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Starbucks' Campaign Asks Customers To Pay It Forward

MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) – Starbucks is hoping actions speak louder than words and the politicians in Washington take notice.

From Wednesday through Friday, they've got a 'pay it forward' type promotion going on. Basically, if a customer buys another customer their favorite latte or frappuccino, they will get a coffee for free.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said he hopes the examples his customers set will inspire lawmakers to come together, resolve their political gridlock and end the federal government shutdown.

The offer is a way to help fellow citizens "support and connect with one another, even as we wait for our elected officials to do the same for our country," Schultz said in a memo to staff on Tuesday.

"The person in front of me bought me breakfast and coffee and I did the same," said Starbucks fan Merryl Koplo.

But this promotion is more about self-promotion than anything else, according to Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst at The NPD Group. He said it won't likely have much political effect because it lacks the kind of punishment that makes lawmakers think twice, like an impeachment drive.

But it makes for great marketing, especially since many people, especially younger ones, care about brands that have a strong social conscience, Cohen said.

"Will it work on the political level? No. Won't make a dent. Will it work on the commercial end? Absolutely," he said.

"I would love the whole thing to be over with, it's crazy," Koplo said of the government shutdown. When asked if the coffee would help fix it, Koplo said, "Probably not, but it's still a nice thing to do."

"It's a nice concept, but I don't think it's gonna change anything with the government," said customer Bethany Little.

It's not the first time Schultz has waded into the national political debate. In 2011, he asked other chief executives to join him in halting campaign contributions until politicians stopped their partisan bickering. The CEOs of more than 100 companies, from AOL to Zipcar, took the pledge.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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