Race Or Not, Starbucks Continues to Profit Amidst Controversy

Starbucks is no stranger to controversy.  From the changes in cup design to the coffee giant’s stance on whether guns were allowed in stores, Starbucks has received plenty of heat over the years.

The Executive Chairman, Howard Schultz, has also caused his fair share debates with his comments on political issues, such as his letter responding to President Trump’s Syrian refugee ban. Labor disputes, pricing conflicts, and marketing strategies, have all caused public disputes as well. And through all of this controversy, it has continued to thrive and profit. Despite whatever personal opinions people may have of the company, it continues to endure.

Take the latest controversy that they’re facing. On April 12, two black men, Rashon Nelson and Dante Robinson, were arrested in a Philadelphia Starbucks for trespassing after the manager made a call to police. The manager had told them to leave unless they were going to purchase something, but the men remained. Minutes later, police arrived and the two men were arrested. After spending several hours in a jail cell, they were released.

Once video footage started circling online, the backlash came quickly and harshly. One video on Twitter received over two hundred thousand likes and almost as many comments. Many have been debating whether or not this was an example of racial discrimination.

Mayor of Philadelphia, Jim Kenney, joined in the debate saying that, “Starbucks should be a place where people are treated the same.”

Some of those within the field of law enforcement have defended the actions of the officers who were on the scene.

“We are committed to fair and unbiased policing,” said Philadelphia Police Commissioner, Richard Ross.

Starbucks has since apologized for the incident, with CEO Kevin Johnson himself publishing a letter and video, saying “what happened was nothing but reprehensible this is not who we are and it’s not who we’re going to be.”

As a response, eight thousand stores will be closed for racial bias training. This training will focus on recognizing and addressing employees’ personal biases.

Whether or not this was racism is irrelevant though, at least to Starbucks. Whether this new training will solve any issues that may or may not exist is irrelevant to Starbucks. This whole debate is irrelevant to them.

At the end of the day, they have been through this territory before. It’s weathered plenty of storms before and this incident won’t bring the giant to its knees. In fact, according to the quarterly earnings call made by Johnson, the controversy has not affected store profits in the slightest. In fact, if any effect is felt long term, it will be one of profit. Johnson said, “our approach to this will pay long-term dividends for Starbucks,” emphasizing how this will help their public image due to their swift remedy of the situation.

At the end of the day, it’s hard to tell if this was a race issue. The policy of that specific store was no loitering and the policy was followed through. Whether it would have been followed through for white men is debatable. But that debate is irrelevant to the bottom line of Starbucks.

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