Starbucks Twitter Campaign #SpreadTheCheer Backfires

Wed 19 December 2012 10:00, Vitto Christaldi

Starbucks Twitter Campaign #SpreadTheCheer Backfires

The Starbucks Christmas Twitter Campaign #SpreadTheCheer backfired after Twitter users hijacked it to protest about the coffee chain’s tax evasion.

#SpreadTheCheer is a Twitter campaign created by Starbucks to encourage its visitors to stay cheerful and to share their holiday season happiness. This holiday, however, is not a happy season for the coffee firm. Starbucks in the United Kingdom is being accused of tax evasion. Several weeks ago it appears that the coffee chain had only paid £8.5 million in corporation tax since it launched in Britain in 1998, despite enjoying sales of £3 billion. 

The Twitter campaign started to backfire when some Twitter users expressed their displeasure towards the company by adding the hashtag #SpreadTheCheer in their tweets. One tweet called Starbucks “Tax dodging MoFo's”, while another user wrote “Hey #Starbucks, PAY YOUR FUCKING TAX”. 

It became worse after these two anti-Starbucks tweets were accidentally displayed on a big screen at the Natural History Museum in London, where Starbucks is the sponsor of the museum’s ice rink. A Twitter user named @Insp_Spatchcock shared his opinion to this accident saying “Tax paid: £8.6m. Additional tax paid to improve public image: £20m. Posting live tweets to a big screen: priceless. #spreadthecheer


The spokesman of National History Museum apologised for this mistake, saying "The moderation filter for the twitter wall screen crashed, leading to two comments being displayed about ice rink sponsor Starbucks that included swear words." A Starbucks spokesman also added an apologize to the visitors, “We apologise to any visitors who may have been offended by inappropriate messages displayed on the Twitter wall screen at the Natural History Museum’s ice rink café. This was due to a temporary malfunction with the content filtering system." In a response to this fiasco, one Twitter user shouted “If firms like Starbucks paid proper taxes, Museums wouldn't have to prostitute themselves to advertisers."

Starbucks claimed its UK business does not make a profit because of the high rents for its shops. However, to clear their guilt, Starbucks made an offer to UK’s tax and custom department HMRC to pay an extra £10 million each year.

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