Count yourself lucky if you've never worried if a barista will judge you for hurrying into a Starbucks and using the restroom without buying something. For the rest of us, founder Howard Schultz just let us all off the hook.
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"We don't want to become a public bathroom, but we're going to make the right decision 100 percent of the time and give people the key," Schultz said Thursday. If his insistence sounds a bit fraught, it is — the conversation came up because of last month's arrest of two Black men in a Philadelphia Starbucks as they waited for a friend. Schultz accepted responsibility for a loose, store-by-store policy about offering non-customers a bathroom key. On May 29, Starbucks locations across the country will shut down for racial bias training.
It's a big deal no matter which way you cut it, but it's especially important for those who rely on third spaces like coffee shops and libraries to work, socialize, and relax. Critics of capitalism say that there's a fundamental mismatch between the drive for profit and the normal needs of human beings. However you look at it, the recognition that many of us do not have equal access to these spaces is one step toward a remedy.
"Policies are still under the 90-day review, but ensure all customers coming in feel welcome." That's per a Starbucks representative on the company-wide bathroom policy. Judgment about whether an individual truly poses a threat should come into play, but overall, "If someone needs to use the restroom, please let them."