The new guidelines come days before Starbucks will close 8,000 stores for mandatory unconscious-bias training for 175,000 employees on May 29. Starbucks announced the training in the wake of the arrests of two young black men at a Philadelphia Starbucks who arrived early for a business meeting. They did not make a purchase immediately after arriving and were reported to police by a white manager.
Previously, Starbucks did not have clear guidelines on what do to about customers who did not make purchases, often leaving decisions up to individual managers. A Starbucks spokeswoman, Jaime Riley, previously told The Washington Post that at the Philadelphia location where Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson were arrested, “the guidelines were that partners must ask unpaying customers to leave the store, and police were to be called if they refused.”
In a letter to partners Friday, Rossann Williams, executive vice president and president of U.S. retail, wrote that the company consulted Starbucks employees, government officials, community leaders and experts on unconscious bias in forming the new rules. Key to the policy was the conclusion that everyone who enters a Starbucks is a considered a customer and is “welcome in our spaces.”
But Williams acknowledged that no policy or procedure can account for every situation.
“We know that every day in our stores, you and your partners lead through unexpected, complicated situations including challenging social issues and, at times, disruptive customer behaviors,” Williams wrote.
The procedure identifies eight examples of when employees should call 911, including a gas leak or fire, robbery, a threat of violence, the use or selling of illegal drugs and destruction of store property.
The guidelines also lay out a three-step model for addressing disruptive behavior.
First, employees are instructed to assess a customer’s behavior — rather than the person alone. Disruptive or harmful behavior identified by Starbucks includes being unreasonably noisy, viewing inappropriate media, verbally abusing people, making unwanted sexual advances and indecent exposure.
Employees should then consider how any decision will affect the customer’s experience. That includes judging whether the customer or situation is safe to approach and whether an employee’s chosen response would be the same for any customer in the same circumstance.
Employees who are unsure how to handle a situation should get help from a store or district manager.
When taking action against disruptive behavior, employees are told to ask another employee to “observe and verify” the behavior. Employees are told to introduce themselves to the disruptive customer and ask for the person’s name, “listen actively, use a calm tone and respectfully request that they stop the disruptive behavior.”
“If the situation becomes unsafe, call 911,” the procedure says.
Earlier this month, Nelson and Robinson each reached a symbolic $1 settlement with the city of Philadelphia and asked the city to fund $200,000 for a grant program for high school students aspiring to become entrepreneurs.
The men also reached an undisclosed financial settlement with Starbucks, “as well as continued listening and dialogue between the parties.”
Kristine Phillips contributed to this report.