Starbucks Redefines ‘Customer’ Ahead of Racial Bias Training


Starbucks diversity

Starbucks has formally changed its definition of a customer, issuing a new policy to its partners (employees), according to the Associated Press on Saturday. According to the AP, the policy states that everyone is welcome in a Starbucks store, including being seated and using restrooms, regardless of whether or not a purchase has been made.

The memo reportedly stated that its old policies were “loose and ambiguous,” which left no clear guidelines and too much room for interpretation by managers and employees, leading to incidents like the Philadelphia situation which saw a store manager call the police on two young African-American men waiting for a friend.

Now, “Any customer is welcome to use Starbucks spaces, including our restrooms, cafes and patios, regardless of whether they make a purchase. When using a Starbucks space, we respectfully request that customers behave in a manner that maintains a warm and welcoming environment,” the policy reads.

The new open policy was hinted at during a recent award ceremony for Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz, and comes just weeks after two black men, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, were arrested and escorted out of a Philadelphia Starbucks on April 12. The men hadn’t ordered anything yet, because they were waiting for a friend to arrive.

Protestors and backlash hit Starbucks after the incident gained massive traction on social media. CEO Kevin Johnson issued another apology video stating, “I will fix this.”

Less than a week later, another video surfaced alleging that a white non-paying customer was given the code to the restroom while a black customer was denied the same information. And on Tuesday, Starbucks issued another apology after a racial slur was written on a customer’s cup in place of their name.

In response to the accusations of racial discrimination, Starbucks plans to close all of its U.S. stores on the afternoon of May 29 for racial bias training to all employees, making diversity and fair treatment for all a pillar of its brand values and customer experience going forward.