Coffee dates are a dime a dozen. Walk into a coffee shop on any given evening and you’re sure to spot at least one table of daters trying to subdue their first-date jitters by awkwardly sipping on hot beverages that succeed their daily caloric intakes. One of the more notable taboo topics on these dates—or any date, for that matter—is politics, a subject that has a tendency to grow supercilious rather quickly. Take, for instance, the couple who recently made headlines when wife Gayle, age 73, pushed for divorce after discovering her husband of 22 years voted for Donald Trump.
Though most cases aren’t this extreme, a Reuters/Ipsos poll did find that the divide between Republicans and Democrats has significantly widened since Trump’s presidency, with 39 percent of family members and friends citing they’ve had very heated arguments over the subject. Sixteen percent of these instances resulted in the silent treatment, where family and friends have vowed to never speak again. “Sad!”
Perhaps this is why Starbucks recently teamed up with a Boston-based startup called Hi From the Other Side, which hopes to spark healthy conversations among politically opposed parties in the name of achieving mutual understanding. This social effort, for which there is already a lenghthy waiting list in place, requires that participants sign up on the startup’s app via Facebook. The app will then pair them with another local from the opposing political party. Once matched, both individuals will receive an email wherein participants can agree on a time to meet, as well as receive a Starbucks e-gift card that can only be redeemed together at a nearby location.
To ensure boiling hot coffee isn’t tossed in someone’s face should the political discourse escalate, the app has offered a conversation guide that offers helpful tips like, “Try not to formulate a response before they finish,” and “Use ‘I’ statements to keep the discussion based on your personal experience, rather than pointing fingers.” The app also encourages participants to ask questions like, “What was an event or person that had a big impact on your world view?” and “Did you have any reservations about your candidate?”
While this campaign is reaching for the stars, it isn’t the first effort Starbucks has attempted to brew debate in their stores. A few years ago, the coffee shop encouraged their baristas to chat about race relations while patrons waited (too long, probably) for their coffee as part of its controversial “Race Together” campaign. More recently, Starbucks announced a plan to hire 10,000 refugees in 75 countries in response to President Trump’s controversial travel ban. As for how things will turn out, well, this could go either way. It’s an optomistic idea that makes sense in theory, but when applied, presents a lot of roads that could lead toward conflict. But since we haven’t heard of any random acts of violence within or around Starbucks locations as of late, we surmise (and hope) that things have gone well thus far and that coffee has remained in cups that definitely have the wrong names written on them.