Starbucks closing for racial bias training

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COLUMBIA - At 2 p.m. Tuesday, coffee brewing will come to a stop in all Starbucks across the country as workers go through racial bias training.

Starbucks decided to close its more than 8,000 locations for the training after an April incident at a Philadelphia store where a worker called police on two black men who were waiting for a friend and asked to use the restroom.

Columbia resident Natasha Hornes said she recently had an unpleasant experience at the Starbucks on Broadway. She said she has seen differences in the customer service she has received from white employees versus black employees.

Hornes said, in one instance, when her order was not correct and she brought it to the attention of a white employee, that worker rolled her eyes and sighed heavily.

Hornes said she was fortunate a corporate manager was present. She said the manager, who was Hispanic, solved the issue by remaking the drinks and giving her a store credit for the inconvenience. 

Hornes said she probably won't be going to that location again.

She said she thinks the Philadelphia incident which triggered the racial bias training shows it's "messed up" that people still need to be taught how to be cordial regardless of skin color.

"It doesn't make sense for me to have to be like 'Oh my gosh, this is how I'd treat Rebecca and this is how I should also treat Susan,' but when it comes to how you treat me its totally different," Hornes said.

One frequent Starbucks customer in Columbia is Mike Swanson, an associate professor at the University of Missouri's Journalism school.

"I practically live here. I come here every day. I'm a university professor, but I have another business that takes up a lot of my time and so I come in every day," he said.

He said Starbucks closing for just one afternoon shouldn't affect his work very much, but he said he saw the video of what happened in Philadelphia and thinks the racial-bias training will be good.

"I guess the claim was that they were loitering or something like that which sounds silly because a lot of people come into starbucks that don't actually order anything but work or maybe they work a little bit and then they order something later. I do that frequently," Swanson said.

He said management was perhaps "too hasty" when calling the police on the two black men in the Philadelphia store.
"People need to be sensitive to their fellow human beings and treat everyone equally with respect and with tolerance," Swanson said.
He said he thinks the racial bias training is, "a gesture that is one of good will, one that will ensure that they are trying to do right by their customers."

Hornes, on the other hand, said she believes the training won't fix the problem completely.

"I don't think, as of yet, it's going to be taken that serious, especially when people are still asking the question why. 'Why do we have to do this?'" Hornes said.

"I don't think it's gonna help right now, but it's a step closer to where we should've been already in 2018," she said. 

The Starbucks corporate office said, "As a company we're taking this time to reflect on our mission and values."

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