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Starbucks’ New Policy: Treat Even Nonpaying Guests Like Customers

May 19, 2018, 8:56 PM UTC

Starbucks today announced that it is now official policy to allow all guests in its stores to use its facilities, including restrooms, whether they buy anything or not. The coffee chain had previously lacked a clear policy on the question.

That ambiguity may have led to a grim incident last month in which police were called and arrested two African-American guests who were waiting for a friend, but had not made a purchase. The company acknowledged in a statement that what happened appeared to be an instance of racial profiling.

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According to the Wall Street Journal, Starbucks has now sent a letter to staffers saying that “any person who enters our spaces, including patios, cafes and restrooms, regardless of whether they make a purchase, is considered a customer.”

That policy raises the specter of an influx of unwanted traffic, particularly to the chain’s bathrooms, but the memo laid out a seemingly sensible answer: Starbucks already has procedures in place for how staff should deal with paying customers who become disruptive. Those policies will now be clarified and expanded to include all guests in Starbucks stores, regardless of whether they’ve bought a drink.

Starbucks will also be closing its stores for part of the day later this month to conduct racial sensitivity training.