At Starbucks, everyone is a customer even if you don’t buy anything. Officially announced earlier today, the coffee giant sent a letter to all cafe managers explaining that all guests, whether they buy anything or not, can sit in the store or use the restroom without having to make a purchase.
Under the new rule, “any person who enters our spaces, including patios, cafes and restrooms, regardless of whether they make a purchase, is considered a customer.” Even though the company operates nearly 28,000 coffee shops worldwide, the new customer policy only applies to the 8,000 U.S-based stores, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
While everyone is now a customer at Starbucks, employees can deal directly with disruptive guests as laid out in the company’s updated procedural manual. Even though the new guidance does not explicitly define disruptive behavior, employees are instructed to call 911 if any guest threatens the safety of any other person in the store.
The new customer policy announced today by Starbucks comes after a controversial incident at a Philadelphia store last month. When two black men, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, went inside a store to use the restroom but did not buy anything, the store manager told them to leave. After refusing, the police were called and they were arrested. Per the store rules at the time, the manager was just following procedure.
After this incident, Starbucks decided it was time to clarify their longstanding ambiguous policy regarding non-paying visitors. Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson also issued an apology to the two men and declared the company is strongly opposed to any kind of discrimination and racial profiling.
Earlier this month, the two men received a $1 symbolic settlement from Philadelphia with a commitment from the city to create a $200,000 grant program for young entrepreneurs. An undisclosed financial award from Starbucks was also given to Nelson and Robinson.
In addition to the clarification announced today by the coffee behemoth, all Starbucks stores in the U.S. will close on May 29 for antibias and racial sensitivity employee training. Per a Vox report, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund president Sherrilyn Ifill, and Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt will be a part of the event.