With the federal government now in its second week of the shutdown and legislators at an impasse, Starbucks Corp. is hoping to set an example for Washington by offering free coffee.
Wednesday through Friday, the Seattle java chain will give customers a free tall cup of joe — as long as they buy a drink for a fellow patron.
As the company explains on its website and in several full-page newspaper ads, "in times like these, a small act of generosity and civility can make a big difference."
Howard Schultz, Starbucks' chief executive, delved further into the rationale in a message Tuesday to employees. He described the government shutdown, the pending debt-ceiling crisis, waning consumer confidence and general unease as sparking a "seemingly unending cycle of dysfunction and doubt."
He said the promotion was an opportunity "not to be bystanders" and would let customers "pay it forward."
"Please join me in helping our customers Come Together to support and connect with one another, even as we wait for our elected officials to do the same for our country," he wrote.
Schultz and his company have been increasingly vocal about a range of political issues.
Last month, customers were asked not to bring guns into cafes. Earlier this year, they were asked not to smoke within a certain perimeter of stores.
In 2011, Schultz urged the American business community to help quell bickering on Capitol Hill by boycotting campaign contributions before the national elections. A year later, Starbucks issued a new line of merchandise to raise money for its Create Jobs for USA fund.