Starbucks is still digging out of the p.r. nightmare created after an employee at a Philadelphia branch called the police on two black men who arrived early for a meeting there and asked to use the bathroom. CEO Kevin Johnson has been hot on the media circuit doing damage control, and now executive chairman Howard Schultz has announced a change in the chain’s bathroom policy. NPR reports that Schultz stated yesterday “that Starbucks’ bathrooms will now be open to everyone, whether paying customers or not.”
At the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C., Schultz continued, “We don’t want to become a public bathroom, but we’re going to make the right decision 100 percent of the time and give people the key. Because we don’t want anyone at Starbucks to feel as if we are not giving access to you to the bathroom because you are ‘less than.’ We want you to be ‘more than.’” He also described the call that employee made to police a “terrible decision.”
Previously, Schultz stated, the bathroom policy was “loose,” leaving it up to individual store managers to set their own bathroom policy. Obviously, this inconsistency backfired in the case of the two Philadelphia men, so we’ll see what effect this latest Starbucks announcement has on the chain’s now- struggling p.r. To that end, the chain will close 8,000 stores nationwide on the afternoon of May 29 so that staff can undergo training on how to avoid racial bias. Schultz also announced yesterday that Starbucks is bringing in outside consultants to help craft the training, including Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense And Education Fund.