Starbucks groveling goes to a whole new level: Feel free to loiter and not buy anything, everyone!

By —— Bio and Archives--April 21, 2018

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Starbucks groveling goes to a whole new level: Feel free to loiter and not buy anything, everyone!
Either they did not think this through at all, or they didn’t bother asking their store-level employees how it would work in practice.

It won’t work well. But when you’ve unnecessarily plead guilty to being monsters, I guess you have to promise the sun and the moon to make amends. So if you frequent Starbucks, and you find it difficult enough to find a place to sit among paying customers, get ready for this:



This is a complete reversal of the old policy, which said you couldn’t use restrooms or anything else unless you were a paying customer. The Philadelphia incident that prompted such hand-wringing started with an employee’s determination to enforce that policy, even to the point of calling the police because two men wanted to occupy a table but not order until a third companion showed up to join them.

Starbucks caught heat in the past for refusing to even let uniformed police officers use their bathrooms, although I am personally witness to the fact that this is not a universal practice. I’ve seen cops come into Starbucks, use the bathroom and leave without ordering anything. And considering the nature of their jobs, I’d argue that every establishment that has bathrooms should allow cops to do that. But their policy was not to.

Now they’ve gone completely to the opposite extreme. Everyone can come in, use the bathroom, charge their phones or laptops, presumably even sit there and do work (otherwise why offer the use of wifi?) and they don’t have to order anything. Ever.

This is not going to turn out well. Let’s start with this question: If you’re not buying anything, how long is too long to occupy a table while paying customers have nowhere to sit? It’s not a trivial question. At certain times of the day it’s hard to get a seat in a Starbucks, and that’s when everyone has to buy something in order to sit down. If you now let people off the street come in and sit indefinitely, you’re going to have a lot of paying customers either standing against the wall or simply leaving.

You’re also going to find that it’s harder to keep the store clean, harder to keep the bathrooms clean and harder to prevent theft if you’re welcoming people into your store – and telling them to stay as long as they like – when they can’t afford to buy even the items Starbucks offers that only cost a few bucks.

It’s weird that they present this as part of an effort to “end homelessness,” when the whole thing started as a racial controversy (although the black and white hands shaking is a nice pandering touch). Letting people use the bathroom and charge their phones doesn’t do anything to end homelessness. People aren’t homeless because they need a place to pee. They’re homeless because they don’t do the basic things that would keep them consistently employed and earning enough to afford a place to live. You can get into all kinds of discussions about whether societal steps can help to make a difference, but nothing Starbucks is offering to do here will impact any of it.

Far from ending homelessness, you’re going to make your stores magnets for people with nothing to do and nowhere else to go.

You know who really could benefit from this policy? Someone like me. I am far from homeless and certainly not destitute, but I like to do my work in places like Starbucks, and it would save me some serious money if I could sit there for hours – plugged in and using their wifi – and I didn’t have to buy anything. I could basically make Starbucks my office for free. But you know what? I’m not going to do that, because if I do, I’m taking up space that a paying customer could otherwise occupy. So if I go to Starbucks, I will make a purchase, because I can and I need to respect their business model if I’m going to use their store as my workplace.

The now-discarded policy – that you had to buy something to use the facilities – was not unreasonable, and was to the benefit of regular customers as well as Starbucks. Now Starbucks has panicked and gone completely in the other direction, all because one incident of trying to enforce the old policy didn’t go well.

I think I’ll stick to Atomic Coffee in downtown Royal Oak. It’s better anyway.


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Dan Calabrese -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Dan Calabrese’s column is distributed by HermanCain.com, which can be found at HermanCain

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