It has now been been 8 months since the famous purveyor of caffeinated confection, Starbucks, declared their bathrooms “open to the public” without the need to purchase their products.
The last time we reported on the caffeine giant, a New York Post team had investigated several Manhattan bathrooms and found that there wasn’t an open stall among the stores they visited. Many employees complained of blood, discarded syringes, and potentially infectious materials strewn throughout the toilets.
Sensible corporate leaders might reconsider the open-door policy, in light of the health risks to both employees and their customers.
However, this is Starbucks we are talking about. Its executives opted to add a new menu item: Needle-disposal boxes.
The coffee giant is exploring remedies after employees expressed fears about being pricked by uncapped needles and experiencing related health risks. Starbucks is testing solutions, including installing sharps-disposal boxes, using heavier-duty trash bags to prevent needle pokes, and removing trash cans from certain bathrooms.
“These societal issues affect us all and can sometimes place our partners (employees) in scary situations, which is why we have protocols and resources in place to ensure our partners are out of harm’s way,” Starbucks representative Reggie Borges told Business Insider.
The problems revealed by the New York City report are not limited to that area. Complaints about the bathrooms are being generated across the country, by workers who are not comfortable in being directly identified.
As of Thursday, more than 3,700 people signed a petition on the site Coworker.org petitioning Starbucks to place Sharps Containers in “high-risk bathrooms.”
One Starbucks barista, who declined to have her name published out of fear for her employment, said she was jabbed with a needle last year. She has lobbied her bosses and the company to get medical waste containers.
“Honestly, safe Sharps disposals in the bathrooms because that’s going to protect us that’s not going to fix the problem overall, but it’s going to protect the employees and the customers,” she said.
The barista said several of her colleagues had also been jabbed.
“It’s a coffee shop. It’s not a coffee shop’s problem to solve the drug problem, it’s to protect the employees.”
There are real-world, business consequences to this choice. Employees who deal with these boxes will need to be regularly trained offered vaccination as part of safety compliance programs. These programs cost money and take away from work time.
Then, there is the disposal of the needle-boxes. Because it must be assumed the needles are coated with blood, they would be regulated medical waste. While requirements for disposal of such waste vary depending on the region, usually it is more expensive to discard the boxes, as they can’t be tossed out as common garbage. This, too, costs money.
If I were an investor in Starbucks, I would be worried about the focus on social justice instead of customer service and profits. Perhaps that is one reason the stock price has fallen recently.
Starbucks Inc. (SBUX – Get Report) fell 0.7% after Goldman Sachs cut its rating on the stock to “neutral,” citing concerns over the pace of growth in China, where the world’s biggest coffee chain has targeted a significant expansion.
Furthermore, a corporation’s virtue-signalling is also a signalling to competitors that it may be time to make a move on market share.
Chinese coffee start-up Luckin is aiming to open 2,500 new stores this year and overtake Starbucks as the largest coffee chain by number of outlets in the world’s second-biggest economy, it said on Thursday.
The firm, which only officially launched its business at the start of last year, has expanded at breakneck speed, propelled by a focus on technology, delivery, and heavy discounting even at the cost of mounting losses.
“What we want at the moment is scale and speed,” Luckin’s chief marketing officer, Yang Fei, told reporters on Thursday at a presentation in Beijing.
In conclusion, Starbucks’ corporate leaders would be better served if they signaled to both employees and customers that their health and safety is important.
@Starbucks you either want a business where I feel comfortable bringing my 13 year old son and 6 year old daughter… or you want a place where junkies can freely dispose of their needles. Choose wisely. Signed, #40somethingsixfigureearner
— Brent B (@BrentB5050) January 10, 2019
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