Starbucks Urban Legend and Taking Responsibility

A few days ago someone posted a comment to one of my profiles. It passed on a rumor about Starbucks and their cavalier attitude toward support of troops in Iraq. It continued by citing other instances of Starbucks insensitivity and urged others to share the message as well as refrain from patronizing the business.

There were certain things about the phrasing of the message that just didn’t set right. With greater time to consider the accusations would come better analysis of the situation. Even if Starbucks was guilty of the acts of which they were accused, many businesses have policies with regard to charitable acts and the latest urban legend about Starbucks had the ring of business policy as the rationale for the stance, not insensitivity. Since there was not enough time to investigate the allegations nor the Starbucks policy, I did nothing in regard to the posting. I allowed it to simply sit on my profile until there was time to do the research and take the time to reason through the impugning acts.

Interestingly, the same friend who posted the alleging message retracted the statement. The following simple message appeared in my Comments this afternoon: “Please review this, fair is fair, thx. Check out Snopes:

http://www.snopes.com/politics/military/starbucks.asp

Someone took the time to research the legend on Snopes and found the truth of the matter, plus more, and posted their findings to my friend. My friend acted responsibly and it felt good to know that in my circle of relationships, there are people who ultimately do the right thing. But this was obviously a teaching moment. It was seized and the following message was shared with the friend as well as other associates who also had the legend posted to their profile page:

l didn’t forward your post to anyone. Yours was probably the second posting I received on my own page and I saw similar ones on the pages of other Tagged profiles.

While there was a desire to object to the information based on familiarity with typical corporate policies on charitable donations, I simply have not had time (nor energy) to go to Snopes and research the issue more fully. I’m glad you did and I’m even more grateful and elated that you have chosen to do what is required by law in regard to defamation. That policy is to post a retraction to every place where the “speaker” has shared the information.

The other interesting thing about defamation is each time a false publication about someone or some business is posted, the one who publishes the information is considered a new initiater of the defamation and is culpable for their act. One of the remedies for defamation is that the falseness of the original message be admitted to at each place where the originator of the false information shared it.

If any of those who received that false message shared or published it elsewhere, they also bear the responsibility to post a retraction and admission of their discovery that the information is false. This is not an act that is of a “when I have time” nature. It must be done immediately. Again, I’m very glad of your posting this retraction to me.

This incident brings to bear how often we in the employment industry rely on information at first blush. In particular, it is very close to doing reference checks based on interviews and statements from former supervisors or employers. The positive or negative remarks flow from a person who holds a responsible position. The words must, of necessity, be true. Few, if any, research the reference or try to learn whether the evaluator’s remarks carry retaliatory intent. No one investigates the history of the evaluator in order to determine whether they have a history of abusive behavior. There’s an assumption that the recommendation or detracting statements are valid and not from the mouth of a bully. It would be ideal if Human Resource departments and recruiters had their own Snopes in order to validate the evaluations they receive.

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