A caffeinated confession


I’ve never been a Starbucks fan. Its stores are more like over-priced ice cream parlors than coffeehouses, and there’s something spooky about customers sitting by themselves, staring at their laptop screens.

That said, I’m glad the “anti-bias” training went well this week at 8,000 Starbucks outlets, and that employees will henceforth treat all customers like humans, even if they’re non-white and aren’t carrying a laptop.

The training was about damage control following the arrest of two black men last month at a Starbucks in Philly’s affluent Rittenhouse Square neighborhood. The manager called the cops on the men for sitting while black, or for trying to use the bathroom while black. The arrests became national news.

Yesterday I rode my bike to the Starbucks closest to my home in the Tinicum swamp. It was a long ride because, as I noted at the time of the arrests, Starbucks only opens stores in neighborhoods that have been ethnically cleansed. Oops, I meant to write “gentrified.”

I had an espresso macchiato and asked a barista what his training session had been like. It lasted too long, he said, but the company threw in free meals. From now on, store policy will be to let anyone who enters the store use the bathroom, and employees will be expected “not to treat people like jerks.”

Well, there you go. Race relations will improve a hundred percent, just like that, and Starbucks fans can get back to enjoying their pumpkin lattes and chocolate croissants and Facebook friends in peace.

I’ll get back to my neighborhood coffee shop, Dirty Andy’s, and order up a cup of joe. Andy will say nope, all we have today is a cup of mud. I’ll have a cup of mud and listen to “Big Joe and Phantom 309” on the jukebox.

Or maybe I’ll pedal a few extra miles to a Starbucks. Corporate coffeehouses suck, but that macchiato was pretty good.

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