Note to Readers: These are my personal views. I do not work for Starbucks, nor have I received anything free from Starbucks. Ever. I have spent a significant amount of years in the public sector working in management, as an advocate, and as a consultant. I love reviewing systemic issues and creating thoughtful meaningful ways to resolve them (as best one can). I’m a policy wonk, and I hate partisan politics, ancient ideologies, and lazy, poorly thought-out social justice strategies . I’m a free thinker, and an innovative free spirit who believes you must learn history to avoid repeating the same mistakes.
**********This post is NOT an endorsement of Starbucks!**********
I like Starbucks fairly well. If I have my first choice for coffee on an out of town business trip, I don’t have to wonder whether their coffee is what I need to get my day started. If I am on a road trip, I look for a Starbucks logo on the highways to help me determine when to stop for my own edification and pleasure. Some of their coffees are pretty expensive, but I don’t buy those types of drinks. Every now and then I will grab a breakfast sandwich and they are okay. Other than the coffee, one of the main reasons I like Starbucks is because they silently give second chances to ex-offenders with no fan fare of news coverage.
Some people and some advocacy groups are calling for boycotts at local Starbucks stores. I am not in agreement with this form of advocacy. It’s shortsighted, and hurts the little person long-term.
I’m sure by now many of you have seen all of the news coverage and backlash about Starbucks and the two African-American men arrested in Philadelphia for trespassing. The manager called the police because the men were sitting in the store without making a purchase, like so many of us have done. For the record, I wholeheartedly disagree with selectively applying Starbucks’ store policies pertaining to bathroom usage and the use of premises with/without purchases. I am not sure if Starbucks’ policy at that store was displayed for consumers in plain view, but I haven’t heard anyone say that it was.
If I found myself in a similar situation with the manager telling me store policies did not allow me to sit and wait on a guest without making a store purchase, I would have: (1) Asked to see the store policy in writing, (2) Asked why this policy isn’t enforced uniformly at other Starbucks around the nation. If the confrontation continued, I would (3) Buy the cheapest thing I could, or (4) Leave. That would have been my chosen method for handling the situation, but the young men chose a different method to handle the matter. It was their right. I have heard a lot of people offer “If it were them” scenarios, but no one knows what they would do in such a situation until it happens to them.
The Starbucks manager who utilized the city’s emergency response system to have these young men removed from the store likely has serious power tripping issues that go far beyond Starbucks.
How many times have you ever gone out to meet someone, got a table, and not ordered anything until they have arrived, regardless of your skin color? And what if your party is late for God sakes? At some restaurants, you aren’t able to be seated until all the parties of the group have arrived which I thought was a pain in the ass, but I have never cut the hell up about it. I Additionally, I have never been tossed from a restaurant or business for simply waiting for a guest, nor have I had the police called on me.
I’m a woman, so I can’t say I know what that’s like. But my sons do. It’s a part of life for some men and people of color in the world. Some people working in management and leadership positions with pre-existing prejudices (known and unknown) are given some power which creates the perfect storm for bad PR, lawsuits, and a new reputation of being a racist business. I am not angry at Starbucks. The entire organization is presently suffering for the actions of a few (or in this case one) prejudiced bad apple.
Starbucks has done a number of things to demonstrate efforts of being an inclusive employer and business such as:
(1) Hiring ex-offenders. Yes, Starbucks hires people that have been to jail or prison under the Fair Chance Business Pledge, giving them the opportunity to start over. This includes African American men. I know a few who have gotten their resets at Starbucks. It’s one of the main reasons I go there before I go anywhere else for coffee. Boycotting them means the most incarcerated group in the United States could possibly lose out on future job prospects in an already non-existent job market. There are not many businesses jumping to hire Black ex-offenders. Consider this wholeheartedly before you protest.
(2) Hiring lots of minorities. I’ve gone to Starbucks Coffee Shops all over the country. They always have diverse employee pools. I often find that the employment pools in some areas tend to make up the demographic composition of the area of the restaurant. Boycotting Starbucks stores locally could lead to fewer minorities being hired at the local levels in the future. Conducting a national boycott of local Starbucks stores could cause African American employees along with other minority groups to lose pay, possibly get laid off, and reduce their current/future benefits. The impact of the boycotts will be felt by the employees immediately, not Starbucks.
(3) Offering good benefits. Although it’s taken a minute for Starbucks to offer competitive hourly wages, they’ve been pretty generous with their employee benefits considering these cut-throat times we live in, and considering service industries jobs tend to be some of the lowest paying jobs in the nation. Health care for part-time and full-time employees to include coverage for domestic partners, maternity leave, etc., full college tuition reimbursement. Many minorities employed by Starbucks benefiting from these offerings will be impacted by a boycott. It’s like cutting off your nose despite your face.
In my honest opinion, the only person we can control is ourselves. If you have children, no matter how much you discipline, fuss, punish, and lecture, your kids still have their own minds, their own wills and they do absolutely whatever they want when they want regardless of how you feel sometimes. Some businesses unknowingly hire bad. National and international companies hire what looks good on paper, and perhaps what is palatable in person, without conducting proper cognitive and psychological testing to ensure they are hiring the best people for the job, especially when the job deals with people. Because we all have biases it is important for employers to know whether their prospective managers and executive leadership have biases that could cause their business harm.
There is nothing a one day training is going to do except make board minutes look good, perhaps assist with liability insurance issues and current/future discrimination lawsuits, and pacify absolutely no one. Employed racist (when I say racist I mean any person of any ethnicity with racial biases against other groups) for Starbucks or any corporation for this matter will not get anything from a one-day training on unconscious racial bias. It takes a lifetime for most folks to learn these behaviors and develop these biased beliefs.
Starbucks itself did nothing wrong in my opinion. Starbucks is a business, just like any other business. They’ve made lots of efforts to have an inclusive, diverse business model. With that said, there is always more that can be done, but what exactly does that look like? How do you police people who have the propensity to hide their deepest, darkest inner-most thoughts, but when put in a position of power, those secret biases manifest in the creation of policies meant to exclude and in biased hiring practices. How do you bring attention to Starbucks’ business model flaws without hurting the high school and college students, ex-offenders, minorities, young adults and even senior citizens that rely on this business for their income and benefits?
I don’t know all the answers, but I do know boycotting Starbucks is not the answer. Even the young men arrested by Starbucks have indicated boycotting IS NOT the right solution.
What is your suggestion? What are your alternatives to boycotting?
Thank you for reading!