POLL: Will Starbucks’ day of closures bring change?

On Thursday, April 12, Donte Robinson and Rashon Nelson entered a Philadelphia Starbucks location to wait for a friend.

Minutes later, they were in handcuffs.

The recent kerfuffle has made headlines across the nation and sparked outrage in the black community. Other customers videotaped the encounter on their cell phones. The two men entered the Starbucks and sat down without ordering. One of the men asked to use the restroom but was denied by the manager because he hadn’t purchased anything. The manager then called the police after the two men did not leave the location.

The friend that they were waiting on showed up as the men were being handcuffed and questioned the police as to what the men had done to be arrested. Starbucks patrons can be heard on video saying, “They didn’t do anything.”

What do you think of Starbucks’ response?

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In response to the incident, the Starbucks manager is no longer with the company. In addition, on May 29, Starbucks will close more than 8,000 stores across the nation to conduct racial-bias training with nearly 175,000 employees.

So…what do we think of Starbucks’ response? Is it positive? A PR stunt? More of the same?

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of Starbucks’ handling of the situation:

 

PROS

To be clear, this incident wasn’t Starbucks’ fault, but the company has taken it upon itself to oversee the reaction.

Firing the manager was indeed a start, but closing 8,000 stores for racial sensitivity training is taking the responsibility to the next level. For that, the company should be applauded.

The company’s website lists its core values as such:

  •       Creating a culture of warmth and belonging, where everyone is welcome.
  •       Acting with courage, challenging the status quo and finding new ways to grow our company and each other.
  •       Being present, connecting with transparency, dignity and respect.
  •       Delivering our very best in all we do, holding ourselves accountable for results.

Those core values were certainly not on display during this recent incident, so it was up to the company to respond based on those core values. We’ve all visited our local Starbucks, to grab a coffee or to meet with friends. It does have the ability to serve as a welcome place. When that label was in danger of being stripped, the company acted.

Starbucks could also be blazing a trail with its latest action. When one of the largest retail companies in the nation takes action to this extent, people and organizations take notice. This move has the potential to influence the response of other organizations in the face of discrimination.

 

CONS

Once again, the thinking is reactive instead of proactive.

Although Starbucks took a positive step, it remains one step. A comprehensive plan to implement racial-sensitivity training into all of its hiring processes could create a greater shift than a nationwide closure.

What happens after that ONE day of store closures? How can black consumers measure whether a change has occurred based off of that single event? What is the SECOND step?

Unfortunately, despite its positive intentions, the conversation is now more about the closing of 8,000 stores than the goal itself. Instead of “Starbucks is taking a stand against discrimination,” the dialogue sounds more like, “Starbucks is closing 8,000 stores for a day.”

In short, the reaction could be seen as short-sighted, an attempt for Starbucks to quickly save face instead of implementing a plan that could promote change within the company and beyond for an extended period of time.