Google and Starbucks, a pair of usually savvy PR companies, are kicking off the year with PR mud on their corporate faces.

frappuccinoThe search giant is passing the buck by blaming media firm Essence Digital for paying bloggers to sing praises of Google’s Chrome Internet browser, which is battling Microsoft’s Explorer and Firefox. A Google statement says the company has “consistently avoided paid sponsorships, including paying bloggers to promote our products, because these kind of promotions are not transparent or in the best interests of users.”

The world’s biggest search engine should have known what was up. Essence Digital did take the rap for the program and apologized for it. Google, is now “taking manual action to demote” Chrome to lower its ranking for the next two months. That’s embarrassing for the company that claims “don’t be evil” as its corporate motto.

Starbucks, or at least its Frappuccino bottles, have been linked to four of the five firebomb attacks in Queens and Long Island on New Year’s Day. The New York Times today ran a sidebar on the bombings, reporting that the “dainty 9.5-ounce glass container used by Starbucks to house its popular Frappaccino drinks,” is the perfect container for a Molotov cocktail.

Retired NYPD bomb squad technician Kevin Barrry said Frappaccino bottles are easily concealed in a bomber's pocket and "fits in your hand hand, so you can throw it almost like a Nerf football." Suspected bomber Ray Lengend told detectives that he originally planned to heave five Starbucks Molotov cocktails at a mosque, but was scared off by the presence of cops. The police found a stash of empty Frappuccino bottles in the back of his rented car.

Starbucks, a company that boasts of its commitment to social responsibility, did not respond to the NYT request for comment. A Starbucks media hand sent the following email to this blogger in response to a question about its Frappaccino firebombs. "Thanks for your interest in Starbucks. We have not issued a statement on this."

On its website, the company calls its chain of coffeehouses “a haven, a break from the worries outside, a place where you can meet with friends.” Will patrons become edgy if they see a guy stocking up on Frappaccinos?

There’s no word about which Starbucks coffeehouse was the favorite haunt of Lengend. Some potential good news for Starbucks: the alleged arsonist was ejected for shoplifting a Starbucks Frappuccino from the deli that he subsequently bombed.

Perhaps, he didn’t hang out at Starbucks.