Starbucks Closing! (Don’t Worry…Just for Today)

Every Starbucks in the country will close this afternoon for anti-bias training. (see NPR article) The move follows an incident from April of this year at a Starbucks in Philadelphia, when two African American men were arrested while waiting for a business associate. The store manager called police when the men refused to leave or make a purchase. Video of the arrest went viral, and many accused the coffee chain of prejudice and racial insensitivity.

As many as 180,000 employees will participate in the training. Some experts have estimated that the profit loss incurred by the closing will total more than $12 million. Clearly, Starbucks believes there will be enough long-term benefit to offset the cost.

What are those long-term benefits? Improved customer care is one aim, to be sure, but Starbucks is also betting that the high visibility of the training and closure will boost the chain’s brand. Dr. Neeru Paharia, marketing professor at Georgetown University, studies how consumers make buying decisions to meet psychological needs. In other words, we often use money as a means of expressing our values, and that’s how boycotts as well as “buycotts” get started. Perhaps Starbucks hopes that a highly visible closure of stores in the name of anti-bias efforts will signal a certain prioritization of values to consumers.

Dr. Neeru Paharia will join us for our Summer Ethics Luncheon on June 5, 2018. Don’t miss out on her talk about how consumers’ ethics affect their behavior—and how companies can express their values to those consumers. Register now