Starbucks stirs up debate with new ‘third place’ policy

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Starbucks logo (Reuters/file photo)

The new Starbucks policy welcoming any individual in their stores even without buying anything received various feedback on social media.

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

With the new policy, Starbucks stated that it aims to make their stores “the third place” or an environment “where everyone is welcome.”

This practice was announced weeks after the popular coffee brand was accused of being racist for kicking out two black men who occupied a table inside without buying anything.

At the height of the public outcry, Starbucks issued a public apology online.

Such a policy change in the popular establishment did not sit well among its customers online, where they aired their criticisms for possible consequences.

Employee and customer perspectives

In a Starbucks store in Hollywood Boulevard, a customer who stayed without buying anything saw nothing wrong with implementing the new practice. An employee, however, fears the policy will make them more vulnerable to “attacks,” a report said.

Meanwhile, one Reddit user who claimed to be a Starbucks employee pointed out that welcoming anyone is already an “unofficial” policy in most branches.

“At most stores I’ve worked in, you really only get a talking to if you’re harassing other customers, or if you fall asleep. No sleeping, no agitating, that’s about it,” the user said in response to a Reddit thread that asks for the views of Starbucks workers.

The dissent on the coffee shop’s third place rule was more felt on Twitter.

While the Philippine branches seemed to have not been affected yet, some Filipinos already expressed their disapproval with the announcement.

One user, Mynne Dacoco, said that the new policy is subject to abuse and may make Starbucks branches look like a public bathroom or a “tambayan.”

“This would ruin Starbucks’ brand image because opportunists will take this seriously and eventually result to abuse of the privilege,” she said in her post.

Others observed that it would make the crowded environment of some branches worse.

Coffee shop craze

Starbucks is not the only establishment that introduces itself to customers as a “third place” because the phrase had been used to describe coffee shops in general ever since.

According to Psychology Today, a third place means “a setting outside of the home and beyond the traditional workplace,” such that a coffee shop allows people “to be themselves.”

“If you sit in a coffee shop long enough, you acquire a snapshot of its local community,” Lindsay McCunn, Ph.D. wrote.

Another article from the Atlantic described coffee shops as “the Facebook of an earlier generation.”

“But in the 1990s, their role (and number) expanded greatly. While some patrons still do socialize at their local cafés, many do not and use them as a third place — not quite home and not quite work, but with elements of both,” Neil Wagner explained.

To address the possible abuse of the recent “all-is-welcome” privilege, Starbucks developed guidelines for its employees.

One of which states the duty of Starbucks employees to call 911 in case “a situation presents an immediate danger” both to the customers and the employees.