Turning away customers looking for an afternoon jolt of caffeine, thousands of Starbucks shops across the U.S. closed early on Tuesday to hold training for employees on recognizing hidden prejudices.
It was part of the coffee chain’s effort to deal with the outcry over the arrest of two black men last month for sitting in a Philadelphia Starbucks without buying anything.
After the incident, the company’s leaders apologized, met with the men and scheduled an afternoon of training for 175,000 employees at more than 8,000 U.S. stores.
Self-described loyal Starbucks customer Darnell Metcalf, a 55-year-old black man from Miami, said he was dubious about how much a four-hour training session might accomplish for employees “raised to look at certain people a certain way and act a certain way.”
And he said the problem is not confined to Starbucks, but exists at plenty of other retail chains where he has seen people profiled.
“It makes it look like they’re trying to, you know, quiet the storm,” Metcalf said outside a closed-for-training Starbucks. “They’re not solving nothing. They’re not going to fix this overnight. … It’s not Starbucks the corporation. It’s only certain employees who are like that.”
Starbucks has not said how much the training will cost the company or how much money it expects to lose from closing the stores during what is usually its least busy time of day.
By JOSEPH PISANI and TERRY TANG