Ever since the arrest of two black men at a Philadelphia Starbucks last month, the company has been in an all-out p.r. push to bring customers back into the Starbucks fold. The men were arrested because they were waiting on an associate for a business meeting, and had reportedly asked to use the bathroom in the meantime. Last week, Starbucks executive chairman Howard Schultz announced “that Starbucks’ bathrooms will now be open to everyone, whether paying customers or not.” This week, the chain went even further, the chain advised in a letter to employees, according to USA Today and others, “any person who enters our spaces, including patios, cafes and restrooms, regardless of whether they make a purchase, is considered a customer.”
So “any customer is welcome” to spend time in its stores and use the restroom, even if they don’t buy anything, according to CNN. Starbucks wants to be seen as a “third place,” somewhere between work and home, according to its company website. It also, though, doesn’t want to be seen as a public bathroom, according to Schultz, and this line may be tough to identify.
While the chain is trying to be as inclusive as possible, limits need to be drawn somewhere. Basically, people are free to hang out at Starbucks as long as it’s not “disruptive,” according to CNN, in which case, “employees are advised to step in. And for Starbucks workers, enforcing those limits could be tricky,” as “disruptive” is another term that can also be completely subjective. Yesterday, Starbucks told the Wall Street Journal “that employees now have detailed instructions on what to do if someone is behaving in a disruptive manner, such as smoking, using drugs or alcohol, using restrooms improperly or sleeping.” Other sample such behaviors include “customers who are unreasonably loud, watching something inappropriate on a personal device or whose personal hygiene disrupts others.”