Your Starbucks Closing Early on May 29: Implicit Bias training
On April 12, 2018, two black men were arrested at Starbucks in Philadelphia. They were seated, waited for a friend to arrive. They hadn’t ordered anything. After this incident, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson apologized, deeply concerned about the training and practices that lead to this outcome.
So much has happened since April 12th. Since then, Starbucks has provided guidance to stores on how to address disruptive customer behaviors. I had a conversation with an official Starbucks spokesperson and learned a little more about what Starbucks considers to be ‘disruptive’ behavior. The things that are ‘disruptive’ are fairly blatant unwanted behaviors. Just sitting inside a store at a table is not ‘disruptive’. Starbucks asks their partners (Starbucks calls their employees “partners”) to assess the behavior and not the person.
Things like obscene language, sleeping inside the store, personal hygiene that disrupts others’ experiences, panhandling, shoplifting, and misuse of the restrooms are all examples of unwanted behaviors at a Starbucks. (For the record, I think I have briefly fallen asleep in Starbucks stores before. It’s possible. You just didn’t get enough sleep for any reason or had been traveling and then you plop into a comfy chair and it’s an invitation to sleep…).
All of this, at its core, is Starbucks reconnecting to its Third Place history. The Third Place concept is the idea of a safe gathering spot for customers and community, which is not your home nor your work. In Pour Your Heart Into It, Howard Schultz wrote, “In some communities, Starbucks stores have become a Third Place – a comfortable, sociable gathering spot away from home and work, like an extension of the front porch. People connect with Starbucks because they relate to what we stand for. It’s more than great coffee. It’s the romance of the coffee experience, the feeling of warmth and community people get in Starbucks stores.” (See page 5, Pour Your Heart Into It.)
One store mishandled, one customer mishandled, damages the safe, community gathering spot of Starbucks stores.
Last week, Starbucks released some of the curriculum of the May 29th closure and training program.
So on May 29, 2018, your local Starbucks store might be closed early. (Licensed Starbucks locations are not closing on May 29, 2018). It’s a training on implicit bias. It’s also about restoring the Third Place at Starbucks.
It’s your turn to weigh in. (The “We’re Closing Early” sign below is from the 3rd and Madison Starbucks in downtown Seattle).