Ever go to a Starbucks to meet someone and not order a coffee — or anything for that matter? I have.
The reason I don’t order coffee is I don’t drink coffee and none of their other beverages appeal to me except for perhaps bottled water which I believe to be a genuine waste of money.
So why do I go to Starbucks? It’s because once in a Blue Moon someone suggests doing that for an interview as they feel more comfortable in the locale or they simply want a Starbucks coffee at the time of day we are scheduled to meet.
Often times I arrive ahead of whom I am waiting for and simply take a seat.
The Manteca, Stockton, and Ripon Starbucks I’ve met people in don’t require keys to use the bathrooms so I’ve never had the problem of essentially not being a customer when I have to use their facility.
To be honest my personal preference is not to meet someone at a Starbucks.
I assume that part of Starbucks’ marketing strategy is to get people to think of it as a meeting place as it’s a good way to pull in $3 to $6 per head as most people will partake in coffee drinks.
It backfires a bit with me and probably others who are meeting someone but aren’t into coffee.
I also understand why Starbucks in more than a few locales requires people to buy something to use the bathroom. Such was the case near the Sausalito waterfront where the granddaughter I was with needed to use a restroom. I stood in line to buy her a cappuccino while she went to the bathroom. I’ve also been in a Starbucks on Market Street in San Francisco with friends who wanted a coffee. We had no need to use the bathrooms but quickly understood why they were restricted to customers.
Literally just outside their doors were a cluster of homeless individuals that weren’t exactly tidy. Putting humanistic impulses aside for a minute would you want to patronize a place where the restrooms were compromised in terms of either someone taking the equivalent of a sponge bath is in the bathroom when you go to use it or else have been less than gentle with the facilities.
I get that people have to go to the bathroom. But at the same time a coffee shop is in business because of paying customers. And if you’re honest with yourself if a place had a non-paying clientele that happened to be dirty, grungy, smelly and such that stops in just to hang out or use the bathrooms you’re not likely to patronize the place.
All of that combined — how Starbucks in many locations essentially markets itself as a de facto meeting place and their desire not to repel paying customers — set the stage the two young black men in Philadelphia being treated like criminals.
They were like me in the sense of why they were there. They were there to meet someone who chose Starbucks and had no personal plans to purchase anything. They also happened to need to use the bathroom prior to their party showing up.
Starbucks has intentionally created a culture that runs counter to their policy that simply put is you are not allowed to use a restroom unless you are a paying customer.
There are people every day who aren’t customers who walk into a Starbucks to meet someone else who will end up as a customer. And often time the non-customer beats the customer to Starbucks.
The two men in Philadelphia were given a recap of the rules and were asked to leave even though they said they were meeting someone there. They refused to leave. Long story short the Starbucks manager called police, a verbal confrontation took place and smartphones took the subsequent cuffing of the two men viral.
"Two young men who happened to be black didn’t meet the criteria of being paying customers per se but were there to meet someone who would meet the criteria."
Starbucks is playing this off as an act of an employee being prejudiced hence the decision later this month to close more than 8,000 company owned stores for one afternoon to provide employees with anti-racial bias education.
It kind of misses the point. Starbucks doesn’t chase off paying customers that behave regardless of their skin tone nor do they serve them from separate lines of separate facilities. The bottom line is, if you will, two young men who happened to be black didn’t meet the criteria of being paying customers per se but were there to meet someone who would meet the criteria.
If two white 55-year-old males dressed in business suits replaced the two young black men and refused to leave and got argumentative Starbucks is now implying the manager would not have called police. It is disingenuous for Starbucks to make it seem their manager wasn’t following company protocol.
While racism or bigotry could have played a role in the manager’s response, Starbucks’ reaction provided a cover for a serious problem they have created. While passing itself off as a meeting place Starbucks has the requirement everybody that shares a table to drop a few bucks.
I get the message loud and clear. Starbucks has the absolute right to have such a policy.
While it will barely put a dent in Starbucks bottom line, if that, I’m no longer going to be corralled to go into a Starbucks just because the person I’m meeting with wants to enjoy a Starbucks grand latte at the same time.