(Photo: Kirsten Palladino)
Tuesday's "Marriage Equality Day" at Starbucks' 17,600 stores seemed to fall far short of the record-breaking crowds that filled Chick-fil-A's 1,608 locations the week prior for "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day," organized by Fox News host Mike Huckabee. However, an organizer of the marriage equality event said that in spite of what some say was a low turnout, the event was a success.
The event was organized via email by Equally Wed, an LGBT wedding magazine that like Chick-fil-A, is also based in Atlanta, Ga.
Editor-in-Chief Kirsten Palladino promoted the event on Facebook and Twitter and used the magazine email list in an effort to engage gay activists to drop by Starbucks (a company that offers benefits to same-sex partners) to show their appreciation to the Seattle-based coffee chain.
"In an effort to heighten awareness for all companies and nonprofits contributing to the fight for marriage equality, we've decided to rename August 7 as National Marriage Equality Day," read a statement on their website. "EquallyWed.com asks that you spend your money wisely on this day, and every day. It's important to be an informed consumer. RSVP on Facebook and join the conversation."
The website even offered a $100 Amazon gift card to the person who submitted the best photo of their time at Starbucks or another LGBT-friendly business.
Palladino said she feels the day was a success in that it achieved their desired objective of keeping the issue of marriage equality on the forefront of public conversation.
"Our community has money and a voice and we wanted to give our friends a sense of empowerment," Palladino told The Christian Post. "We think the day was truly exciting because we've had over 37,943 RSVP's on our Facebook page and many of those people spent more money on drinks and products than they normally do. We plan to celebrate this cause every Aug. 7."
Measuring by sales, Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day proved to be a huge success. Because it is a private company, Chick-fil-A does not release financial data, but in a written statement on Aug. 2 it said, "While we don't release exact sales numbers, we can confirm reports that it was a record-setting day."
Over 620,000 responded to Huckabee's Facebook Page and indicated they would dine at a Chick-fil-A restaurant on Aug. 1.
Zack Hutson, a spokesperson for Starbucks, was unable to provide any sales information for Tuesday, saying only that as a public company, financial data is reported on a quarterly basis.
Hutson did confirm that the Marriage Equality Day was not a coordinated event with EquallyWed.com.
"From time to time we will make decisions to support causes that we believe in and we routinely communicate those decisions to our employees," Hutson told The Christian Post. "But Tuesday was nothing other than a normal business day for Starbucks stores and employees."
A Christian Post reporter spent over four hours at a Starbucks store in Hoover, Ala., on Tuesday and interviewed a number of regular customers, none of whom noticed a significant increase in activity during the early and mid-morning rush hours.
Some commentators who follow LGBT issues believe the effort to support Starbucks was the result of failed efforts on behalf of gay activists the previous Friday to stage a "kiss-in" at the same Chick-fil-A restaurants that were overwhelmed by pro-family supporters a few days earlier.
"The first counter offensive, the "Kiss In" was an embarrassing flop. So this time, the folks at Equally Wed offered "prizes" to bribe their supporters to show up," wrote columnist Patricia Campion of Examier.com.
In a memo to Starbucks employees, Executive Vice President Kalen Holmes touched on the saying that the legalization of same-sex marriage is "aligned with Starbucks business practices and upholds our belief in the equal treatment of partners."
When asked if Starbucks has contributed to the marriage referendum that will allow voters to confirm a recent law passed by state legislators in the company's home state of Washington legalizing same-sex marriage, Hutson said that as a corporation they have made no such contribution.
"Starbucks as a company has not contributed to any cause supporting same-sex marriage in Washington State and has no plans to," said Hutson. "However, individuals are free to contribute to causes of their choice but Howard [Schultz] has not."
Schultz, who joined the company in 1982, is CEO of Starbucks and has been a vocal advocate of campaign finance reform. The chain has over 17,600 stores worldwide.