The Controversial Reason A TikTok Went Viral For Calling Out Starbucks

Starbucks, the most popular coffee chain in the world, appears to be losing some of its fans. The company had revenue exceeding $24 billion last year, but despite its meteoric economic success, the coffee chain has been at the center of controversy with a series of scandals in recent years. From more minor issues like under-filling lattes to broader implications, such its alleged retaliation against pro-union employees, the coffee giant is no saint in all customers' eyes.

Recently, a TikTok video went viral in which a Starbucks customer and former employee noticed that there were no electrical outlets available in their store's location. The nine-second clip takes place in a Bay Area Starbucks that installed blank wall plates to cover the once-vacant outlets. Frustration about the incident comes from remote workers who rely on Starbucks as an office space with outlets to keep their technology running during business hours. However, the video's main objective was to call out Starbucks for its alleged anti-homeless policies.

Supporters of Starbucks' no-outlet initiative place blame on the government

In an interview with SFGate, the TikTok whistleblower Lizette Roman-Johnston says she overheard the store's baristas discussing the outlet initiative's true intentions: to reduce the number of unhoused individuals that enter the location. Back in July, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz announced that the franchise would be closing a number of stores due to safety concerns regarding "crime, homelessness and drug use in bathrooms" (via The Seattle Times). For the same reasons, Schultz also told The New York Times that the franchise is considering closing its bathrooms altogether.

The comments section of Johnston's TikTok, which has been viewed over 250,000 times, is bustling with varying opinions on the matter. Former Starbucks employees rushed to the comments to share their unpleasant experiences with unhoused or unwell individuals and drug users. One prevailing argument in favor of the initiative was that local, state, and federal governments are to blame. One user wrote: "It's not any business's responsibly to pick up the slack for our government with regards to accommodating the homeless." Historically, Starbucks, along with other chain restaurants, have been a sanctuary to unhoused individuals lacking basic resources such as electricity and bathrooms.

Despite the backlash, Starbucks spokesperson Sam Jefferies told SFGate that the company has "never made a policy targeting individuals experiencing homelessness," adding, "We welcome folks in stores as long as they respect the positive third-place environment."