My heart was recently warmed to read about the Chains of Cheer inspired all over the country by Starbucks’ “Pass the Cheer” campaign. There are stories all over the news like this one about people buying coffee for the person in line behind them. It just made me so happy to hear about all the seemingly random kindness. But it got me wondering, does it really spread cheer or is it just a good way for people to temporarily feel “better” and a great way for a huge corporation to get even more publicity?
So I decided to take an assessment. I went to our our local Fred Meyer on December 23rd, which has a Starbucks stand in it.
To perform my test, here’s what I did:
First, I ordered my coffee, and while paying asked to pay for the next person in line. I should also mention, this caught the cashier off guard. Maybe she didn’t get the memo?
Second, I sipped my Jo, did my shopping, and did my assessment, which consisted of two parts. Part One: For every person I passed head-on I tried to make eye contact. Then, if eye contact was made, Part Two was to elicit a smile. My requirements were modest, I wasn’t after a big toothy Ho-Ho-Ho smile, but just a simple regular-ole acknowledgment of holiday cheer: a grin (and perhaps a nod).
The store was over-crowded with last-minute gift-buyers and grocery shoppers, an atmosphere, it seemed to me, ripe for the spreading of cheer. I was wrong.
I passed a total of 68 people. Of those, 11 made eye contact with me. That’s a paltry 7.5%.
Even worse, of the 11 people that did make eye contact, only 2 returned my smile. That’s 1.4%.
So, perhaps it was the holiday stress. But isn’t it “lame” that at the height of the holiday season, when cheer should be at its pinnacle, I got such results?
I did some reading in the blogosphere about the Cheer Chains, and turns out there’s a lot of criticism against Starbucks. The yuppies that populate the Starbucks’ drive-through might be in need of an attitude adjustment, but that’s about it. They don’t need food, clean water, sanitation, vaccinations, etc. Why not take all those thousands of donated cups of coffee, pool the money together, combine it with an in-kind donation from the huge corporation, and spend it in lump on a group of truly needy people? Seems to me this would make a true impact instead of sprinkling “cheer” around on people who will go back to being grumpy in a few days anyway.
My experience in Fred Meyer cemented my agreement with the criticism.
I do plan to do my assessment again sometime after the holidays have passed, just to see if it was the stress of that day or if in fact it’s true that only 1.4% of people want to share a smile. And if any of my readers care to do their own assessment and comment the results I would be very interested!