The New Starbucks Bathroom Policy Is a Terrible Idea

Customer at a Starbucks store in Pasadena, Calif. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)
Why would any business willingly take away an incentive for people to buy its products?

Starbucks has announced that it will allow all people to sit in its cafes and use its bathrooms without having to buy anything — and that’s a very stupid idea.

I understand that the new policy was instituted in response to the incident at a Philadelphia Starbucks in which the store manager called the cops on two black men. I understand that that incident was terrible, and that Starbucks is trying to convince everyone it’s actually “woke,” politically correct, and cool. I understand all of that, but what I can’t understand is how anyone could think this would be a good business decision.

Like everyone else in this country, I’ll sometimes go into a Starbucks just to use the bathroom — and, like most people, I’ll make it a point to buy something when I do. Sometimes it’s just a regular coffee that I throw out when I’m done, but I’ll buy something nonetheless, which is obviously good for Starbucks’s bottom line. Starbucks is a business, and so it makes its money from people buying its stuff. If there’s less of an incentive to buy things, then the company is obviously going to lose money.

Now, I do understand that some people actually like Starbucks coffee, and that they go there for that reason. But I have always found that the lines are too long and the place is generally too crowded. I’d rather just drink whatever free coffee is around the office, even if it tastes like sludge, because I drink coffee for caffeination only. Other than to use the bathroom, the only reason I’ve ever gone to a Starbucks was to use the free WiFi. Back when I used to telecommute for one of my jobs, I’d often find myself looking for the nearest Starbucks to get a coffee and a snack and sit down to work on my laptop. With this new policy, however, I highly doubt that I’d even be able to do that anymore — because it seems pretty likely that all of the tables are going to be taken up by people just sitting there and hanging out, since it’s free for them to do so.

Honestly, I can’t even imagine what Starbucks stores are going to look like now that this policy is in effect. They’ve always been obnoxiously crowded, but now they’re going to be absolute zoos. A lot of people have expressed concern that homeless people are going to just set up shop in the stores to take advantage of their air conditioning, heat, and bathrooms. I suppose this could be a business issue, but I’m worried about something far more disruptive: teens. Teens have no money, and they’re always looking for places to hang out free of charge. In the past, they’ve just walked around malls, but now, they finally have a place where they can sit down. They’ll be loud; they’ll be rambunctious; they’ll be talking about Justin Bieber. They’ll be using all of the tables to spin their fidget spinners, and you won’t be able to make it in and out of a store without being in the background of one of their Snapchat videos. It’s going to be hell.

The bottom line is that this is a completely idiotic idea. No smart business would actually take business away from itself — which is exactly what Starbucks is doing. That’s what happens, though, when political correctness overtakes logic: Stupid things.

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