Starbucks accused of "war on Christmas" with holiday cups

Nov 9, 2015 2:19 PM by CBS News

For millions of coffee-drinkers, the arrival of Starbucks' holiday-themed cups means Christmas is on the way.

"It's huge. People who don't even go to Starbucks regularly, they come during the holidays because we have the red cups," Starbucks employee Skylar Shelley said.

But some critics say the image of this year's holiday cup was like waking up to a lump of coal Christmas morning, reports CBS News correspondent Don Dahler. Unlike previous years when the cups came adorned with holiday-inspired images ranging from snowmen to ornaments, this year's design is just a plain red cup.

The topic percolated on social media, where Evangelical groups accused the company of waging a "war on Christmas."

"Do you realize that Starbucks wanted to take Christ and Christmas off of their brand new holiday cups? That's why they're just plain red," former pastor Josh Feuerstein said.

On Thursday, Feuerstein posted a video to his Facebook page that has now been viewed 12 million times.

"When I went in, I asked for my coffee, they asked for my name and I told them, 'My name is Merry Christmas.' So guess what, Starbucks? I tricked you into putting 'Merry Christmas' on your cup," Feuerstein said in the video.

In a statement to CBS News, Starbucks responded, saying: "Our core values as a company is to create a culture of belonging, inclusion and diversity..." and "...we will continue to embrace and welcome customers from all backgrounds and religions in our stores around the world."

The so-called "war on Christmas" isn't confined to coffee shops.

Last week, a shopping mall chain faced criticism for replacing Santa's sleigh and reindeer with a glacier-themed winter wonderland.

"Where's the green, where's the red, where's the elves, where's the idea of Christmas?" shopper Robert Jackson said.

One man even started a Facebook page urging people to boycott the company until the old-time displays are brought back.

"I think it was a beginning of a white washing of the holiday season," Mike Breitweg said.

Simon Malls president David Contis said the new design had nothing to do with making the holiday more secular.

"It was in response to trying to create a more interactive, kind of modern experience for the kids and it just didn't work," Contis said in a phone interview.

On Sunday, the company announced a return to their traditional Christmas displays.

Experts said Starbucks will stick with their minimalist design.

"I'm sure in some ways they're happy about some of this attention. It's really shining a spotlight on their brand and the holiday season. They probably have a lot of people that are welcoming this change as well. So people will come to Starbucks and buy coffee and maybe they'll put their hashtag on it, but they're buying a cup of coffee," Adweek editor Lisa Granatstein said.

This isn't the first time Starbucks has been attacked for its cup designs. In 2005, the company launched its "The Way I See It" campaign, printing quotes from notable figures on its cups. Some dealt with gay rights and religion, drawing anger from Christian and Muslim groups. Last March, Starbucks was forced to yank its controversial "Race Together" campaign days after launch, which was intended to get people to talk about race.


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