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For the week of October 4 through 10, 2000

Starbucks lifts free newspaper ban

Express Staff Writer

Starbucks’ decision to repeal its nationwide ban on local free newspapers being offered in its stores came not a moment too soon, because, in the words of one Ketchum Starbucks employee, "People were flipping out!"

Corporate-wide Starbucks media relations representative Cindy Hoots said in a telephone interview yesterday from Seattle that Starbucks president and chief executive Orrin Smith reversed the ban late in September following opposition from store employees and outcry from the media.

The local employee said she was happy about that decision. The ban, scheduled to begin Oct. 1, was a bad idea, she said, because "drinking coffee and reading the local paper is what a coffeehouse is all about."

Customers berated store employees when they found out about the ban, she said—and some thought even reading the papers in the store would not be allowed.

Starbucks announced on Sept. 1 that it would no longer carry free papers because the coffee company wanted to reduce "clutter" in its stores, according to Hoots.

The ban followed a deal between the New York Times and Starbucks that traded the paper’s advertising resources for the Times’ right to be the only national paper sold in the coffee stores.

Starbucks media relations representative Alan Gulick, however, said in a telephone message Friday that the Times deal had nothing to do with the free paper ban.

In Ketchum, Starbucks has removed one local free paper to a rack just outside its back door while another local paper is inside the front door.

The store manager declined to comment on which papers he would keep inside the store now that the ban was lifted. He said all store employees had been instructed by their corporate higher-ups not to answer questions from reporters.

Hoots said Starbucks implemented that policy "so we didn’t have everyone talking to the media [who] might not have the [right] information."

The employee who did talk to a reporter, however, said no one at the store supported the ban because it hurt business and drew public criticism.

"We’re nice," she said. "We’re not like evil, blood-sucking vampires, or something."


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