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Respond to them. It gets tiring being preached to, and since these mails are usually sent by folks who are usually jazzed up about things, they might actually read what you wrote.  Here is how I responded to a letter asking me to boycott Starbucks for apparently telling some troops in Iraq that they, as a corporation, object to the war and its participants.


So, we should boycott Starbucks because they won’t give away coffee to soldiers? It’s easy to command charity with other people’s money. The owners of Starbucks (that includes many average Joes and Grandma Janes in their 401(k), IRA and other retirement accounts) expect that their savings grow, and by giving coffee away Starbucks is not likely to see that happen. It has a responsibility to its shareholders – who did not give them money with the expectation that it would be donated to charity. Otherwise, the people would choose the charity they prefer – why use Starbucks as a conduit? It’s not Starbucks’ money to give away.

And why Starbucks? Why not boycott every business that has employees who disagree with the war in Iraq? Furthermore, I find this story to have little credibility in this day and age. Starbucks has an image to uphold, and it would be very damaging to their image to be on record with such contempt for our American soldiers. If you look at the market opportunity it would create for its competitors, this situation seems implausible (though I respect that it is still possible).  

The bigger point is that the tone of the message is much more insidious than many realize. The tone suggests that we should exchange only with people who agree with us. That’s a road to poverty and war, believe me. The beauty of the market system and the extended order of human cooperation we live in is that people produce for one another even when they do not know one another; even when they do not like one another; even when they live thousands of miles from the people they are producing for; and they all do it without anyone commanding them to do so. Just think of the poverty you would live in if you traded only with people you knew; or only with people who agreed with you; or only with people who lived nearby? Moralizing to the rest of us not to trade with folks on those premises is akin to pressing for the destruction of human-kind as we know it.  

For thousands of years people were self-sufficient; traded only within their tribes; and were bound by tribal traditions. And for thousands of years people lived lives of miserable, abject poverty. At the dawn of the Enlightenment the typical person could expect to live to 30, had the material standard of living that is equivalent to less than $600 per year in today’s terms, war routinely wiped out substantial portions of the population; disease took out bigger chunks.

Should I not get my mortgage through Berkshire Bank because I disagree with their political views? Should I not use my dry cleaner because he is Pakistani? Should I not shop at Ford because I don’t know the name of the guy who built my engine? Should I not buy clothes that were made in Bangladesh? Should I not sell my articles and books to people who I don’t know? Should I not enroll students in my summer program who are not from Massachusetts? Well, it is my right not to do these things; but then I will be poor, plain and simple. Are you free not to shop at Starbucks? Sure you are. But then be consistent and spend even one week of your life refusing to patronize the places / products which might contain something objectionable to you. If you stop and reflect upon how literally millions of people must cooperate to even bring you the simplest of the goods you buy, you will soon realize that you would not purchase anything that week, nor would you be able to peddle your wares that week either. Take even a simple notebook. Ask yourself how many people were involved in making a notebook; and how likely it is that you approve of each of the thousands of them? Think about the cashier at Staples; or the laborers who built Staples; or the employees of the electric company which keeps the store powered; or the person who bound and wrapped the notebook; or the people who built the binding machine; or the people who mined the metal to build the binding machine; or the people who grew the food for those miners; or the people who cut down the trees; or the people who clothed those loggers; etc. it is mind-boggling to think of what cooperation happens just so a simple notebook gets produced. No one produces these things because they know you, or because they love you or agree with your views on life.  Call me skeptical for thinking that you dislike at least one of the people involved in its production.

That aside, I simply don’t see how boycotting Starbucks does much to help our troops? Does it prevent some nutcase from blowing himself up? Does it make their equipment work better? Doubtful. Does it make soldiers feel better knowing that we support them, sure it does. But I suppose there are higher valued ways of showing that support.

Now I need to get back to work.

The original e-mail is pasted below:


Subject: Guess I won’t be drinking at Starbucks anytime soon!Recently Marines in Iraq wrote to Starbucks because they wanted to let them know how much they liked their coffees and to request that they send some of it to the troops there.Starbucks replied, telling the Marines thank you for their support of
their business, but that Starbucks does not support the war, nor anyone in it, and that they would not send the troops their brand of coffee.

So as not to offend Starbucks, maybe we should not support them by buying any of their products! I feel we should get this out in the open.
I know this war might not be very popular with some folks, but that
doesn’t mean we don’t support the boys on the ground fighting
street-to-street and house-to-house.

If you feel the same as I do then pass this along, or you can discard it and no one will never know.

Thanks very much for your support. I know you’ll all be there again when I deploy once more.
Semper Fidelis.’
Sgt. Howard C. Wright
1st Force Recon Co
1st Plt PLT






13 Responses to “How to Handle Chain-Mail”

  1. Patrick Carter says:

    I am going to respond to all chain mail that I get in the future like that now. Those messages are ridiculous (and I seriously doubt that the original author was actually a soldier) Also, why would Starbucks make the political statement of not supporting or supporting the war? They are driving away customers either way. Probably that part is made up too. I wonder who actually wrote this e-mail…someone working for Dunkin Donuts Cofee, pehaps?

    I have to wonder though, did the chain mail sender ever respond to you?

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