After inviting criticism from various quarters for having two customers arrested in mid-April allegedly on racial grounds, Starbucks Corp. (SBUX) is shifting into damage control mode. The incident caught widespread attention for the fact that the African Americans were targeted just because one of them wanted to use the restroom at a Starbucks coffee shop in Philadelphia without purchasing anything.
Once the issue started boiling, the company reacted by taking the unprecedented step – it decided to close about 8,000 stores across the country on May 29 in the afternoon to conduct a training session on racial bias for the employees.
Moreover, the company is getting the curriculum for the training program prepared by professionals. In his latest statement, Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz sounded truly committed to making the session the “the beginning of a transformation.”
As per the new policy, to use the restroom in one of the Starbucks stores one need not have to be a customer. While the gesture sounds pretty cool, it doesn’t mean that they won’t be checking who is using the restrooms. According to Schultz, employees have been instructed to give everyone access to restrooms, including those who have not purchased anything.
Starbucks will close about 8,000 stores on May 29 to conduct a training session on racial bias for employees
Meanwhile, Schultz also pointed out that the company does not want its restrooms to become public bathrooms for all, apparently referring to the issue of homeless people visiting the stores with the sole aim of using the restrooms and free Wi-Fi.
Acknowledging that so far the company had a “loose policy” in place for bathroom use, Schultz said it was a “terrible decision” on the part of the sales manager to call the police after the customers who faced arrest last month questioned the denial. “The company, the management and me personally – not the store manager – are culpable and responsible. And we’re the ones to blame,” he added.
A closer look at the whole issue makes one feel it was probably blown out of proportion. It is a widely known fact that retail stores in general keep a check on non-customers seeking admission to their restrooms. In the case of the Starbucks, it is evident that a section of social media users and activists overreacted to the incident, highlighting the racial element.