The government shutdown on October 1 impacted some 800,000 government employees. Being the entrepreneurial and promotional country that we are, companies everywhere are popping up and giving away free merchandise, perhaps to try and drive traffic, or maybe just to be nice while taking a stab at the government for its ongoing game of chicken between Democrats and Republicans.
Starbucks Corp. (SBUX) outspoken chief executive Howard Schultz wants consumers to set an example for Washington regulators as to how people can come together and talk. Today through Friday, Starbucks is giving away a free tall coffee to any customer who buys another person a drink at a Starbucks location.
Schultz has never been one to shy away from politics. In 2011, he got more than 100 other chief executives from companies large and small, including AOL, Inc. (AOL) , Whole Foods Market, Inc. (WFM) and Frontier Communications Corp. (FTR) , to pledge to stop writing campaign contribution checks until politicians would “stop the partisan gridlock in Washington, D.C.” related to debt and spending. Back at it again, Shultz has said the he is “utterly disappointed by the level or irresponsibility and dysfunction we are witness to with out elected political leadership.”
On the day of the shutdown, AMC Entertainment began giving away a free small popcorn (or credit towards a larger size) to customers who came to see a movie and presented a valid government or military ID at the concession stand. “While we can’t do anything to resolve the gridlock in Washington, D.C., we can provide a few hours of entertainment, and a free popcorn< while they [the hundreds of thousands of affected employees] wait to get back to work,” said John McDonald EVP of Operations at AMC. On August 30, AMC Entertainment Holdings, the movie theater operator owned by Wang Jianlin (China’s richest man) filed documents for an initial public offering in which it seeks to raise $400 million.
Through October 13, Boston Market is giving a free chicken to all federal employees and members of the military with the purchase of a family meal. The offer is good at all Boston Market locations. Saying that servicemen and government employees have always been some of the company’s best customers, Boston Market chief executive George Michel commented, “Extending this offer to them is a little something we can do to give them a break during a stressful time.”
Makes waves in a different manner, adult toy website vibrators.com is giving away up to 200 free vibrators per day to federal employees during the government shutdown. The website says the promo is to give furloughed employees that have been deemed “non-essential” something to do with their free time.
This is merely a sampling of hundreds (or thousands) of companies that are extending offers for the government employees sent home while the Republicans blame the Democrats, the Democrats blame the Republicans and they can’t even all get together to do it in the same room. A slew of businesses are giving away or deeply discounting things from food to short-term fitness memberships to drinks and more as we all wait out the impasse and listen to the rhetoric.