Starbucks Needs to Change Customer Policy, But Boycott Unnecessary

Starbucks is in the wrong.

The manager of a Philadelphia Starbucks where two African-American men got arrested for sitting in the store was in the wrong.

And the police officers that arrested the two African-American men were in the wrong.

But Starbucks as a whole does not deserve to be boycotted because one employee at one franchise does not speak for an entire company, which has many African-American franchise owners like Earvin “Magic” Johnson.

The officers do not deserve termination, because by law the two African-American men probably were technically guilty of trespassing.

However, what needs to change is Starbucks’ policy, which requires people to leave if they have not purchased food, a beverage or other product(s).

On April 12 at 4:35 P.M., Roshon Nelson and Donte Robinson arrived at a downtown Philadelphia Starbucks for a business meeting, scheduled for 4:45 P.M.

The two planned to meet with a business associate to discuss a real estate deal that they had been working on for months.

Ten minutes early for the meeting, Nelson asked to use the restroom but an employee told him that Starbucks only allowed paying customers to use the restroom.

The two then continued to wait for their business associate to arrive for the meeting.

When asked if they wanted to purchase anything, the two declined because they already had bottled water.

A call to 911 came from the store location at 4:37 P.M.

All it took was two minutes of sitting and waiting for a business associate for two educated Black men to be arrested.

To anyone with common sense, that should seem unnecessary and ridiculous. 

And if anyone thinks that race did not play a factor in the manager’s decision to call the cops they are delusional.

Sitting in a store for two minutes without purchasing a product would not be a “crime” for anyone other than an African-American.

Despite being educated.

Despite being productive citizens, Nelson and Robinson found themselves arrested for arriving to a meeting 10 minutes too early.

Educated, productive citizens, hard workers and on time, Nelson and Robinson dismantled many stereotypes of African-Americans.

Nevertheless, the two still found themselves in a dangerous position, which could have ended badly like many police encounters with African-American men.

Unfortunately for an African-American man, any encounter with a police officer could end in death because of the stereotypes that many non-African-Americans have about us.

No matter what type of person you are, society often views you as a threat for something as simple as waiting 10 minutes for your colleague to arrive at a Starbucks meeting.

And while I understand Starbucks’ need for the policy so that non-customers will not take up space and use the free Wi-Fi, the policy needs to change immediately because rigid rules often do not allow for common sense judgment.

Many business meetings take place at Starbucks.

I have conducted many interviews for Regal Mag at Starbucks.

I have participated in many meetings at Starbucks with graphic designers and web developers.

And I have conducted many meetings at Starbucks with potential account executives.

Often I wait for the other party to arrive before I order my venti iced white chocolate mocha and my petite vanilla bean scones.

I do that because Starbucks is usually packed, especially in a central location in a major city.

If anyone has ever gone to the Starbucks on Westheimer in Houston (across from the Galleria) finding a seat and a parking space seems harder than finding out what happened to Jimmy Hoffa.

Therefore, I often get a seat and wait for the other party to arrive.

Often, I wait to buy my coffee because I think it’s rude to eat and drink before your counterpart arrives or to eat and drink in their presence when they have nothing to eat or drink.

Etiquette experts often say that it is rude to eat and drink before everyone is served or everyone has something to eat or drink.

Therefore, Starbucks needs to apply a human touch and a little common sense to those rigid rules.

But a boycott of any Starbucks other than the particular Philadelphia location where the arrest took place will be unnecessary and detrimental to many African-American employees and franchise owners who had absolutely nothing to do with the incident, which is the responsibility of one particular store manager.

Many young college graduates have to take work at places like Starbucks in order to pay off college debt because they cannot immediately get a job in their field.

Many laid off former white collar workers have to take jobs at places like Starbucks because in a down economy they have to do what they have to do just to make ends meet and put food on the table for their family members.

I have seen a laid off accountant take a job as a pizza delivery man just so his children would not go to bed hungry.

And I have seen African-American women like Rosalind Brewer work their way up the corporate ladder at companies like Sam’s Club to eventually become the Chief Operating Officer at Starbucks.

Often, the African-American community looks at monumental movements in history like the Montgomery Bus Boycott and believes that everything dealing with racism or prejudice requires a boycott.

However, the difference between the Montgomery, Ala. bus system and Starbucks is that the bus system practiced racism, discrimination and segregation from the top down, while Starbucks does not.

Starbucks has endured bad public relations and accusations of racism because of the actions of a few ignorant employees.

The situations are not the same and do not require the same action or response.

Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson immediately came out and said the Starbucks manager did not handle the situation properly.

Johnson removed that manager from that Philadelphia store.

And he will shut down many of their stores and require 175,000 Starbucks employees to take unconscious bias training.

There’s nothing more the Starbucks CEO can do to rectify the problem other than applying a little humanity to their policies and rooting out anyone that displays bias towards a customer.

Finding employees with no biases is totally impossible.

Do you really think someone is going to admit being racist on a job interview?

All that can be done is what Starbucks is doing, correcting a wrong and trying like hell to make sure that it does not happen again.

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