There’s a new policy in place at Starbucks and it has nothing to do with the size of your Grand Chunkachino or whether they spell your name correctly on your cup. The coffee giant has been under increasing pressure from the media and social justice advocates after recent incidents resulting in charges of racism, insensitivity and nearly everything else under the sun. After holding a series of training sessions nationally, the company will now instruct its local managers to make the stores open to anyone who wants to use the restroom or simply hang out there whether they make a purchase or not. (Star Tribune)
Starbucks announced a new policy Saturday that allows anyone to sit in its cafes or use its restrooms, even if they don’t buy anything.
The new policy comes five weeks after two black men who hadn’t bought anything were arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks.
Company executives have said its previous policies were loose and ambiguous, leaving decisions on whether people could sit in its stores or use the restroom up to store managers.
Starbucks said it has told workers to consider anyone who walks into its stores a customer, “regardless of whether they make a purchase.”
Whatever happened when two black men were arrested at a Starbucks in Philadelphia was obviously handled poorly, but that’s just one store. A certain amount of common sense is required at the local management level to handle such things on a case by case basis. If the company felt that better crafted rules and improved training were required to prevent a repeat of that incident that would be understandable. But now they seem to be going overboard in the opposite direction.
Let’s keep this in mind. Starbucks stores are not government offices. They are not libraries or parks. They are private business franchises. As a place of public accommodation, they are required to serve anyone who comes in expecting the opportunity to purchase their wares. They are allowed to refuse service on a limited basis to people who don’t conform to particular standards (for example, if they introduced a dress code) provided such rules aren’t enforced in a discriminatory fashion.
But they are under no obligation to provide air conditioning, heating, bathroom facilities or even just public benches for people who are taking up space which could be used by those seeking to make a purchase. The question of whether or not anyone can come in and demand to use the bathroom is determined at the state level, assuming the refusal isn’t based on discrimination, but most states allow stores to restrict bathroom access to customers. The same goes for entering a business and simply hanging around.
There are exceptions, of course. More than a dozen states have passed laws saying that businesses must allow bathroom access for individuals having a document from their doctor proving they suffer from a condition which frequently requires bathroom access without delay. But that wouldn’t apply to most of the cases we’re discussing here. And, again, none of those exceptions would cover a demand to simply allow people to come hang around without making a purchase.
This “woke” policy is an invitation to abuse, and history has shown us that when you roll out such an invitation, there will be someone coming along to take advantage of it soon enough. This is particularly true in larger cities where business owners regularly have to deal with individuals looking for a place to pass the time, either to escape the heat or the cold or to find a free bathroom. If the word gets out that Starbucks can’t stop anyone from hanging out there, some of the stores are going to turn into impromptu homeless shelters and that’s not going to do much for the store’s prospects in terms of paying customers.
Starbucks may believe that they’re going to get the SJW crowd off their backs with this policy change. And for a short time they might. But I would wager that many of their outlets will come to regret the new policy in short order.