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Dunkin' Donuts: A shot of politics with the coffee

By David Collins

Publication: The Day

Published January 16. 2013 4:00AM

Anyone who has lived around here for a while will remember when the original Bess Eaton doughnut chain, before it was purchased by Tim Hortons in a 2004 bankruptcy, started printing scripture phrases on its coffee cups.

This bold dollop of Christianity, mixed in with a daily coffee ritual, offended many customers and delighted others.

I couldn't help but think of the old Bess Eaton flap when someone told me recently that they noticed that the television sets in Dunkin' Donut shops around here are tuned to the right-leaning programming on Fox News.

Needless to say, this big dose of conservative news commentary, mixed in with the daily coffee ritual, could offend as many customers as it pleases.

Just imagine how conservative-thinking voters might react if the television in their coffee shop was tuned to liberal-leaning MSNBC.

Not long after I fielded the Fox-at-Dunkin' tip, I did a little road trip to hit some of the same shops I had been told about. Sure enough, the first three Dunkin' Donuts I stopped at, in Stonington and North Stonington, all had televisions tuned to Fox News, a number that put the practice well beyond the scope of coincidence.

I asked a young woman behind the counter in Mystic - why Fox? She said people like the news. She said she would turn to a weather station if someone asks.

My tipster told me he asked at the Dunkin' Donuts in North Stonington, and the person behind the counter told him that tuning to Fox was a standing order of the district manager.

I did some traveling over the holidays, and I soon deduced that Fox News is not a company policy. I stopped at a bunch of Dunkin' Donuts in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, and none were playing Fox.

Elsewhere around eastern Connecticut, in New London, Waterford and East Lyme, I couldn't find any Dunkin' Donuts with TV sets at all.

I had a hard time reaching anyone in corporate public relations from Dunkin' Donuts to ask about the places that show Fox.

But a spokesman who finally returned my calls Tuesday assured me that playing Fox News is not a company policy.

The spokesman said it is possible the shops in Stonington and North Stonington that have been consistently streaming Fox news since the election are franchises. He said he would check and get back to me with an answer, but I never heard from him again except for an email repeating that there is no corporate Dunkin' TV policy.

My tipster told me he would stop going to Dunkin' Donuts if they don't stop broadcasting Fox News.

I don't blame him.

I suspect many gyms and other places that have televisions on all the time and a wide range of customers are careful about what kind of programming they choose.

A coffee stop especially ought to be considered a politics-free zone. You would think maybe a doughnut shop would consider something neutral and appropriate, like the Food Channel, maybe.

Whoever is choosing the channel at the Dunkins in Stonington and North Stonington ought to consider the Bess Eaton scripture cups and that company's eventual bankruptcy.

This is the opinion of David Collins

David Collins

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