Starbucks chairman announces free bathrooms and table space for the homeless

The ever well meaning Starbucks chairman, Howie Schultz, more terrified of bad publicity and claims of racism than anything in the world, has just announced a rather customer-unfriendly policy of opening Starbucks bathrooms (as well as table space) to all comers, including people who won't spring for a $4 cup of coffee.  Speaking to the Atlantic Council, according to the Washington Post, Schultz said:

"We don't want to become a public bathroom, but we're going to make the right decision a hundred percent of the time and give people the key," Schultz said, "because we don't want anyone at Starbucks to feel as if we are not giving access to you to the bathroom because you are less than."

Well, yes, you do, Howie.  If you open the bathrooms to all comers, including non-paying customers, you're turning Starbucks into a public bathroom.  How stupid do you think we are?

For those of us who do buy Starbucks coffee, we know what this policy change means: an open invitation to the homeless to bring in hepatitis, trash, used syringes, solicitations for spare change, and all the other detritus of their uncured condition to Starbucks bathrooms.  The fact that Starbucks will be the only business with such a policy means that all of the homeless will concentrate in these outlets.  Rival store-owners and social service agencies will actually direct the homeless to Starbucks outlets for the free services.  Large groups will congregate, and tents will go up.  Moms with strollers drinking lattes and buying their little ones apple sauce in packets will sit cheek to jowl with hardcore drug-addicted homeless and now entertain requests for spare change.

So is Starbucks prepared to corral its baristas into double-duty, non-stop bathroom cleaning from those who choose to camp out on its grounds?  And make coffee for customers at the same time?  Something tells me there aren't enough people for that, given the current labor shortage, which is hitting fast food outlets hardest.  And keep an eye on the website for the other customer-unfriendly effect of constantly cleaning up after the homeless, Starbucks is sure to fill more real estate there.  Sure, the double-duty baristas can wash their hands, but there will always be the one time when someone didn't.

One wonders if what Howie is really saying is that he intends to close outlets – in places where the homeless are concentrated.  Is it that? It's already well known that a Starbucks outlet's presence correlates with rising real estate values.  Perhaps Schultz means to concentrate that trend and will now keep his establishments in only rich areas with no social service outlets that draw the homeless.  Maybe he knows something about a coming housing bust and its effect on real estate values.  Because one can't see Starbucks profiting by opening its outlets to the homeless at the expense of its paying customers, where they will take up table space, filthen the bathrooms, deposit used needles, and bother patrons for spare change.  Some hipster areas might like it, but probably not the outlets on Park Avenue or the suburbs.

Schultz is not stupid and probably knows what he is doing.  It's easy to lean on the baristas for more work in disgusting tasks such as cleaning up after the homeless when they already work extremely hard at making coffee.  I can't see baristas being happy about this, so in any case, so look to unionization efforts to take hold, too.

All because Howie Schultz was terrified of being called a racist by people who weren't even his customers.  Your customers, your work force, your franchisers, and your shareholders will love you for that, Howie.

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