Former Starbucks Employee: Why The 'New' Bathroom Policy Is A Steaming Cup Of Fail

Authored by Audrey Conklin

For the year I worked at Starbucks, my manager made it very clear to all the partners at our location that the store’s two bathrooms were for paying customers only. (Starbucks calls its employees “partners” because they get an annual share in the company stock, among other reasons).

Like many other Starbucks stores, we set a four-digit code on the bathroom locks so they couldn’t be accessed by just anybody. Paying customers had to ask for the code. And it changed every couple of weeks, so even regular customers had to ask. But there were good reasons behind this mandatory system that has recently been changed to allow non-paying customers to use Starbucks bathrooms, too.

First, the store I worked at was the third busiest in the entire city of Boston, located next door to Mass General Hospital, two large hotels, a train station and a residential neighborhood. The street was also home to many homeless people who slept beneath store awnings and private doorways in early hours of the morning when we opened.

In Boston, it’s illegal to offer shelter to people abusing substances. The Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) and Emergency Assistance (EA) are legally allowed to perform drug tests on those they believe to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol at shelters. Therefore, those who do have alcoholism problems or drug addictions often make the conscious choice to pitch up outside in public areas.

There were regular vagabonds who walked into our store wanting a cup of water, a warmer (or cooler) climate and to use the bathroom. Of course, bathrooms were off limits to everyone but paying customers. And when the homeless loitered in our store and refused to leave, our friends at the fire department or police station down the road would help us escort them out.

The issue was more than just cleanliness or comfort for paying customers; the main reason we weren’t allowed to let the homeless use our bathrooms was because my manager had seen multiple instances in which homeless people had gone into the bathrooms before the codes were put into place, or when they waited outside long enough for a customer to walk out and catch the door before it closed, and then locked themselves inside for so long that we had to call the fire department.

Substance abusers - often homeless - have ruined bathroom opportunities for everyone; businesses cannot take the chance. Those homeless people who take advantage of bathrooms in busy coffee shops and the like use the facilities to do drugs, drink, sleep and sometimes worse.

There were times when I had to give desperate-looking strangers the awkward line, “Our bathroom is for paying customers only.” There were also times, however, when a woman would rush into the store in tourist gear and ask if her child could use the bathroom in broken English and I would break the rules and give her the code. But I wouldn’t give the code to a suspicious-looking person, and by suspicious-looking I mean lacking general manners, the ability to walk in a straight line and cleanliness.

When it comes to making a decision of trust, it should go without saying that some people look more trustworthy than others. The old rules encouraged partners to deny non-paying customers access to the bathroom, regardless of race or ethnicity.

The bathroom policy changed as a continuation of attempts by Starbucks to save its reputation when, last month, a store manager at a Philadelphia branch denied two black men access to the bathroom because they hadn’t purchased anything. When the men waited around afterward for their friend, the manager made a rather impulsive decision — that many blame on her unconscious racial bias — to call the police. When the police arrived at the scene, a bystander recorded the civil encounter in which the police arrest the two men for loitering.

The video went viral quickly. On the surface, it seems to have reached millions of viewers because so many people relate to the issue of micro- and macro-aggressions like this one, but if you look closely, the video went viral because it’s actually ridiculous. Blame it on the manager’s racial bias if you want — I don’t know the reason why she decided to call the police — but I believe the video went viral because things like this actually don’t happen that often and people become fascinated and angry in the rare event that such events do happen.

When the news reached Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson, he came out with this public statement: “The video shot by customers is very hard to watch and the actions in it are not representative of our Starbucks Mission and Values. Creating an environment that is both safe and welcoming for everyone is paramount for every store.”

The statement continues: “Regretfully, our practices and training led to a bad outcome — the basis for the call to the Philadelphia police department was wrong. Our store manager never intended for these men to be arrested and this should never have escalated as it did.”

And yet the situation did escalate and continues to escalate further, largely due to public outcry, which leads us to my second point.

After the incident, Starbucks announced that it would close over 8,000 of its stores on May 28, 2018, so its partners could participate in implicit bias training, which most agree isn’t a real solution to the issue at stake. Rather, it was a public display of Starbucks making active plans to address a problem instead of just issuing an apology.

Weeks after the bias training announcement, Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz announced on May 11 that Starbucks changed its bathroom policy so that store restroom facilities are now open to “all.” But Schultz made it clear that Starbucks does not “want to become a public bathroom.” Instead, the company is “going to make the right decision 100 percent of the time and give people the key, 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.”

In this case, Schultz is using “100 percent of the time” as a euphemism for “public bathroom,” because, of course, Starbucks does not want to become known as the public restroom place — not among its $7 lattés, prepackaged protein bistro boxes and ceramic thermoses.

It’s not about compassion for people who need to use a bathroom. Starbucks will always apologize profusely in response to events like this one to avoid lawsuits and an overall unpopular reputation among the millennial masses who invest so much in their business. Unfortunately, this heavy complacency can only make the occasional social issues that arise next to its name more difficult from here on. The next time Starbucks goes under fire, it will be because someone was denied access to a bathroom.

And with that, we come to my third and final point that bathrooms should be something of a luxury at places like Starbucks for paying customers and employees only. Water, plumbing, electricity and general maintenance do not come at a small price. And Starbucks isn’t paying that price. Its customers are.

Customers are not only paying for the coffee; they are paying for the heat and air conditioning, tables, accessible WiFi and bathrooms. Partners are paid to keep the place clean and comfortable for customers who spend literal hours studying, working, and holding meetings in the store. It seems like a fair trade to me.

It doesn’t seem like a fair trade to me, however, if I pay $5 for my drink and then have to wait in line with a bunch of random tourists who just walked in wanting to use the single-family bathroom without buying anything. It also doesn’t seem like a fair trade if I’m paid to clean a bathroom that has been used for the wrong reasons by people who don’t care about the fact that it’s my job to clean up after them.

I would say that I hope store managers will continue to use their best judgment with their backs turned to Starbucks’ new bathroom policy to decide who should and should not have access to their bathrooms, but that would probably result in another viral video, national outrage, and more policy changes.

So I’ll just leave it at this: The bathroom policy should have never been altered.


FireBrander ParkAveFlasher Tue, 05/15/2018 - 10:43 Permalink

All of those White people, in a StarBucks full of Whites, were upset that two Black "Gentlemen" were escorted out by the Poelice "because they were Black".

$1000, says, those same White people walk into a Starbucks where 99% of the customers are "Black Gentlemen"...and they turn around and leave..or get the order "to go"...or force themselves to sit down to prove to themselves/world that "they're not racist"...but secretly are very uncomfortable.

In reply to by ParkAveFlasher

FireBrander HenryKissinger… Tue, 05/15/2018 - 10:51 Permalink

..Howard Schultz restroom facilities are now open to “all.” But Schultz made it clear that Starbucks does not “want to become a public bathroom.” Instead, the company is “going to make the right decision 100 percent of the time and give people the key



Well almost all.

Well, we're going to keep the "key" system because, well, it's not really going to be open to "all"...we're just going to try and not make any mistakes in "discriminating"; we're aiming for 100% accuracy in "discrimination"...we only want to discriminate against people that are powerless to fight back and that "everyone would agree" don't belong in a StarBucks...

In reply to by HenryKissinger…

California Nig… Bubba Rum Das Tue, 05/15/2018 - 16:30 Permalink

Starbucks customers will find more homeless people spending a long time in the restroom washing their clothes and bathing. 

They will  find that homeless people aim poorly and often shit on the toilet seat and floor. 

Starbucks will find that employees won't keep a $12 per hour job if it is partly a disgusting job of cleaning shitters every half hour. 

Next up, Starbucks will no longer expel crazed people who sit at tables for hours, talking to themselves, hollering, and shrieking and annoying and frightening paying customers.

In reply to by Bubba Rum Das

waspwench California Nig… Tue, 05/15/2018 - 21:56 Permalink

Starbucks will find that their customer base - white, clean, quiet, middle-class - will melt away.

Virtue signalling liberals do not like dirty, noisy, druggies and alcholics and they like clean restrooms (don't want to catch anything nasty.)

Between Seattle's homeless tax and their new bathroom policy Starbucks is discovering that there is a lot to be said for middle-class customers.   All that PC stuff is seriously inconvenient.

In reply to by California Nig…

Stuck on Zero ???ö? Tue, 05/15/2018 - 12:09 Permalink

I'll repeat my prediction. The only way to maintain cities as viable systems is to exclude leeches and parasites. Criminals, drug users, or anyone caught in a city without a means of support is kicked out into the countryside. Rome did it, Russia, China, etc. etc. If you don't do this cities eventually fill up with so much human garbage that the good citizens bail out and the city is left to die. Detroit, Baltimore, ...

In reply to by ???ö?

Kidbuck Malleus Maleficarum Tue, 05/15/2018 - 13:28 Permalink

Most cities are dumps

Go 2 blocks in any direction from the National Mall in D.C. and the streets and sidewalks are all cracked and bumpy, haven't been cleaned or properly resurfaced since Truman's administration. Under all the bridges and on every flat open surface is a twenty year coating of pidgen shit. That our congress critters tolerate this speaks volumes. Yeah, I know DC is run by the Mayor but no intelligent person expects him to act like a responsible adult. Doesn't congress have some oversight?

In reply to by Malleus Maleficarum

Robocop5626 ???ö? Tue, 05/15/2018 - 21:25 Permalink

They should mandate all Starbucks be located inside Target stores. Since both have issues with their facilities, perhaps together they could achieve a synergistic solution that helps both brands. Plus, Starbucks partners could shop in between the incessant bathroom cleansing sprees.

In reply to by ???ö?

Bubba Rum Das holmes Tue, 05/15/2018 - 11:36 Permalink

The next thing you know, there will be piss everywhere & shit all over the walls, like the bathrooms in gas stations...

Why? Because 'Social Progress' & 'Cultural Marxism'.

You know, what the millennial's are programmed with at the University's today, instead of fact based logical decision making capabilities. Which has produced a generation of extremely easily controlled political morons.

In reply to by holmes

MarsInScorpio holmes Tue, 05/15/2018 - 13:39 Permalink


From here on I wouldn't touch that key or use their bathrooms unless I'm wearing gloves.

And don't forget the seat cover . . .

However, what I find most intriguing is the CoB going off with some virtue signaling about making the right decision "100% of the time."

No decision is being made; the CoB has instituted a policy which is an order to always do a certain task a certain way. And in this case it is that the task of giving out the key is mandated 100% of the time.

Of course, the hypocrisy of this is that if they truly wanted to have an "open access" restroom, then why is there a key  . . . ?

Put another way, is there any circumstance when you do not hand out the key?

It appears the CoB, being a slimy snake, has tossed the decision of not handing out the key back to the store manager - because he didn't specify the circumstances when you don't get the key.

"Now kids, this is today's lesson on 'How psychotic sociopaths rise to the top of the corporate ladder.' They just pass the buck back down the line so that when it all blows up again, the CoB can say he never said when you don't hand out the key."

If I worked for Starbucks, I'd just hand out the key 100% of the time, and let the disaster occur by following corporate policy. 

As someone else noted, wait until dead bodies start showing up in Starbucks. or some violent homeless person kills someone, or . . .

In reply to by holmes

Walking Turtle MarsInScorpio Tue, 05/15/2018 - 19:48 Permalink

"Now kids, this is today's lesson on 'How psychotic sociopaths rise to the top of the corporate ladder..."

Hey waitwaitaminnit...  Glimmer uvva' clue...  CoB is the *STAR*, and thus has risen to their ZENITH by passing all the Right *Bucks*...  I think I gottit

What went up...  HAZDA' come DOWN.  Short Starbucks fer sure.

Fact:  The frkn' situation frkn' "Reads" like a frkn' limerick.  From HELL.  Stayin' HOME with MY coffee. 

Because:  Brighter+faster+cheaper=BETTER!  And that is all.  0{;-)o[

In reply to by MarsInScorpio

NoBillsOfCredit FireBrander Tue, 05/15/2018 - 11:28 Permalink

"we only want to discriminate against people that are powerless to fight back" Mr. FireBrander, do you let just anyone who knocks on your door or is homeless just come in any time they want and use your restroom? No? Why not? "powerless to fight back? my ass. You should read the article and if you cannot see the logic therein. I doubt you own or work in a business that deals directly with the public.

In reply to by FireBrander

FireBrander NoBillsOfCredit Tue, 05/15/2018 - 11:39 Permalink

If the cops drag a "Black Gentleman" out of a Starbucks, the White people "Gasp" and protest while the NAACP fires up the extortion machine.

If the Cops drag a homeless drug addict, any color, out of a Starbucks, the Whites are all smiles and no one gives a shit.

Starbucks' mission is to do a better job at "discrimination"; kick out people that no one cares about and can't/won't fight back.

Maybe you need to "read the article" and think about what it says...

In reply to by NoBillsOfCredit

Kidbuck FireBrander Tue, 05/15/2018 - 12:54 Permalink

Well tough shit if you aren't allowed to use somebody elses rest room. If you insist on looking like a dirty bum you should  get treated like one. Character and degree of civilization and degree of soberness can usually be discerned by body language, attitude, neatness and cleanliness and the cloths you are wearing. The employees should be allowed to decide who they will serve. If you don't like it go build your own damn restroom. 

In reply to by FireBrander

Snaffew FireBrander Tue, 05/15/2018 - 10:54 Permalink

yup, and those white people won't put themselves in the position of being accused of loitering either.  They'll just hightail it out of there.  Sometimes, it seems like people of one race or another do things to incite an expected response, then they cry about it when it happens.

In reply to by FireBrander

Jesus von Einstein FireBrander Tue, 05/15/2018 - 11:36 Permalink

Had they been white, and repeatedly refused to buy anything, or obey police requests to leave {without being arrested} these same Leftists would be cheering on the cops. 

The lie about 'white racists' is halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its pants.

As to Starbucks bathrooms, the one near me became a "shooting gallery" - junkies who did their deal inside, shot up in the bathroom, and hung around outside. 

The two black gentlemen who refused to buy anything and were meeting someone for a 'real estate deal' - any follow up?  Twenty bucks says they have criminal records.  I hope someone out there digs to find out. 

In reply to by FireBrander

lincolnsteffens FireBrander Tue, 05/15/2018 - 12:59 Permalink

This is the way of the world. Tribe vs. Tribe and it is about time people start to admit it. Time to stop calling each other names and instead discuss from a psychological and societal dynamic of fact and work out a slow change that people's automatic flight or fight mechanisms can deal with. The problem with groups like Soros funds is the imperative to change NOW no matter what the cost. It wouldn't hurt to educate people about other people's ways of life and the historical/geographical reasons for their differing customs.

In reply to by FireBrander