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The coffee chain has clarified who it considers a customer and issued a code of conduct for Starbucks stores.

Adam Campbell-Schmitt
May 21, 2018

In the weeks since the controversial arrest of two black men who were accused of loitering while waiting to meet a business associate at a Philadelphia Starbucks, the coffee company has clarified its policies, redefining who the company sees as a customer. Earlier this month, Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz issued a new standard for access to the chain's bathrooms and over the weekend expanded the reach of that rule to the entire Starbucks store experience with a letter sent to all 8,000-plus retail locations. Here's are five things to know about Starbucks' updated customer policy:

Starbucks' new definition of "customer"

Rather than basing the distinction on whether or not someone has purchased anything from a Starbucks store, the newly clarified policy defines anyone utilizing Starbucks facilities, be they indoors or outdoors, as being a customer, regardless of their intent to purchase anything.

Starbucks commits to being a "third place"

According to the posted policy, Starbucks wants its "stores to be the third place, a warm and welcoming environment where customers can gather and connect. Any customer is welcome to use Starbucks spaces, including our restrooms, cafes and patios, regardless of whether they make a purchase." That "third place" terminology is given to gathering spaces outside of home and work that facilitate community interaction. Churches, libraries, shopping malls, and parks, also fit this category. Increasingly, as malls and libraries wane in foot traffic, locations like Starbucks and Panera have taken over this role.

Starbucks bathrooms are also open to anyone

Earlier this month, Schultz first clarified the bathroom policy at Starbucks stores, which he said would allow anyone, regardless of purchasing anything, access to the bathroom.

Starbucks customer code of conduct

However, in addition to reeducating employees as to who they should treat as customers, Starbucks has also issued guidelines for how it expects those customers, paying and non-paying, to behave while on premises. Starbucks asks that customers maintain "a warm and welcoming environment" by:

  • Using spaces as intended
  • Being considerate of others
  • Communicating with respect
  • Acting responsibly

When Starbucks employees should call 9-1-1

Accompanying the email from Schultz, Starbucks stores were also provided with new guidelines for handling disruptive situations before resorting to calling the authorities. Situations that simply violate the above customer conduct rules are to be handled by employees, with a fellow employee observing any interactions with disruptive customers. Employees can be expected to call the police when there are direct physical threats or assaults on persons or store property (in addition to things like robberies, fires, drugs being used, etc.).

Beyond the new policies, Starbucks is also set to close over 8,000 of its company-operated stores on the afternoon of Tuesday, May 29 to conduct racial bias training, in the wake of the Philadelphia arrest incident.

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