Courtesy Marina Pilibosian
When Starbucks announced that baristas would no longer be permitted to wear engagement rings, one jeweler offered a solution to heartbroken employees.
Marina Pilibosian, CEO of Birmingham Jewelry in Sterling Heights, Mich., learned about the ban—and the fervor among employees and customers who accused Starbucks of being anti-marriage—on Twitter. “I thought, if I could help these people, what would I do? Because I love Starbucks, I religiously drink Starbucks. And I was like, I could give them a free tungsten band, that’s something I could do.”
And so, she did, taking to Facebook and Twitter to offer local Starbucks baristas free tungsten bands to wear during their shifts. Soon the local news was on it, then publications around the world. Her offer of kindness went viral. “I had no idea it would blow up,” she says.
“We’ve given away a few dozen rings,” she says, adding that she hopes to give away more. “I have a little section for them, all the alternate metal bands, comfort fit, some are darker some are lighter, some have black enamel or wooden inlay. They choose the band that they feel is an expression of them. That’s the point. I want them to feel like it’s their own, that they are happy wearing it.” The bands vary in price, but on average retail for about $299.
“It’s been great advertisement, especially when it was on the news. A company in New York did a video on me and that went viral, so when that happened, I kind of got a little scared, oh no, we’re going to go bankrupt! But it was great, I started getting emails and messages on Facebook from people who don’t even work at Starbucks, saying, ‘You are such great people, thank you for doing this,’ and notes from Starbucks baristas around the country, ‘Thank you for doing this for our coworkers, we wish there was someone where we are who would do this for us.’ ”
The promotion has endeared Birmingham Jewelry to Starbucks employees and their communities, and Pilibosian notes that employees have purchased engagement rings, Christmas presents, and brought in jewelry for repairs.
Pilibosian grew up in the store, which was founded by her father Gregory Pilibosian in 1975. The company recently celebrated its 39th anniversary by hosting a red carpet gala and donating proceeds to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, a charity it frequently supports. They are also active members and supporters of the local Armenian community. “My parents always taught me, no matter whether you have a lot or a little, you have to care about those who are less fortunate, and you should always think about how you can help them,” she says. “This happened to blow up because of the name Starbucks, but we do things like this all the time.”
“When you give, you feel rewarded, you don’t even need to be thanked,” she says. “You just know that you did the right thing, and hopefully someone is going to be happy.”