On the day of bias training, Starbucks praised and criticized
As promised, 8,000 company-run Starbucks shops around the country closed Tuesday afternoon to provide anti-bias training for the staff. The decision to train everyone came after the arrest April 12 of two black men sitting in a Starbucks in Philadelphia.
They asked to use the restroom and then sat down without ordering anything and an employee asked them to leave. When they protested, the employee called the police.
Tuesday’s was focused on “unconscious bias” — but with a different twist. According to David Rock, the director of the NeuroLeadership Institute, it’s almost impossible to teach a person to recognize his own biases. But it is possible to teach other people to recognize it. And that’s the approach Starbucks is taking.
Part of the company’s new protocol will be to have employees get the opinions of others before asking a customer to leave.
Starbucks founder Howard Schultz told CBS that this is one of the most “transformational moments” in the company’s history.
“I think we’re living in a time in America where there’s a fracturing of humanity and we have an opportunity, given the fact that we have stores in every community in America to begin a very important conversation. We’ve been in business for almost fifty years.”
Richard Levick, the CEO of an international crisis communications firm, says what Schultz is doing is textbook, even though this will cost the company up to $15 million in lost sales.
“Starbucks isn’t just coffee, it’s an experience,” he told CBS. “Almost all brands are experiences, but very few have achieved the level that Starbucks has. People want to feel good about a brand and a brand that takes on and shoulders this kind of burden.”
“This is probably the greatest crisis response since Johnson & Johnson’s Tylenol three-and-a-half decades ago. Lead, be transparent, and do far more than people expect. It’s great corporate leadership.”
At the same time, a movement based in Chicago asked people to buy from a black coffee shop on Tuesday while Starbucks is closed for training.
The Black Star Project is organizing hundreds of black-owned cafes over social media to encourage not only them to work together, but to bring new customers in. Phillip Jackson is with the project and says 400 coffee shops have joined in.
“We want all Americans to try a black-owned coffee house, and I think they’re going to be surprised,” Jackson told CBS. “They’re going to find quality. They’re going to find great products. And they will be helping redevelop the communities those shops are in.”
He actually thinks Starbucks took the wrong approach here.
“Rather than spend $100 million on damage control, which is what they’ve done, work with us for a fraction of that to improve the communities that many of their stores are in.”
John Dickerson asked that very question of Howard Schultz on Tuesday.
“Not only are we going to more than that, but we’ve opened stores in cities [such as Ferguson] … throughout America, where, traditionally a brand like Starbucks has not been located. And we’ve done this so that we can be a beacon of hope for the community, demonstrate that it’s good business, other companies can follow us in. We’ve hired 100,000 opportunity youth kids over in the last couple of years. These are children ages 18-24, mostly kids of color, who do not have jobs, and local vendors. So we’re already doing these things.”
And then CBS’ Gayle King asked him if he’s running for president. She said he and Sen. Elizabeth Warren look like two top contenders.
“I think Elizabeth Warren would be a great candidate,” Schultz responded.