There are so many contrived outrages in a given week, let alone a year, that it can be hard to recall any individual instance of outrage after it has already passed. But the infamous Starbucks bathroom outrage was so phony, so absurd, and so disconnected from anything resembling logic or reason, that it deserves to be remembered.
In case you need a refresher course: a Starbucks manager at a location in Philadelphia came under heavy fire last spring after refusing restroom privileges to two non-customers. The men, who happened to be black, asked to use the restroom but were informed that only paying customers were granted access to the facilities. This was not a policy she invented on her own. At the time, many Starbucks locations enforced this rule, just as many other restaurants and stores enforce similar rules.
The men sat down and took up a table while refusing to purchase something. They were informed, again, that they would have to buy a coffee, or a snack, or anything else, if they wanted to sit at a table or use the bathroom. They continued to refuse. Finally, the manager called the police and reported them for trespassing. The incident went viral. “Racism” was immediately assumed, despite a total lack of evidence to support the charge. The Starbucks CEO publicly threw the loyal employee under the bus. Finally, in their last act of corporate cowardice, Starbucks reversed their restroom policy and announced that anyone, even non-customers, could sit in their restaurants and use their bathrooms.
Fast forward a few months. Certain Starbucks locations, less than a year after announcing this enlightened new restroom philosophy, now must install special disposal boxes for used heroin needles. They’ll also be removing regular trashcans from some bathrooms after employees expressed concern about getting pricked with needles while changing out the bags. There have been reports of condoms, alcohol bottles, and blood stains on the floors. Indeed, this bathroom free-for-all has made bathrooms ironically less accessible as some Starbucks restaurants have had to close their stalls for extended periods due to, says the New York Post, “prolonged cleaning.”
It may be fairly pointed out that Starbucks probably had many of these problems even before the new policy. Yes, and that’s exactly the point. That’s why the policy existed in the first place. A spacious, private, single-stall bathroom at a Starbucks in an urban area is an attractive place for drug addicts, drunks, vagrants, and other assorted characters. Most businesses are not interested in becoming de facto homeless shelters or halfway homes. Historically, that’s why they reserve their bathrooms and their tables for people who are actually interested in purchasing their products. It’s not a fail-proof plan, but it’s relatively effective. There’s a reason why these needle disposal boxes only became necessary after they changed the policy.
So, what have we learned here? It’s likely that the suits at Starbucks have learned exactly zilch. The rest of us, though, have again discovered that caving to the unthinking, outraged masses will profit you nothing in the end. If you abandon a thoughtful, well-reasoned path just because a bunch of imbeciles are shouting some word that ends with -ist or -phobic, you will ultimately pay a much higher price than whatever price the imbeciles may have been able to extract. You’ll wind up shamed and embarrassed, with blood stains on your floor and heroin needles in your trashcan. But at least no one will call you a racist.