As a business, Starbucks Corp. (NASDAQ: SBUX) can already have a busy bathroom, as patrons line up to use the facilities. Those lines may get much longer, particularly in high-traffic areas. Starbucks has opened its bathrooms to anyone who wants to use them. That may be hard on customer service and undermine the Starbucks experience.
Two men were arrested at a Starbucks in Philadelphia, which caused a firestorm of negative reaction, so the Starbucks decision makes sense. Nevertheless, the choice to open all bathrooms to anyone who comes to a Starbucks carries a risk. Patrons may decide that as part of “buying something” they should get preferred access to bathrooms.
Opening the bathrooms involves long lines and long waiting times but has additional consequences. Frequently used bathrooms will need to be cleaned more often. And bathrooms at Starbucks can present a security risk, including one to patrons.
As part of the decision, Starbucks made a series of requests of people who come to the coffee shop, whether or not they buy anything. Unfortunately, there is no way for most people to ever see them. Among these is being considerate to other people and acting responsibly. Starbucks provided no firm set of rules about how this might be enforced.
What does Starbucks say about how it wants people to experience its stores? Starbucks’ statement:
Our stores are a neighborhood gathering place for meeting friends and family. Our customers enjoy quality service, an inviting atmosphere and an exceptional beverage.
People don’t have to buy that exceptional beverage anymore, which will create challenges the company may not be ready to face, now or ever.