My neighborhood is all abuzz about being at the center of what’s become a national embarrassment for Starbucks, our city and my little neighborhood.
On Friday, I saw the following tweet from the Philadelphia Police:
This first got my attention because it’s my local Starbucks. It’s a block and a half from my house. It’s where I get my coffee when I am too lazy to make it at home. Sometimes I go there to study, just to get out of the house. I started to dig in when I saw this tweet, to learn more about the incident.
This video captures the part of the story where the police first enter the Starbucks. The account of the entire incident, from the moment the men entered the store, is not on video. Apparently there was nothing video-worthy about two men walking into Starbucks.
When police arrived, the Starbucks employee told them two men had asked to use the restroom, but were told they couldn’t, because they hadn’t purchased anything. The men allegedly refused to leave after being asked to do so by Starbucks employees. The police also report that the two men refused to leave after being asked by officers.
In the video both the police and the two men were calm and orderly. I thought long and hard about if I could have remained so calm. I don’t think I would have. I would have been furious if the store manager asked me to leave, and I would have been outraged if the police were called. I also don’t know if I would have gotten up to leave if the police told me to. I mean, when someone with a gun tells you to do something…
Then again, the chances are pretty good that none of this would have happened to me. The Starbucks employee would probably have given me the code. If they initially declined, I would have explained that I was waiting for someone (maybe, oh, I don’t know, someone who had offered to meet and buy me a coffee.) I feel pretty confident that I would have been able to use the bathroom while waiting for a friend or colleague.
I have been in that Starbucks hundreds of times and the only time I ever saw a manager say anything to someone loitering in one of the chairs, was to ask a customer to stay awake. This particular frequent customer has a habit of falling asleep in his chair. He’s white, by the way.
I also wonder if this would have gone differently if there were not cell phone cameras and the risk of the inevitable social media sharing that would follow. There is no yelling or threatening from anyone. Everyone remains very calm.
Everyone seems to have an opinion about this, some blaming Starbucks, some blaming the Philly Police, and some saying there just must be more to this story, that this can’t be all there is to it.
So far, though, first hand accounts indicate there is actually not much more to the story. Everyone was calm and orderly, almost oddly so, given the circumstances.
The Philadelphia Police defend their actions, and the service they provided that day.
Starbucks on the other hand, has apologized, and decided not to prosecute the men.
If Starbucks has a policy about loitering or bathroom use, that is their right to do so. That enforcement, however, needs to be consistent, regardless of store location or kind of customer. One could argue that all of the social media buzz and noise aside, the facts do seem simple; the men were breaking the rules, the Starbucks employee was enforcing the policy, and the police were doing their jobs. It all does seem very black and white.