Starbucks to close over 8,000 stores Tuesday for anti-bias training

In this April 15, 2018, file photo, demonstrators protest outside the Starbucks cafe in Philadelphia where two black men were arrested three days earlier for waiting inside without ordering anything. On Tuesday, May 29, 2018, the company plans to close more than 8,000 stores nationwide to conduct anti-bias training, a move intended to show how serious the company is about living up to its now tarnished image as a neighborhood hangout where all are welcome. | Associated Press photo by Ron Todt, St. George News

(AP) — Starbucks will close more than 8,000 stores nationwide on Tuesday to conduct anti-bias training, the next of many steps the company is taking to try to restore its tarnished image as a hangout where all are welcome.

At least one Starbucks in St. George – located at 158 N. Red Cliff Drive – confirmed they are also taking part in the training and subsequent closures.

After the arrests of two black men in Philadelphia last month at one of its stores, the coffee chain’s leaders apologized and met with the two men, but also reached out to activists and experts in bias training to put together a curriculum for its 175,000 workers.

That has put a spotlight on the little-known world of “unconscious bias training,” which is used by many corporations, police departments and other organizations to help address racism in the workplace. The training is typically designed to get people to open up about implicit biases and stereotypes in encountering people of color, gender or other identities.

The Perception Institute, a consortium of researchers consulting with Starbucks, defines implicit bias as attitudes — positive or negative — or stereotypes someone has toward a person or group without being conscious of it. A common example, according to some of its studies, is a tendency for white people to unknowingly associate black people with criminal behavior.

This Sunday, May 27, 2018, photo shows a sign displayed at a Starbucks cafe in Portland, Maine, reminding customers that the store will be closed Tuesday for training. | Associated Press photo by Scott Mayerowitz, St. George News | Click to enlarge

Many retailers including Walmart and Target said they already offer some racial bias training. Target says it plans to expand that training. Nordstrom has said it plans to enhance its training after issuing an apology to three black teenagers in Missouri who employees falsely accused of shoplifting.

Anti-bias sessions can incorporate personal reflections, explorations of feelings and mental exercises. But one expert says training of this kind can have the opposite effect if people feel judged.

According to a video previewing the Starbucks training, there will be recorded remarks from Starbucks executives and rapper/activist Common. From there, employees will “move into a real and honest exploration of bias” where, in small groups, they can share how the issue comes up in their daily work life.

Starbucks has described it as a “collaborative and engaging experience for store partners to learn together.” ”

Developed with feedback from the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Perception Institute and other social advocacy groups, Tuesday’s four-hour session will give workers a primer on the history of civil rights from the 1960s to present day. Workers will also view a short documentary film.

Alexis McGill Johnson, Perception’s co-founder and executive director, says anti-bias training is about awareness.

The work that we want to do is not say you’re a bad person because you have a stereotype about a group, but say this is why your brain may have these stereotypes,” she said.

Johnson declined to elaborate on the details of the Starbucks training. But she said Perception’s workshops typically include mental exercises to show participants how bias creeps into situations. A session can include personal reflections, she said, such as, “I was socialized to think about a group this way.”

Johnson said the real work is for employees to apply what they learn in their everyday lives. She likened it to exercising a muscle. Some ways to practice counter-stereotyping, she said, are to look for something unique about a person that is beyond their social identity.

“It could be having a question that elicits something more interesting than, say, the weather or the traffic,” Johnson said, stressing the need to “go well beyond the superficial.”

In the Philadelphia incident, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson were asked to leave after one was denied access to the bathroom. They were arrested by police minutes after they sat down to await a business meeting. The incident was recorded by cellphones and went viral.

Nelson and Robinson settled with Starbucks this month for an undisclosed sum and an offer of a free education. They also reached a deal with the city of Philadelphia for a symbolic $1 each and a promise from officials to establish a $200,000 program for young entrepreneurs.

Starbucks has since announced anyone can use its restrooms even if they are not buying anything. According to documents Starbucks sent to store workers, employees should also think carefully when dealing with disruptive customers. A guide advises staff to consider whether the actions they take would apply to any customer in the same situation. They should dial 911 only if the situation seems unsafe.

Starbucks said the arrests never should have occurred and announced the mass closures of its stores for the afternoon of training.

Calvin Lai, an assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, said people should not place high expectations on this one day.

“We find that oftentimes diversity training has mixed effects, and in some cases it can even backfire,” Lai said, “and lead people who are kind of already reactive to these issues to become even more polarized.”

One afternoon wouldn’t really be “moving the needle on the biases,” especially when it’s a company with as many employees as Starbucks, he said. “A lot of those employees won’t be here next year or two years or three years down the line.”

Starbucks has said Tuesday’s sessions serve as “a step in a long-term journey to make Starbucks even more welcoming and safe for all.” It is working with volunteer advisers including Heather McGhee, president of social advocacy organization Demos, and Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

“One of the things Starbucks has to wrestle with is how to incorporate this kind of training into the onboarding of every employee,” Ifill said.

That takes a sustained effort, McGhee added.

“We have really made it clear that one training is not enough, and this needs to be part of an ongoing review of their policies,” McGhee said. “They really need to commit.”

Written by TERRY TANG, Associated Press. AP Retail Writer Anne D’Innocenzio contributed to this report.

Email: news@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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17 Comments

  • ladybugavenger May 29, 2018 at 10:16 am

    This world is tough and awful. I am biased tho. I work retail, so I see the worst of humanity. Just like fast food people do or any service job like Starbucks. If you’re not careful, one can get sucked into not treating people fairly, like what happened here.

    How can we turn this around?
    You can help!
    Next time you go to Walmart, Lowes, Starbucks, Arbys or any place you’re buying something. Be the best you can be. Smile, be polite, have compassion to the worker, remember the little guy or gal serving you doesn’t make up the rules. Be the customer that brightens someone’s day! Be the one that shows them we (the customer) arent all bad.

    Anyone who works these jobs knows that the customer is not always right!

    You have no idea what we see daily as a service worker. Change our outlook. Be a good, happy, friendly customer and restore our faith in humanity.

    • PatriotLiberal May 29, 2018 at 11:33 am

      After a decade in retail I can say that the customer is right about 1/100000th of the time. The other 99999 are scumbags trying to get something for free.

      • ladybugavenger May 29, 2018 at 2:24 pm

        Right!!!

        • comments May 29, 2018 at 11:48 pm

          It goes both ways, I’d say. Like today I got treated poorly by a box store employee–probably some kind of lower level management–I’m sure they just hated their job and were tired of dealing with the public in general. I didn’t lose it and I treated them with respect even though they disrespected me. I’ll only let that kind of interaction go so far before i lose my temper, but the employee treated me poorly and that is on them. If they treat customers like that day in day out then they need to be fired or quit their job if it makes them that miserable. Box store corporations are a lose lose situation for everyone. They sell crappy products, the employees are underpaid, and the service is bad for customers. They are actually parasites, these box stores. They buy literal boatloads of this Chinese crap and mark it up 2000-4000% and sell it to idiot US consumers who don’t even know what quality is anymore, because we live in a disposable society where most people are idiots. We can’t even buy quality products if we want, because literally EVERYTHING is chinese disposable product.

          • ladybugavenger May 31, 2018 at 6:04 pm

            You’re right Bob. You shouldn’t be treated like that. I’m pretty good at what I do and dealing with people. I actually treat customers like they are my friends. I’m sure some of them are a little freaked out lol. I tell ’em jokes sometimes too.

            But, I have lost my cool a time or 2. Got impatient. But i am not just flat out rude to people, that would be some of my coworkers.

            You’re right, people like that should be fired, but instead I’ve seen the opposite, they get promoted.

    • dogmatic May 29, 2018 at 11:35 am

      Very good comment ladybug, if these 3 boys would have been good courteous customers the whole thing could have been avoided. How can teenagers pay 6.00$ for a cup of coffee anyways.

      • ladybugavenger May 29, 2018 at 2:22 pm

        I think you comprehended my comment incorrectly.
        Maybe your the customer that makes us not trust everybody.
        Be a better person. Make someone have as better day than they are having.

        • ladybugavenger May 29, 2018 at 2:23 pm

          Or maybe I comprehended your comment incorrectly. Idk anymore lol

  • Utahguns May 29, 2018 at 11:26 am

    Spent the last weekend in Seattle…went for the seafood.
    I can tell you that of the three places we had coffee, NONE of them were Starbucks.
    Of those SBs that we saw downtown, there was always a small contingent of low life’s congregating in and around the store, using the restrooms and even one place, doing a drug deal.
    Sure as heck didn’t get our business. Our safety was a priority.
    Will STG’s SBs become the same way?

  • RadRabbit May 29, 2018 at 12:01 pm

    It’s simple buy a product if you wish to use the facilities, no racism just a couple of lowlifes loitering. I don’t care what color you are if your loitering and refuse to leave you should be thrown out on your butt its a business not a park. Now thanks to the lefts continued witch hunt for racist Starbucks will be turned into a homeless camp good job.

    • comments May 29, 2018 at 11:58 pm

      The lesson starbuck is teaching here is that adult black people need to be handled as if they are children. And not just any children, but hyper-emotionally stunted children who are OWED A DEBT BY ALL OF WHITE SOCIETY (AND PROBABLY EVERY OTHER RACE AS WELL). We should not have to handle groups of people with ‘kid gloves’ just because of their race and because of their entitlement complex. It’s this entitlement attitude that’s unreasonable. Yes, ok, you’re ancestors were slaves and you were “oppressed by the evil white man”. How many years ago was that now? It’s time to get over it. Anyone who had anything to do with slavery in north america is loooooooong dead, both slaves and slave owners. My ancestors were all white and had NOTHING to do with slave owning. A lot of them were poor white folk from the deep south. They couldn’t afford slaves if they wanted and were basically slaves themselves because they were poor farm folk–they prob worked the fields alongside black folk. YOU ARE NOT A VICTIM JUST BECAUSE YOU WERE BORN BLACK, AND DO NOT DESERVE SPECIAL TREATMENT BECAUSE OF THE COLOR OF YOUR SKIN. IT MAKES ME SICK THAT THEY THINK THEY SHOULD BE ABLE TO GET AWAY WITH STUFF JUST BECAUSE THEY ARE BLACK!

      • RadRabbit May 30, 2018 at 10:55 am

        Maybe your not so bad after all couldn’t agree more. Majority of my family in that time period were in Germany farming their own fields and the one part of my bloodline that was here fought for the north and died fighting to end slavery. Everyone should be treated the same and answerable to their own stupid actions.

      • uprightandmovingforward May 30, 2018 at 1:04 pm

        Amen! Why doesn’t the evening news ever point this out!

        • comments May 30, 2018 at 7:43 pm

          why? evening news seems to have an agenda. I have no idea what the end goal is tho. Those black men in the starbucks were clearly being obnoxious and needed to be removed. Maybe they wanted to give all the other patrons the impression they were “living the thug life”. If starbuck wants to turn its stores into homeless encampments for black men, I say good. It’ll be the end of them, because their main clientele is bourgeois white people who are shallow/dumb enough to pay $6-8 for a cup of coffee. Good riddance to starbuck, I say.

      • ladybugavenger May 31, 2018 at 6:19 pm

        I agree Bob! Well said.

  • Kyle L. May 29, 2018 at 11:10 pm

    They better leave the bathrooms open and the WIFI on just in case some homeless people of color want to use them!

  • Mike P May 30, 2018 at 12:21 pm

    I think I quit going to Starbucks$ when their 25 cent cup of regular coffee hit $1.75. AND, then they had the nerve to motion towards the tip jar ! Sometimes I’d hand them $2 and they would automatically drop my change in their jar without asking. Tip? for what? pouring a cup of coffee?…….that I had to wait in line for? And don’t get me started on the term Barista !!! For cripes sake !

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