Fort Worth Starbucks weigh in on closing of 8,000 stores for preventive discrimination training

By Carolina Olivares

The Starbucks at the TCU Bookstore may be one of the few open May 29th in Fort Worth.

More than 8,000 company-owned Starbucks are closing for the afternoon in response to an incident that occurred in Philadelphia. Starbucks Corp. will be training nearly 170,000 employees to prevent discrimination.

Starbucks customers sit outside the University Park Village location of Starbucks in Fort Worth. (Photo by Carolina Olivares)

“I think the training could help, but for a lot of others it won’t,” said Maria Ruiz, an employee at the TCU Bookstore Starbucks. “I feel that a lot of how one was raised has an effect on how they decide to treat other people.” 

Starbucks’ mission is “to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”

That mission statement was under scrutiny in the neighborhood of Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square after Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson were arrested while waiting for another businessman to arrive at the Starbucks.  

Nelson tried to use the restroom and was denied access by the store manager because he wasn’t a paying customer. He left in handcuffs moments later.  

The Seattle-based Starbucks Corp. said that Starbucks location has a policy restricting use of restrooms to paying customers only.

Customers who heard the news have confronted the issue on Twitter: 

“Being a partner for a little over a year, I think that was completely against what our policies have been,” said Larry Brown, a Starbucks employee at the South University Drive location closest to Interstate 30. That location and the Starbucks inside Kroger will both be closed on May 29. 

“We have people come in here all the time that just sit down, don’t do anything, use the bathroom and leave,” Brown said. “That hasn’t been a problem before, and I don’t think that should’ve been a problem at the time.”

Customers have noticed people using Starbucks for its atmosphere rather than for its products.

“In every Starbucks you see at least one person studying and not consuming, and so it’s very obvious these guys haven’t been the only ones to do this,” said sophomore interior design major Valerie Andrade, a regular customer of the Starbucks at the TCU campus bookstore.

Some customers said the training won’t make much of a change and instead will paint the company in a positive light in the media.

It makes Starbucks look like they care and everything, but as far as what actually happens, it may have minimal impact,” said a customer at the West Rosedale Street location, who didn’t give a name. “They were basically loitering. It’s highly frowned upon.”

A Starbucks employee hands a customer her purchase. (Photo by Carolina Olivares)

Some regular customers said they are now hesitant to give Starbucks their business.

“I think it will unconsciously affect the amount of times I’ll be going to Starbucks,” Andrade, who is from Ecuador, said. “They’ve never been racist with me, but the fact that they have with others–it’s going to make me not choose Starbucks as my first option.”

While some of the regulars won’t be going as often, some employees continue to see the same amount of business.

“A lot of people like Starbucks, and they like trying new drinks,” Ruiz said. “Coming up in the news, I think it helps people hear about it more so they end up coming more.”

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross apologized at a news conference last week to the two men detained for initially defending his officers’ actions.

While Ross was unaware that Starbucks’ policy allows non-paying customers to stay, some said the whole incident could’ve been avoided.  

“I thought it was more blown out of proportion on the employee’s part because Starbucks is kind of a community,” said Shannon, an employee at the Fort Worth Starbucks located in the Omni Hotel on Houston Street. “The problem could’ve been prevented because they weren’t disturbing anyone.”