So I see Starbucks is airing a new TV ad for its “get a tall latte for £1.50 on a Monday promotion.” Would it be cynical of me to suggest that this is in any way related to the company’s non payment of tax in the UK for the last three years? Yes. Is that what I’m going to do? Yes. Not as cynical as they, however. Their advert starts by saying how terrible most people think Mondays are, but then lists some of the good things that happened on a Monday: man first walked on the moon (big, American achievement), Big Ben first bonged on a Monday (a nod to the Brits, the country they’ve been fleecing), the first UK cinema opened and Space Invaders first launched in the UK (popular American exports, subtly drawing viewers’ attention to all the good things American companies have done). You may think I’m reading too much into it, you may think get a life. But, it is fair to say that a lot of people put a lot of thought into adverts, why should I not do the same on viewing them? They probably won’t have picked the facts at random, they will be trying to convey a message: “America’s your friend, America does good things, we’re an American company therefore WE do good things” is my interpretation of it. When I saw it and the offer, at first I was like hey that’s quite a good deal (compared to their usual astronomical prices: £10 for a grande load of bullshit, yes please, tattoo mug on my forehead while you’re at it. I exaggerate, but not by that much) but then I was like, nah they did that tax dodging thing didn’t they, and then the penny dropped and I was like, touche Starbucks, touche. Perhaps this is a kind of good will gesture, or perhaps, more likely, the bad publicity has affected their sales and they wish to do damage limitation. Either way, I’m not buying it. They’ve been taking all their consumers and the British government for mugs, been rumbled and are now trying to squirm back to credibility. I’ve never really got it to be honest, it’s just coffee, I am not paying the best part of a fiver for it, and I certainly won’t be spending my money there now.
It might seem a boring, dry or inconsequential matter to some, but the fact is this company has been enjoying business in our country for 14 years and in that time has only paid £8.6 million tax on over £3 billion profit. That’s less than 1% corporation tax. Compare that to the quarter of my monthly wages that goes to the government and I start to get a bit annoyed, to think it does matter. Add to the fact that there’s a Starbucks on pretty much every high street, next to local businesses who pay standard tax as they don’t have an army of lawyers finding loopholes in tax laws, and I think it’s time to say: Starbucks your lame promotion is too little, too lat(t)e. Froth off back to Seattle.