Sit in Starbucks without buying a drink? Maybe not in Singapore

Starbucks says it is closing its US stores May 29, 2018 to conduct "racial-bias education" after an incident in a Philadelphia shop. Photo credit: AFP/KAREN BLEIER
Starbucks says it is closing its US stores May 29, 2018 to conduct "racial-bias education" after an incident in a Philadelphia shop. Photo credit: AFP/KAREN BLEIER

SINGAPORE: While Starbucks in the United States has formally implemented a policy to treat everyone who walks into their cafes as a customer, whether or not they buy a drink, the revised policy does not apply to its outlets in Singapore.

In response to Channel NewsAsia queries, Starbucks Asia said: “In Singapore, we continue to review our practices to ensure we are creating a welcoming ‘Third Place’ for our customers and remain committed to delivering the authentic Starbucks experience.”

The company has a so-called “Third Place” policy, which aims to make its cafes “a warm and welcoming environment where customers can gather and connect” but it left it up to its staff to exercise their own judgment about non-paying guests.

Last Saturday, Starbucks made clear to employees in the US that they are expected to allow anyone at its premises to use its facilities “regardless of whether they make a purchase” after the coffee chain was accused of discrimination.

The change was triggered by a public outcry after two black men were arrested in mid-April at a Starbucks in Philadelphia while they were waiting for a third person for a business meeting. They asked to use the bathroom but were told they could not as they had not ordered anything, reports said.

The video of the arrest, recorded by an onlooker, was posted on Twitter on Apr 13 and has since been viewed millions of times.

It sparked protests and a decision by Starbucks to close more than 8,000 stores on May 29 to conduct racial-bias training for employees.

Chief Executive Officer Kevin Johnson had issued a statement expressing the company’s “deepest apologies” to the two men for what he said was the “reprehensible outcome” of the incident.

In its policy statement, Starbucks said: “Any customer is welcome to use Starbucks spaces, including our restrooms, cafes and patios, regardless of whether they make a purchase.”

However, it also asked customers to act responsibly and be considerate of others. If a customer is behaving in a “disruptive manner”, they can be barred from returning to the store.

This article was originally published on CHANNEL NEWS ASIA.


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