It’s official: No one needs to buy anything to sit inside a Starbucks.
The coffee company’s announcement was sent to all staffers over the weekend. Called the “Third Place Policy,” it reads in part: “We want our 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.”
Starbucks’s new policy specifies that it allows all to use its cafes without making a purchase provided they “use spaces as intended,” are “considerate of others,” communicate “with respect,” and act “responsibly.”
The new directive effectively turns Starbucks into a public space, where anyone can gather for any reason, and as long as they don’t disrupt the peace, can sit for as long as they’d like.
Though it wasn’t official before, many people have long used Starbucks as just such a gathering place, popping in to snag a few minutes of free Wi-Fi, seek shelter from inclement weather, or use the restroom.
But, a little over a month ago it became clear that not all were welcome to use Starbucks as a so-called “third place.” The Seattle-based company has been under fire since a manager at a Starbucks in Philadelphia called the police on two black men who arrived early for a meeting, and were seated in the cafe. One asked to use the bathroom, but was told he couldn’t because he had not purchased anything. The business acquaintance entered just as police began to arrest the men. They were released shortly after; police found no evidence of a crime.
Days of protests followed. The manager who called the police left the company. Around 10 days ago, Starbucks announced its new bathroom policy, in which anyone can use the cafe’s restroom without having to make a purchase.
The coffee company with locations across the globe now also has a new policy for when it recommends staffers call the police. According to the Washington Post, there are eight instances for when an employee or manager should call the police, including: “gas leak or fire, robbery, threat of violence, use or selling illegal drugs and destruction of store property,” according to the Washington Post. There are also new guidelines for how to handle “disruptive behavior,” including “being unreasonably noisy, viewing inappropriate media, verbally abusing people, making unwanted sexual advances and indecent exposure.”
Starbucks employees are to “assess a customer’s behavior — rather than the person alone,” “consider how any decision they make will affect the customer’s experience,” ask a fellow employee to “observe and verify” the behavior or situation, attempt to address the situation directly with the disruptive person or persons by introducing themselves, asking for the individual’s name, and then “listen actively, use a calm tone and respectfully request that they stop the disruptive behavior.” The procedure only instructs staffers to call 911 “if the situation becomes unsafe.”