- Starbucks is changing its policies regarding what is and isn’t allowed at the chain.
- Customers can now spend time and use the bathroom at the Starbucks without making any purchases.
- However, some things – such as smoking, watching porn, and panhandling – are still banned.
Starbucks is trying to redefine what it means to be a chain – and it’s causing confusion.
In the aftermath of the arrest of two black men at a Philadelphia location, Starbucks is trying hard to revamp its policies to be more inclusive.
“We want our stores to be the third place, a warm and welcoming environment where customers can gather and connect,” the company said in a statement on May 19. “Any customer is welcome to use Starbucks spaces, including our restrooms, cafes and patios, regardless of whether they make a purchase.”
However, with these new policies comes confusion. Can homeless individuals now, essentially, turn Starbucks into their homes? Are baristas able to refuse service to anyone at all? And, will this completely change the Starbucks experience?
Here is what exactly what the new policies mean – and how that will impact customers.
What you can do
- Hang out at Starbucks without buying anything.
- Use Starbucks’ bathroom without buying anything.
- In general, Starbucks asks customers to maintain the welcoming environment by: “Using spaces as intended; Being considerate of others; Communicating with respect; Acting responsibly.”
What you can’t do
- No using drugs. Drug deals and use are one of the few things that employees are told to respond to with a 911 call, The Wall Street Journal reports. Employees are now encouraged to call 911 only if a situation presents immediate danger to employees or customers.
- No breaking the law, including stealing or indecent exposure.
- No drinking.
- No watching porn.
- No smoking.
- No napping.
- No talking too loudly or playing loud music.
- No disrupting others in hygiene maintenance, by doing things such as cutting nails.
- No obscenity or unwanted sexual advances.
- No panhandling or solicitation.
What the changes actually mean
Practically speaking, many Starbucks locations have always had an open-door policy for most customers, with employees rarely preventing visitors from using the restrooms. However, some people have been excluded from the open bathroom norm. Those excluded tend to be black customers and people whom employees believe to be homeless.
Starbucks leadership has emphasized that the new policies are meant to address race. Having concrete policies in place, executives say, is a way to deal with implicit bias that some managers and employees may not realize they have, making Starbucks more welcoming for all.
However, the bigger sticking point may be how the new policies impact homeless people. Starbucks has long been a welcome haven for people who are homeless for the same reason it is enjoyed by anyone looking for a place to rest their feet. It has free WiFi and ample seating, and the staff will not kick you out. Now, in most situations, the staff cannot kick you out – a marked change in how Starbucks has dealt with some homeless customers in the past.
In 2016, three Starbucks locations in parts of Los Angeles with large homeless populations closed their bathrooms to customers and non-customers to discourage homeless people from visiting to use the restrooms and free WiFi. In 2007, a woman was thrown out of a Starbucks because management thought she was homeless.
With the new policies, neither of these incidents would have happened. Instead, with the new training next week, employees will be both encouraged and required to be inclusive in a way that goes against the grain in the chain-restaurant industry.
Will Starbucks actually feel different? That remains to be seen. But, you can’t discount new policies’ potential for shifting Starbucks’ environment – for better or for worse – just yet.