I’m not sure if the Starbucks Tax Scandal
has made the news in the States, but it is a big deal here in the UK. It won’t surprise many of you that Starbucks comes up in my conversations fairly frequently (since I love coffee and like Starbucks a lot). So, for the last six months, every time it comes up I have heard a little more about the scandal. I actually don’t know tons about it, but apparently Starbucks took advantage of a tax loophole and has not been paying income tax in the UK. There have been protests and boycotts. It’s big news.
|What my siblings and I call the “Green Circle of Pleasure,” just the sight of which gets the serotonin flowing!
My immediate question the first time I heard this was, “So wait, did they do something illegal?” to which the answer was, “No.”
Americans think very differently about taxes than Brits do.
This difference is something I am convinced is deeply true, and this is just one small example. American companies’ first obligation is to their stakeholders, particularly their customers, employees, and shareholders. They are, obviously, bound to obey the law, but I don’t think many Americans would consider it immoral to not pay taxes which are not required by law.
In England, though, this is a very different thing. In the UK, taxes are used for things which people highly value, like the National Health Service (NHS) and benefits meant to create equal opportunities. There is an expectation that the State can and should care for its citizens and a high value for government programs.
We (typically) feel so differently about this in the States. I realize that I come from a conservative background in America, and I also realize that I live in a particularly liberal part of the UK. But even with this acknowledgement, I think that there are longstanding cultural value differences stemming back to the founding of our various nations.
In a monarchy, there is an expectation for the king or queen to take care of his/her people. My theory is that this translates much more easily into a state with large and strong social services, because whether or not it works perfectly the people have a value system which allows for this. And because the system is relatively consistent with the values of the population people feel comfortable making it work. Paying taxes is a huge part of making the system work. Starbucks, therefore, seems to have committed a moral wrong in the perspective of the British value system.
However, we Americans have a very high value for individual achievement and we tend to distrust large structures, especially the government or those mandated by the government. I think this goes back to the American Revolution, the outcry against “taxation without representation,” and the entire political system that developed out of that. We tend to think more about keeping it in check than in making sure it gets its dues. If there is a tax loophole, we all want to know about it so we all can take advantage of it. I think this is why tax accounting is such a huge business. We figure that it is the government’s responsibility to close up the loopholes (we probably would consider if immoral if they don’t). I have every expectation that the companies I invest in are not paying taxes that they don’t need to. I would be very unhappy if they were.
I find it interesting that a company like Starbucks, which has a reputation of taking the high moral ground on issues like health insurance for part-time employees and etc, has ended up in this scandal. I think that it is a very interesting matter of cultural value mis-match. I am guessing that they never saw the public outcry coming.
For me personally, it is another reminder of the difficulties of cross-cultural living. There are phenomenal opportunities to have our values and expectations challenged. Maybe what I’ve always thought isn’t actually right after all. Or maybe what I thought was an absolute is actually more a matter of opinion. Or maybe my culture is right on this thing or that, and I need to remain committed to it even when it’s not popular in another context.
It’s kind of nice to know that massive companies commit cross-cultural faux pas too. Somehow, it makes mine feel a little more understandable.
Today I spent most of the afternoon in a “charity shop” which one of the other young ladies from my home group manages. It was a nice afternoon in the fairly small, one-room shop.
I think this must be what Goodwill stores were like originally, but I’m not sure. Thrift stores in the States are very different than charity shops in the UK. This one is owned by a network of local churches who give out the proceeds from the shop as well as additional funds they steward to local charities. They provide a service to the low-income residents of the neighboring community by offering low cost clothing and household items.
The shop has one part-time manager and is otherwise run by volunteers. Most of them are ladies who volunteer once or several times a week.
This is definitely a part of the British culture. There are small charity shops all over. I find it interesting.
Today I went shopping for makeup and skin care products, something I have almost never done. I ended up in Sephora where I tried all kinds of fun things. I was interested in buying some makeup and/or skincare but didn’t find anything spectacular so I left without making a purchase.
|I tried on glasses in another store and took a pic to remember them. I was trying to be incognito… hence the bad picture. Regardless, you can see the results of playing at Sephora:-).
On my way out of the mall, a man from one of the kiosks pulled me to a booth where a young woman washed my hands with a salt scrub. It was nice, but I clearly wasn’t interested. She used our initial interaction to segway into a conversation about her other products.
She brilliantly asked me questions like, “are you more interested in taking care of the skin on your body or your face,” and, “are you more drawn to a product for your whole face or your eyes.” Difficult to say “no” to those types of questions.
I ended up purchasing a toner product. As I was checking out I mentioned to the sales girl that she caught me on a good day because I was looking for something along those lines. I didn’t mean I wanted more, just that it was cool that I found a good product along the lines of what I came for. She got the point.
Even so, even though I had already signed for my purchase, she whipped out an eye cream and serum and had them on my face before I knew it. It was really nice stuff, taking away my eye puffiness visibly and instantly. I had a feeling it would be expensive, but the price was about ten times more than I would have dreamed of spending on something like that.
She asked enough questions to understand that, although I liked it, there was no way I could afford it. She asked another question, “do you care more about crows feet or bags under your eyes,” which I wasn’t sure how to answer (neither sound good). She looked hard at my face and decided the cream could suffice. Then she brought the price down. I asked for her card in case someone wanted to get it for me for a gift. She brought the price down more. I said I’d call my husband and talk to him about it, which I did. Ultimately, Kagi surprised me by telling me to purchase it, which was very unexpected and generous of him.
It stood out to me what a great salesperson that girl was. I’m a very tough sell. I hate feeling pushed into buying things. I’m also great at getting out of a situation when I feel pressure to do something I’m not sure about. I like thinking through my purchases, and feel confident that I can find what I want when I want it.
This girl did catch me on a good day with a good product. But it was more than that. She helped me see that this product was what I wanted. Then she read me well enough to offer a price I could be happy about, even if it was much more expensive than I imagined I would spend.
I am really fascinated by the way good sales works. It was a major part of my occupation for several years, and during that time I gained a huge appreciation for the art of selling and admiration for those who can do it well. I think it’s like playing a sport — anyone can do it to some level, but it takes talent, practice, and confidence to really do it well.
The things that particularly stood out from this interaction was that, although she clearly had an objective, she worked to understand where I was coming from. I legitimately felt like she was working with me. She didn’t seem stressed or afraid of me walking away. She was driving forward, but not pushy. She had time for me, but wasn’t going to waste my time.
Ultimately, she left me very confident about the wisdom of my purchase. I’m convinced I got something great which answers a need. I feel pampered and look forward to using this product. I also feel like we both got a good deal, which is perfect!
This is the first Laura Travel Adventure give away… and I’m excited because it is a great one!
I entered my blog on the Start Something That Matters site (www.startsomethingthatmatters.com) a few months ago — anxious to read the book after it sold out at the Catalyst conference where Blake Mycoskie spoke (see this post for more on that). In true TOMS form, I received two copies of the book and agreed to read and write about it, and then give one of my copies to one of you wonderful readers. After reading the book I’m even more glad to share about it… I loved it and expect you will too.
This book is all about how to start and run a business or non-profit with passion to do good at its core. TOMS gives a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair it sells. In the book, you read about a variety of leaders who have “done good” through all different types of entrepreneurial endeavors and advice on how to start something yourself. I found it extremely easy to read, practical, and inspiring.
So, here’s the deal. I’m going to do a raffle, and literally pull a name out of a hat. To get your name in the hat, all you need to do is visit my Facebook fan page for this blog or Anda, and hit “like.” If you’d like double your chances, please like both! Then just post a comment letting me know, and I’ll put your name(s) in the hat!
I will post the winner in a week and will be in touch with them for their address.
Thanks for participating!
Again, here are the links to the facebook links: