Getting your morning java at Starbucks on the way to work may be more difficult on May 29th, especially if you stop in sometime in the afternoon. The company has announced that they will close all 8,000 American stores for the afternoon to provide “bias training” to employees after an incident where a caucasian worker called police on a group of African Americans for loitering without buying anything.
• The incident, which occurred last week at a location in Philadelphia, saw a caucasian staff member refuse to allow two African-American men access to the bathroom without buying anything. The men then sat down and refused to leave, indicating that they were there to meet a friend.
• The staff member then telephoned police, who came to the location and arrested the two men, removing them from the location. Customers at the Starbucks responded vehemently as the arrest occurred, asserting that the two men hadn’t done anything wrong and should be left alone.
• A customer who was present at the location during the arrest videotaped the entire scene and later posted it on the Internet, where it immediately gained viral traction. Starbucks came under extreme pressure from the public in the days following, with many calling for a boycott.
• The employee who originally made the call to police “mutually parted ways” with Starbucks a short time later. Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson met with the two men who were arrested, personally apologizing and labeling the arrests “reprehensible.”
• Starbucks indicated that training topics would include unconscious bias training and other strategies for making the chain more socially responsible in how they interact with people of color.
• Not everyone agrees that Starbucks should have this responsibility. Restaurant industry John Gordon, who works for Pacific Management Consulting Group, reminded people that with 8,000 stores, it’s virtually impossible to be as perfect as the chain makes themselves out to be.
• Gordon also cautioned the public to be patient with Starbucks, saying there has to “…be a situation every day where some human being handles things wrong.” He also added that, “Even with a huge operations manual that lays out what to say and what to do, you can’t cover everything.”
• M.J. McCallum, creative director of Muse Communications, applauded the chain for their efforts, but was quick to remind people of what he felt was platitudes. “But the question is, how can Starbucks have this program and not have it be viewed as “Training people on how to deal with black people?”