What happened to those black men arrested at Starbucks in Philly wouldn’t have happened to me for one simple reason – I would have purchased a cup of coffee. One thread of discussion comes from the concerned white folks who confess to relieving themselves at Starbucks without buying anything and to arrest the black men is just wrong.
That doesn’t make it right.
There are a few facts missing from news and Internet reports, but it appears the men entered the Starbucks on 18th and Spruce (my old neighborhood), and at least one of them asked for the key to the bathroom and was denied because the bathroom is for paying customers. One of the missing facts is the actual conversation between the two of them, so I can’t assume if the clerk was obnoxious and demeaning; if the black man was belligerent and argumentative; or if they had a pleasant exchange.
My guess is there was a little tension in their exchange. If it was explained that the bathroom was for customers, I’m not sure why a $2 cup of coffee, tea, or stale lemon cake wasn’t purchased. We don’t know if the clerk was black or white. We don’t know if the store was crowded with ‘regulars’ looking for seating. All we know is the store manager called the cops.
The Starbucks CEO responded by saying the manager didn’t intend for the guys to be arrested. The manager must never have experienced domestic situations where someone calls the cops only to see their partner carried away in cuffs even when that wasn’t the intended outcome of the call.
The police are being blamed for arresting the guys who weren’t doing anything wrong. The police arrested them for trespassing, aka loitering. They asked the guys to leave nicely three times. After the third time, they were arrested. Maybe things would have turned out differently with a cup of coffee on the table. We’ll never know, huh?
The white guy they were there to meet showed up during the arrest and he was shown on the video reminding me of the white manager guy in the ‘Straight Outta Compton’ movie when the members of NWA were told to go face down on the sidewalk by the cops and their white manager came out arguing the guys work for him and were doing nothing wrong. At least the NWA guys didn’t get arrested that day.
Although our Starbucks guys were released after nine hours in jail because Starbucks refused to press charges, I don’t think those mug shots and finger prints go away after nine hours. Welcome to the system my brothers.
Bathroom policies vary from place to place. Some businesses put the sign on the front door – ‘Restroom for paying customers only.’ Some places don’t give a hoot who uses their bathroom like many Starbucks located in the ‘burbs with unlocked bathrooms. Fast food restaurants have rather liberal bathroom policies allowing most walk-ins to use their facilities.
However, you wouldn’t expect those same black men to walk in to DelFrisco’s Steak House, sit at the bar, not order anything, watch the Sixers game, use the bathroom, and not expect someone to ask them what they’re doing. If they say they’re waiting for someone, they’d probably get a grace period, but it won’t be long.
I meet people at Starbucks type places all the time. The first time I did such a thing was at a Panera Bread maybe 10 years ago. The (white) guy I was meeting was already there with his laptop out. I noticed he hadn’t purchased anything. Since I was there to meet him, I offered to get him something since I felt obligated to get something (regardless of whether he felt obligated or not). I couldn’t help but to notice the room half full of people with their laptops out. One Indian looking lady appeared to be doing a major research paper with huge text books spread over a table that seated four. Most of them, but not all, had purchased something to eat or drink but there was obviously no limit to how long they were permitted to suck up the WiFi. (FYI, Starbucks and Panera Bread have super fast WiFi that would cost a bundle to have at home. McDonalds WiFi is the pits).
Obviously, the Philly Starbucks situation got out of control and has left their establishment with a black eye requiring them to spend time and money trying to protect their reputation only because a few black guys didn’t have the courtesy to purchase a $2 cup of black coffee.
I’m not a Starbucks snob. When I go, I just choose from the coffee they brew behind the counter because I still don’t understand the language of the mix drinks their baristas concoct. I usually suck up some of their WiFi when I’m there and find their establishments pretty comfortable and welcoming. I’ve encountered some obnoxious Starbucks clerks here and there but I’d probably be just as bad having to deal with endless customers and their exacting coffee orders while standing on my feet all day. Wawa coffee is alright with me. Plus, they have flavored creamers which Starbucks is too snobby to ever offer.
The Philly situation is getting some bad press and it’s probably deserved. But, if you see me walking into a Starbucks, don’t get mad that I’m not protesting, but don’t let me stop you if you are.
Doesn’t the whole thing just ‘piss’ you off?