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When investing, follow the Stupak Rule

A couple of minutes ago I broke away from the electronic vineyard to make a Starbucks run. While waiting for my beverage, I was reading the ‘Starbucks Mission Statement‘ hanging on the wall. Since my eyes don’t work as well as they used to, about all I could read without squinting was the header …

To inspire and nurture the human spirit— one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.

Well, isn’t that just awesome I thought. I got a Chris Matthews tingle. So I get back to the vineyard and pull up the whole mission statement. It’s just full of pithy drivel …

We’re passionate about ethically sourcing the finest coffee beans, roasting them with great care, and improving the lives of people who grow them.

Q: do coffee beans scream when roasted? Object to rough handling? Lose sleep without a nightlight? Not a word about the taste of the product. The work environment?

Together, we embrace diversity to create a place where each of us can be ourselves.

Um, isn’t this basically what the chairman of the joints chiefs of staff said over the weekend when he excused mass murder saying diversity was more important?  I particularly liked the part about their stores:

When our customers feel this sense of belonging, our stores become a haven, a break from the worries outside, a place where you can meet with friends. It’s about enjoyment at the speed of life—sometimes slow and savored, sometimes faster. Always full of humanity.

I guess the bums at the public library don’t use the internet computers because surely if they read this, they’d be there in a flash. And this tripe just goes on and on …

In theory anyway, if they actually believed any of this, it would create tremendous problems for the store manager. “Jones, you’re fired.” “Why!?!” “For giving that bum, er, indigent, er … person two free cups of coffee.” “But I was nurturing his spirit and building a sense of neighborhood! It’s our mission!

And that’s when I thought of Bob Stupak who, sadly, died about six weeks ago.

It’s coming up on about 13 years ago that my bride and I first went to Las Vegas. We had such a great time we acquired a time share there and we swing through there about once a year. Well, I do; she finds excuses to go with her sister and other cronies that I am (mercifully) excused from. I don’t think at the time we expected to find it all that compelling that we’d ever be back but we always have a good time. We’ve seen a lot of … strange and usual things, seen some fantastic shows and had some fabulous meals. And this last time the wife even won a few dollars. (Gamble? No. I’d rather sit there and tease her and watch the free floor show that is a LV casino.)

After that first trip we then watched a number of pieces about Vegas on Discovery and the Werhmact History Channel and so forth. This was also about the time that Vegas went through it’s brief “family destination” incarnation. We had been appalled at that time with seeing people pushing baby carriages down the Strip at midnite. As we said then and I’ll tell you again now — if you have a kid with you and it’s midnite, the Strip is not where you’re supposed to be. We also knew it wouldn’t last. Having once had kids in strollers we intuitively knew that those folks don’t always have the deepest pockets and Vegas is about trading money for fun, not making Mom happy shoving her baby down a crowded sidewalk at midnite, fending off the Mexican guys passing out the hooker business cards. But I digress.

Amidst all these TV shows there was a few brief moments of an interview with this character Stupak, a guy who’d been up and down, was rough around the edges but at heart was a gambler. He spoke a great truism amongst all the pastel pablum of ‘Vegas is for families!’ happy talk. He uncorked a statement along the lines of: “Vegas isn’t for families. If you want to go somewhere that caters to families, go to Disneyworld. You want to gamble, come to Vegas.’

So as I thought of Bob I realized Bob would have snorted at Starbucks mission statement: ‘If you want a sense of belonging, join the Marine Corps– if you want a cup of world-class java, come to Starbucks.’ Further, it would say something like, ‘Our mission is to sell the most coffee at the highest price possible and maximize profit and return to shareholders.’ Period. If Starbucks and other companies want to save the planet, then, don’t take people’s investment money.

Bob’s investment advice would be– if you can’t decipher the business plan without running it through the leftie translator, take your money and run the other way.

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