Weekly Wrap: Singing About Starbucks? It Could Get You Fired

Add this to the pantheon of dumb things to get fired for: a singing, job-disparaging rant posted on YouTube that your corporate overlords don’t find particularly amusing.

So it goes for Christopher Cristwell, 25, who according to this story in the Seattle Times, “is making national headlines after he posted a video of himself on YouTube singing about his job at the Chowchilla Starbucks” in California.

It’s an amusing little song (I’ve posted the video below), laced with a little attitude and profanity that probably captures a lot of the feelings that many Starbucks baristas share, but it’s never career enhancing to so publicly bash your employer in a viral video that as of this writing has been viewed, oh, about 280,000 times. Here’s a little more of what happened:

The video was picked up by a popular Starbucks blog last week, which quickly caught the attention of the corporate honchos. After several meetings with managers, (Cristwell) was sent packing.

“They were really cool about it. The regional manager complimented me on my creative ability — not on that specific song — and then asked me why I did it. They were really trying to find out about my intent behind the videos.”

The intent, he says, was strictly satire. He said he never actually did any of the shortcuts he sings about, such as filling a Vanilla Bean Frappuccino with whipped cream because most customers can’t tell the difference. “I’m not trying to say it’s a healthy song, but it’s definitely satire,” he said.”

A Starbucks PR spokesman said what you would expect them to say:

While Christopher was expressing his own views in the video, the disparaging remarks about our customers and company are unacceptable and out of line with our commitment to our customers and partners (employees).”

I wouldn’t feel too bad for Chris Cristwell, though. My guess is that this is a good career move for him because he’ll get job offers from somebody who appreciates his creativity and ability to garner so much attention. As one reader on the Seattle Times website put it:

It’s all about perspective… if he sings it on YouTube, he gets fired; if he sings it on the street corner, he’ll get a few bucks an hour more than he was making, probably; if he sings it on ‘America’s Got Talent’, he’d stay on a couple weeks extra; if he sings it on Leno, he’ll be offered a job doing all sorts of requests. All about perspective, location and who hears it. Right on..!!!”

Right on, indeed. But, this just goes to show (again) that actions have consequences, although I think it would have been refreshing to see Starbucks do something other than simply fall into the stereotypical role as humorless and insensitive corporate giant.

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Wouldn’t it have been smart if someone in Starbucks’ management suite decided to treat this guy as the proverbial canary in the coal mine, someone who has some good-to-know insights into the Starbucks experience? Yes, it would have been smart — but not a lot or corporations have that kind of smarts, or a sense of humor about this kind of thing.

Another reader (and commenter) on the Seattle Times website ageed:

By firing this guy Starbucks has blown this up into something much bigger than it ever would have become on it’s own. And they appear heavy-handed, humorless, and uptight.”

There’s more than the latest Starbucks rant in the news this week. Here are some other HR and workplace-related items you may have missed. This is TLNT’s weekly round-up of news, trends, and insights from the world of HR and talent management. I do it so you don’t have to.

  • Ignoring wellness? In Chicago, it could cost you $50. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, “City employees would see their monthly health insurance premiums rise by $50 unless they participate in a “wellness program” to manage chronic health problems such as obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure, under a private sector-style plan to be unveiled” today. “Coaches would ride herd over workers on a bi-monthly basis to make certain they’re following their prescribed nutritional, medical and physical fitness regimens. Those who refuse to participate would see their monthly premiums rise by $50. Those who meet their goals could see similar reductions.”
  • Another push for mandatory sick pay. Add Denver to the list of cities pushing for an ordinance to require businesses to offer paid sick days to employees. According to the Denver Post, “The Denver ordinance, backed by many unions, health and restaurant workers and social-policy foundations, would let private employees earn up to nine paid sick days a year, scaled to the size of the business … Business-community opponents of the measure have not disputed specific health claims in the debate, but they say it would penalize employers who already provide sick days and raise costs and paperwork for those who don’t.”
  • Workers claim Amazon’s warehouse is a sweatshop. Employees in Amazon.com’s Leigh Valley, Pennsylvania warehouse aren’t too pleased with the working conditions, according to the Allentown’s Morning Call newspaper. The newspaper “interviewed 20 current and former warehouse workers … They offered a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what it’s like to work in the Amazon warehouse, where … workers said they were forced to endure brutal heat inside the sprawling warehouse and were pushed to work at a pace many could not sustain. Employees were frequently reprimanded regarding their productivity and threatened with termination, workers said. The consequences of not meeting work expectations were regularly on display, as employees lost their jobs and got escorted out of the warehouse. Such sights encouraged some workers to conceal pain and push through injury lest they get fired as well, workers said.”
  • One big perk if you live and work in Alaska. It’s the annual cut of the state’s oil money that gets paid to everyone who has lived in Alaska for a year. According to the Anchorage Daily News, this year’s annual Permanent Fund Dividend check will be $1,174, “the smallest since 2006 and $107 less than last year’s amount, which was $1,281 … Voters passed a constitutional amendment in 1976 to establish the Permanent Fund as a way to stretch out the state’s oil wealth for future generations. … Last year, $783.4 million was paid to 611,522 people, according to the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend Division. The fund ended the recent fiscal year with a balance of $40.1 billion. Alaskans received their largest dividend — $2,069 — in 2008.”

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.

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