Starbucks Clarifies Policy


Following criticism for arresting two black men in a Philadelphia store, Starbucks has set a new policy for bathroom use. Company leaders decided to adopt a more open policy, allowing anyone to use a store bathroom without purchasing products.

But people questioned the effect on Starbucks locations, worrying the policy would invite homeless people and drug users. Customers want space available for themselves. Employees, particularly, complained that the policy didn't have enough guidance for them to know, for example, when to call the police.

The new policy lists the following expectations for people in their stores:

  • Using spaces as intended
  • Being considerate of others
  • Communicating with respect
  • Acting responsibly

The policy also refers to "Addressing Disruptive Behaviors" procedures and clarifies, "If a situation presents an immediate danger or threat to partner or customer safety, Starbucks partners should call 911."

I'm struggling with the term "customer." The policy uses this terminology, and the WSJ article refers to paying and non-paying customers. To me, the latter is an oxymoron, but perhaps it is not given the company's mission to create a "third place."

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  • What benefits and potential downsides do you see from Starbucks' open policy?
  • How could Starbucks further clarify the policy to address customers' and employees' concerns?
  • One point of clarification, if you haven't mentioned it, is about timing. How long should people be permitted to stay without purchasing an item? What are your thoughts about what is fair?
  • What's your view of the term "customer" in this context?