Why I’m not joining your knee-jerk #BoycottStarbucks protest

Not giving up my Starbucks gold card.

PHILADELPHIA, PA – APRIL 15: Protestor Donn T (C) demonstrates inside a Center City Starbucks on April 15, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Police arrested two black men who were waiting inside the Center City Starbucks which prompted an apology from the company’s CEO. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)

My first thought when I read about the black men arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks this weekend for minding their damn business: Sounds about white. I mean, brothers brothering in the United States is a crime and all, right?

My second thought: wait, they were kicked out of a Starbucks?!?

It’s been a public relations disaster of a weekend for the Seattle-based coffee mega-chain. The arrest has led to protests and calls to boycott the company. I didn’t wake up this morning itching to defend a business with overpriced goods of questionable quality that’s singlehandedly responsible for putting a small state’s worth of mom-and-pop coffee shop owners out of business, but I don’t think the arrest was necessarily the fault of Starbucks as a company.

I think it’s the fault of that wack-ass manager who called the police. The manager deserves every ounce of your ire.

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Don’t Blame Starbucks

I believe boycotts should follow a pattern of behavior, and Starbucks hasn’t demonstrated that behavior as routine. I’ve never been an employee or read their handbook on policies and procedures, but as a career freelancer, I spend a decent amount of my existence in several Starbucks locations throughout the city and could probably put my not-yet-conceived child through college with what I’ve spent there.

What happened in Philly seems to be an anomaly. For starters, Starbucks employees generally don’t bother people who come in their stores without ordering. Folks come in for meetings and interviews or just to kill time and walk out empty-handed as a matter of routine.

A big reason I work in Starbucks as opposed to privately-owned coffee joints is because I can post up there for hours and not get the evil eye for mooching Wi-Fi without ordering shit.

Starbucks thegiro.com

PHILADELPHIA, PA – APRIL 15: Protestor Jack Willis, 26, (C) demonstrates outside a Starbucks on April 15, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Police arrested two black men who were waiting inside a Center City Starbucks which prompted an apology from the company’s CEO. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)

Across the street from my neighborhood Starbucks is a residential building that houses people with mental disorders. Every day, it’s residents (of all ethnic persuasions) mosey into the store, order their free water and spend hours posted up in seats that paying customers could occupy. The employees do nothing.

Also, you’ve never been a tourist in a major Western city if you haven’t asked a Starbucks barista for bathroom access with no intention of buying anything. And they give it up because they don’t care – they aren’t paid enough to police the damn restrooms.

That’s why I think this brand-new video of a Black man being denied a bathroom code with no purchase at a Los Angeles Starbucks just after a white guy gets it with no purchase is anomalous. But you can damn well bet that everyone will get let in a Starbucks bathroom after today so they don’t wind up a hashtag.

Staff diversity is not an issue in any Starbucks I’ve entered in a city that actually contains ethnic minorities – I’ve seen some huge, Marshawn Lynch-looking dreadhead cats working as baristas in the most Caucasoid enclaves. And those brothers are polite to the point of pod people, just like their white barista counterparts.


Philadelphia Police Did Their Job

I also think blame toward the Philadelphia Police is misplaced. If that wack-ass manager (whom I just assume is a white woman because this is garden-variety white woman shit) called the cops and they quietly arrested the men without incident, three cheers for them for doing their goddamn jobs without feeling the need to fire a bullet into a Black man.

Now, Starbucks’ original tweet “apology” was trash considering that it could easily suggest that the arrested men were to blame.


But Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson put a weekend of swimming through a vault of gold like Scrooge McDuck on hold to undergo a tour of contrition during which he’s doing everything in his power to let the world know that, y’know, the company is not really stocked with managers asking Negroes to give up their tables at the front of the shop to white men.

Johnson has been on morning talk shows, visited Philadelphia and actually suggested speaking with the arrested men to hash this shit out, Obama Beer Summit-style, to which they have agreed.  

As far as cleaning up PR disasters go, Johnson is doing a pretty good job. Apparently the wack-ass manager has left the company in a “mutual” decision (which is smart because they’d never see a day of peace managing that Starbucks again), but Johnson released a video this morning insisting the blame toward her was misplaced and seemed willing to fall on his sword for the whole company.

Can every company do better in their approach to diversity? Absolutely. But while we have countless examples of piss-poor police training leading to tragic results, this is the first time that we’ve heard of a manager in one of the 28,000 worldwide Starbucks stores “going rogue” and causing a whirlwind of bullshit.

So, am I cutting up my Starbucks Gold card? Nah. But if we get the identity of the wack-ass manager, I’ll happily hop on the hashtag dragging train.


Dustin J. Seibert is a native Detroiter living in Chicago. Miraculously, people have paid him to be aggressively light-skinned via a computer keyboard for nearly two decades. He loves his own mama slightly more than he loves music and exercises every day only so his French fry intake doesn’t catch up to him. Find him at his own site, wafflecolored.com.