Starbucks Employees Were Furious With An Operator's Alleged Barista Policy

It's been nearly four years since Starbucks issued a public apology for a racial profiling incident in Philadelphia involving two Black men who were arrested for not making a purchase. The incident was recorded in a viral video, reported on by The New York Times, and ultimately prompted the release of a company-wide racial bias training video that some employees felt missed the mark.

Those are only two examples in a string of controversies at Starbucks over the years. In fact, The New York Times reports that seven Starbucks employees in Memphis, Tennessee were fired just last week for pursuing unionization efforts, an act that one Starbucks spokesperson claims "violated company safety and security policies." The Buffalo-based union Starbucks Workers United tweeted in response to this news, writing "[Starbucks is] repeating history by retaliating against unionizing workers. The arc of Starbucks' union-busting is long, but it bends toward losing."

But that's not the only alleged transgression facing the Seattle-based coffee giant this year. In a widely circulated Reddit post that has garnered over 70,000 upvotes and over 11,000 comments, an employee at one Starbucks location shared a photo of a printout taped to a bulletin board that reads, "YES, HOURS HAVE BEEN REDUCED ACROSS THE BOARD." Why? According to the manager who posted the notice, the issue comes down to customer service. 

Conversations over coffee

In an explanation that doesn't shy away from highlighter pens, the Starbucks manager writes, "Only 41% of our customers feel we take the opportunity to get to know them" (via Reddit). 

As YourTango editor Dan O'Reilly notes, "A common complaint with this strange policy is that, generally, someone who works at a coffee shop should probably be prioritizing making and selling coffee quickly and efficiently." If the Reddit post is any indication, Starbucks employees tend to agree. One comment reads, "I was forced to make conversation at the drive through with people who sent me extremely clear signals that they didn't want to make chit chat. Honestly it felt like I was violating them by forcing a conversation so I quit."

In the post's comment section, Starbucks baristas shared their experiences with feeling undermined at work. "I quit Starbucks after a month because I kept getting yelled at for not leaving the window open to have a whole conversation in WISCONSIN DURING THE WINTER while I wait 5 mins for their food/drinks to be done," vents one Reddit user. Another echoes, "I worked there for nine months and I began having such bad nightmares about being berated at work for not smiling enough that I went on medication."

TikTok user @benwithabee posted a viral video in response to this post, stating "Managers are supposed to work for their employees. They're not better than their employees." He added that he doesn't mind when his interactions with Starbucks baristas are "very transactional," because after all, he's there to make a transaction.