Starbucks began removing outlets in stores this past March in an effort to reduce transient traffic as well as Wi-Fi squatters, what are your thoughts on this move and is it effective?
Pro: The Little mermaid and her coffee conundrum
By Reina Esparza
Starbucks has always been a place where the local community crams into to either seek refuge from the outside or tap away on their technological devices. In the past, this has created problems that led to seemingly cruel hearted solutions.
This happened in March when FOX 11 LA reported that power outlets were being removed, in order to control and limit the transients in Los Angeles area Starbucks who hang out there all day and even start fights with one another.
It was considered a cold move, in that it wrongfully targeted transients and kicked them out of a place for them to have some sort of day time shelter. However, this should not get wrapped up in sinister motives.
While it is important to take care of the city’s transients, this is not Starbuck’s job. Baristas shouldn’t have to put themselves at risk for breaking up fights, and should focus on what goes on behind the counter.
Instead of putting the heat on the coffee chain, blame it on the City of Los Angeles, who delayed for years to address transients’ livings, but only just passed Measure HHH. If they had funded community centers and housing earlier, transients wouldn’t feel the need to be in a Starbucks all day in the first place.
Having considered this, it’s important to note that this wasn’t just a target on transients, because by removing power outlets this affects all the laptop luggers and Wi-Fi suckers that are almost always present. The mermaid logo is unamused.
And this is where the real issue lies.
People like to blame Starbuck’s as being a problem for whatever happens to come up, be it how they treat transients or whatever outrageous drink they’ve concocted. But the same people simultaneously go to Starbucks and feed into the company as a whole and take up their space there.
It’s a free for all, for some people who seem entitled simply because they go there everyday, with other customers having been attacked.
While it is a coffee chain that does promote community, it has somehow become a mini community within every location, filled with people with their chargers sprawled out on the floor, with their laptop, books and things taking up most of the cafe. It’s barely even a coffee shop anymore, it’s just another library that happens to serve frappucinos.
That is somewhat selfish within itself. Doing work or homework is understandable when one has to get it done and needs caffeine and Wi-Fi to do so, but making it your second office or desk is not the way to go. A regular old joe can’t even enjoy a cup of joe in peace without feeling crowded, let alone being able to find a place to sit.
This prevents others from partaking in the coffee culture Starbucks was originally for. Sure, times change, but these customers and loungers should still be considerate of all types of customers. And we settle for this sub-par experience anyway
If people really must have their public spaces for internet and plug-ins while still enjoying their favorite drink, they need to think about the community as a whole.
As it is, this over-use of the chain and the chain providing all these benefits of power outlets (not necessities), have not been heroes of the environment either, be it their disposable cups or their water waste.
Let’s not forget that independent coffee shops and cafes exist and welcome the money for their specialty drinks at prices similar to Starbucks, if not less than the overpriced chain. They would be more than happy to offer Wi-Fi with plenty of room to sit and charge devices.
Since these Starbucks customers and opposers of this outlet “crises” are so concerned with community, then it’s only reasonable that one invests their money in a small name coffee place that offers a more personal charm.
It’s not that this has to be the end of Starbucks, but it is time to consider how we view the company and realize how we contribute to the way it works as a whole. It’s not just their doing or their being “heartless”, for they too are a reflection of their customers. It’s a matter of how we use Starbucks and realize that any change starts with us.
Don’t sacrifice your laptop time yet, but still, respect the coffee bean and the so-called community.
Con: Starbucks brews blackout in sales and customer relations
By Emeline Beltran
Starbucks’ About page reads that employees “go to work hoping to do two things: share great coffee with our friends and help make the world a little better.” Keep hoping, Starbucks, but passive aggressive policies that single out certain customer groups won’t sell more drinks or make the world much better.
Starbucks locations in Hollywood, Koreatown and West Hollywood blocked and removed their power outlets to prevent people from lounging at their shops for too long. In West Hollywood’s Starbucks location, Fox3Detroit reported that they specifically wanted to keep out transients who were loitering without ordering any food or drinks.
One thing they got right in their mission statement is that they made the world a “little” better. As in, shorter lines, because less people will be attracted to the fact that they can’t use Starbucks’ electricity. Other than that bit of making the world a “little” better, Starbucks’ outlet outage will cause a blackout in sales and unplug them from customer relations.
Starbucks wants student loyalty. The Starbucks Newsroom even prides itself on being a popular and ideal setting for university students to study at. Last August, they launched new merchandise they’d be branding at selected universities, and if that wasn’t enough, there is a page under their Branding Solutions website dedicated entirely to students.
The hours spent studying and the amount of caffeine consumed are both unhealthy, but the reliability most students give to this company is being overlooked with this new policy. A stricter policy that limits outlet usage could help rotate the incoming customers in dire need of electricity, but blocking out the outlets is blocking out the customers, including students. Starbucks will be cancelling out its own reputation of being loyal to students, despite what their press releases claim.
Students are a universal customer population, but as the Greater Los Angeles area is known for the entertainment industry, locations blocking off outlets will be saying goodbye to regular producers, content creators, screenwriters, and anyone else responsible for the art seen on the big screen.
Especially in Hollywood, the entertainment niche centralizes around digital jobs, as reported by the LA Times. With careers whose second natures are Wi-Fi, laptops, mobile devices, and social media, followed by a demanding work schedule of long-term projects, employers have no choice but to hustle with work at their nearest Starbucks in the area.
Similarly to students, the work is unpredictable, and the amount of caffeine consumed and hours sitting in front of a screen are unhealthy. Without outlets, Starbucks breaks the loyalty between students and entertainment employers who count on Starbucks for being their self-promised “third place,” as claimed on Starbucks’ About page.
In 2016, WeHo by the Numbers reported that there were almost 90 transients present in West Hollywood, which is a 50-person increase from 2015. Starbucks may not be able to control the rising number of the transient population, but they’re failing to contribute to the state of a transient living. Starbucks fails its mission to be a “third-place” home for those without one with their new outlet procedure, and one more door shutting out the homeless population isn’t making the world a better place.
This isn’t the first time Los Angeles-based Starbucks addressed their views against catering to homeless people through microaggressions. Last year, Southern California Public Radio reported that Starbucks completely closed off bathrooms to shoo off homeless people who use it for showers. Customers’ reactions were on opposite ends of the spectrum: they saw the move as selfish or logical, just like what this microaggression is likely to stir.
Starbucks keeps taking actions, big or small, that imply their beliefs and who they’d like to single out. Businesses aren’t supposed to be biased and project a public preference, since that hinders customer service. Starbucks’ continuously taking their viewpoints out on business tactics just filters their audience instead of improving their own business.
There are plenty of policies that different stores enforce to get the customer service they deserve. Whether it be using the restroom, Wi-Fi, or electricity, stores can limit those restrictions to customers, and Starbucks can too.
However, if they want to keep being students’ “third home,” Starbucks needs to plug themselves back into the difference between improving customer service and hand-picking who they’d like to serve.