Starbucks Changes Sitting, Restroom Policy

Andrew Donaldson

Andrew Donaldson

Born and raised in West Virginia, Andrew has since lived and traveled around the world several times over. Though frequently writing about politics out of a sense of duty and love of country, most of the time he would prefer discussions on history, culture, occasionally nerding on aviation, and his amateur foodie tendencies. He can usually be found misspelling/misusing words on Twitter @four4thefire and his writing website Yonder and Home.

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21 Responses

  1. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    I think this is a small town versus big city thing. In most small towns where I’ve lived, there was the place that people hung around and jawboned in the mornings while trying to get themselves going. Sometimes, it was a diner or coffee shop. In the town where I grew up, it was my family’s hardware store. Sure, sometimes they bought something, or they just drank coffee and talked till they felt it was time to go to work. I later worked in a grocery store where people would come in, buy a cup of coffee, and talk for two hours. But it was good business because it made for loyal customers and it made the place a resource for the community. But in most big cities I’ve been to, public spaces are kept strictly “for customers only”, which is a way of saying “homeless guys stay out”. In the small towns, you didn’t really have the same homeless issue.Report

    • Avatar Em Carpenter in reply to Rufus F. says:

      I realize that some are legit concerned about crowding and inconvenience but there’s an unsettling undertone to some of the criticism that is something like “poor people should not participate in society.” Sitting around chatting in a Starbucks is part of our culture, even if not a super important one. Not wanting THOSE people in “our” spaces is part of the issue. I’m not saying that the folks quote tweeted here are thinking that, but I do think some people have that concern, even if subconsciously.Report

  2. Avatar Murali says:

    I have two conflicting intuitions.

    1. I think that there is a norm that if you are going to occupy a table you should have made at least one purchase. If you are waiting for a friend and will later buy something, still buy something first. If you can’t afford even a single extra cup of coffee, I don’t see what business you have being in that coffee shop.

    2. If you’re out in the middle of nowhere and the inn/bar/cafe has the only available toilet and you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go. There have been times when I have been driving along back roads and am far from any rest stop that I have been glad that the local pub will let me use their toilet.

    Allowing anyone to use your toilet can create a lot of good will. But only so long as everyone abides by the norm to use tables and toilets only if you’re a customer except in really urgent situations.Report

  3. Avatar Damon says:

    I’m sure Starbucks will be lauded by many people..including the homeless, who now have a very nice play to stay when the weather turns cold. Question is whether or not the paying customers will mind.Report

  4. Avatar Chip Daniels says:

    Left unsaid:
    “We needed to have a policy like this since our managers obviously cannot be trusted to exercise wisdom and discernment.”Report

    • Avatar pillsy in reply to Chip Daniels says:


      “We need to have a policy like this because when our managers fail to exercise wisdom and discernment, they call the police, who we trust even less to exercise wisdom and discernment.”Report

  5. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I am not someone who drinks coffee. I also don’t own a television. I am also a vegan.

    That said, this strikes me as a policy that will give many Starbucks employees a bad day or two over the next week or so, but, if I had to guess, the overwhelming majority of Starbucks had this policy before today. So after this blows over after a dozen news cycles or so (about a week? Maybe two?), everything will be more or less back to normal after the performative protestors finish their performative sit-ins.Report

    • Avatar J_A in reply to Jaybird says:

      …but, if I had to guess, the overwhelming majority of Starbucks had this policy before today. So after this blows over after a dozen news cycles or so (about a week? Maybe two?), everything will be more or less back to normal after the performative protestors finish their performative sit-ins.

      My personal guess is this is true. For weird geographical reasons the Starbucks in my very gentrified, very yuppie, Houston inner ring suburb, with plenty of couples walking their dogs, jogging mums pushing three wheel strollers and a drive thru a mile long has always had homeless people from a nearby (like 10 blocks ) city refuge.

      They come in, get a glass of water, sit for a couple of hours, escape the heat, charge their phones, and go. They are familiar faces. Sometimes they engage in small talk with other patrons.

      Significantly, my Starbucks replaced the Male and Female restrooms with two equally open to all restrooms at the time Target got into trouble late in the Obama Era. I thought it was a corporate thing and was surprised to find out most Starbucks still have separate genders restrooms. So apparently I’m blessed with woke Starbucks managers.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 in reply to J_A says:

        Is that the Starbucks across the street from the Starbucks? 🙂

        Or did one of them finally close…Report

        • Avatar J_A in reply to Morat20 says:

          Nope. Those are still in the West Gray shopping plaza next to River Oaks. Mine is the Garden Oaks/Oak Forest one (GOOF for short hehe)

          Different Oaks, but I can understand the confusionReport

    • Avatar PD Shaw in reply to Jaybird says:

      For anyone who doesn’t drink coffee, I recommend Starbucks.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to PD Shaw says:

        Starbucks is not really about coffee. There coffee tastes fairly horrible in my view (and the views of many others). Felix Salmon calls Starbucks a “third space” business. A place that is not your home and not the office where you can meet people to work, discuss business, etc. Or work by yourself.Report

  6. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    So now I have a place to go where there’s no threat of running into Sonny Bunch?Report

  7. Whatever Starbucks’s official policy is, I’m sure there are ways to subtly discourage non-patrons from staying.Report

  8. Avatar J_A says:

    Whatever Starbucks’s official policy is, I’m sure there are ways to subtly discourage non-patrons from staying.

    Going back to my own comment above about homeless people in my Starbucks, these people are cautious not to overstay their welcome. They are aware and mindful of how crowded the place is and move away if they think the space is needed for paying customers. Likewise, we all know they use the bathrooms to freshen up, but they don’t make a mess of it.

    Starbucks is a precious resource for them, and they manage it appropriatelyReport

    • Avatar J_A in reply to J_A says:

      Actually at Starbucks right now – There’s one of our regular homeless persons sitting next to me. He’s charging his phone,and minding his business

      I’m glad he has a safe place to go to – Summer started on Saturday here in Houston – Six months of dreadful weather in front of usReport

  9. Avatar InMD says:

    I don’t think this is much of a change from what most starbucks currently do. My guess is that is why it was so easy. Still, I think Starbucks should be lauded for how they handled the situation. I don’t understand why people keep beating them up over it from whatever perspective.Report

  10. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    Oh Sonny Bunch, do you know how not to be a horrible person?

    I think Tod is right for what it’s worth. This will generate sales for Starbucks in the long run.Report

  11. Avatar Jesse says:

    The irony of talks of liberal elitism considering the responses shown here.Report

  12. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Clarifications Given:

    Starbucks on Monday emphasized in communications with The Wall Street Journal that employees have detailed instructions on what to do if someone is behaving in a disruptive manner. It said disruptive behaviors include smoking, drug or alcohol use, improper use of restrooms and sleeping.