Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz (Getty Images)
(USA Today) -- Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is urging consumers to invest in something more than designer coffee at his stores this weekend: citizen action.
Frustrated with the inability of the federal government to resolve its ongoing budget stalemate, the nation's largest coffee chain will become a defacto headquarters over the next several days for a mega-petition that Starbucks vows it will share with Washington officials.
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Newspaper ads promoting the three-day petition signing will appear Friday in USA TODAY, New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post.Starbucks is encouraging customers to tear-out the ads; sign them and bring them into Starbucks stores this weekend.
Starbucks has increasingly found itself in the center of cultural issues. Last month, the chain advised gun owners that their guns were no longer welcome inside Starbucks stores.
Earlier this week, to foster a spirit of helping each other, it began offering a free tall brewed coffee -- through Friday -- to any customer who buys another person a drink at Starbucks. Now, Starbucks is trying to act as a corporate peacemaker of sorts between the federal government and its citizens.
"We are witnessing a level of disfunction and polarization in Washington, the likes of which we have not seen before," says Schultz, in a phone interview. "So we asked ourselves: What can Starbucks do, and how can we use our scale for good?"
Answer: Become a temporary hub for folks to sign "Come Together" petitions that express their outrage at the government.
The petition asks officials to:
• Reopen the government.
• Pay our national debts on time.
• Pass a long-term budget deal by the end of 2013.
Consumers also will be able to sign sign digitally beginning Friday at ComeTogetherPetition.com or "like" the petition's Facebook post, which will count as a signature to the petition.
Schultz declined to estimate how many signatures he hopes to gather. "I don't have a goal," he says. "But I assure you, we'll have a lot of signatures."
Based on the company's typical weekly business, roughly 20 million customers are expected to visit Starbucks' 11,000-plus U.S. stores over the next three days.
The petition also will be shared with business leaders, Schultz says. Over the past two days, Schultz says, he's spoken with more than half of the CEOs of the 30 companies in the Dow Jones industrial average, and there is 100% consensus "about concern and need for the American people to be heard."
Schultz says his goal is not to make Starbucks a national hub to take-on cultural issues. "This is not what we want to become," he says. "But we don't want to ignore what we believe are our responsibilities in the communities we serve."
Even then, Schultz says, as he has said before, he has no plans to run for public office. "My responsibility is to the people of Starbucks."