STARBUCKS: NONPAYING GUESTS WELCOME…

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Employees told in a letter that everyone is “considered a customer”

Starbucks Corp. SBUX -0.07% said Saturday it is creating an official policy that allows all guests to use its cafes, including its restrooms, whether or not they make a purchase.

The policy comes a month after a Philadelphia manager called the police in April about two black men who asked to use the bathroom without purchasing anything and then allegedly refused to leave the cafe when asked.

Starbucks baristas and store managers have long found the coffee company’s guidelines on how to treat lingering nonpaying guests vague at best. One company executive told the Journal the guidance on nonpaying guests had long been a gray area, which the Philadelphia incident brought to the forefront.

The company said at the time that it had different guidelines for its 28,000 stores globally, depending on the market. The new policy will apply to its more than 8,000 U.S. company-operated cafes.

On Saturday, the company told its employees in a letter that “any person who enters our spaces, including patios, cafes and restrooms, regardless of whether they make a purchase, is considered a customer.”

Under the new policy, when a customer is “behaving in a disruptive manner,” employees should follow the company’s procedure on handling disruptive guests, which will contain some new guidance, a spokesman said. Starbucks didn’t say what that procedure entails or define what constitutes disruptive behavior. If a situation presents an immediate danger or threat to employee or customer safety, Starbucks employees should call 911, the company said.

The two black men arrested on April 12 for sitting at a Philadelphia Starbucks cafe without ordering anything, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, have reached settlements with Starbucks and the city of Philadelphia. The men spent hours in jail before they were released, but no charges were filed. Demonstrators protest outside the Starbucks cafe where the arrests occurred.
The two black men arrested on April 12 for sitting at a Philadelphia Starbucks cafe without ordering anything, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, have reached settlements with Starbucks and the city of Philadelphia. The men spent hours in jail before they were released, but no charges were filed. Demonstrators protest outside the Starbucks cafe where the arrests occurred. PHOTO: RON TODT/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Starbucks said customers should use spaces as intended, be considerate of others, and act responsibly.

During a talk about corporate responsibility at a Washington, D.C., think tank earlier this month, Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz told attendees: “We don’t want to become a public bathroom, but we’re going to make the right decision 100% of the time and give people the key.”

The Philadelphia store where the two black men were ultimately arrested had signs informing people the bathrooms and cafe were for paying customers only. The guidelines at that store were for employees to ask nonpaying guests to leave.

On May 29, Starbucks plans to close its company-operated cafes in the U.S. for the afternoon to provide employees with anti-bias education.

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