens.

The letter hinted at efforts to come this week at Starbucks that would attempt to “galvanize our customers, inspire our people and encourage the communities we serve to come together and take care of each other.

“In uncertain moments such as these, it is time for us as citizens and business leaders to remind our employees and customers that we stand with them,” Schultz wrote. “Perhaps through these actions, we can remind the Congress and the President of their duty to put citizenship over partisanship for the sake of our country and the world at large.”

Schultz, reportedly a registered Democrat, noted that both parties are not equally to blame for the government impasse, but, “I do think they are equally responsible for leading us to a solution,” he said.

The global coffeehouse executive has not been shy about getting involved in politics. In December, as the federal government veered toward the fiscal cliff deadline for automatic tax hikes and budget cuts, Schultz wrote another letter calling for compromise. Baristas in the Washington, D.C., area were instructed to write the phrase “Come Together” on customers’ cups.

In 2011, Schultz led the charge for ending campaign contributions from business leaders until elected officials created a long-term plan for the U.S. and put an end to political bickering.

Seattle-based Starbucks has about 7,000 units in the U.S. and 19,209 locations worldwide.

Contact Lisa Jennings at lisa.jennings@penton.com.
Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout