A Tempest in Tempe
Larry Thornberry
by
Starbucks, Tempe, Arizona. Image: Fox News screenshot

Starbucks is in the news again. No, not for adding even more goofy and overpriced varieties of coffee to their already ridiculous menu. This time, it’s for asking a half-dozen Tempe, Arizona, police officers to leave a Starbucks because their presence was making another customer feel “unsafe.”

Hmm. Unsafe? Could the complaining customer’s uneasiness have anything to do with outstanding warrants? If so, why didn’t he just slip out the back? Is he (or she — none of the news accounts specify) off his meds? Perhaps a college student, idling on his parents’ money, who sees police officers as agents of oppression? We may never know unless the complainer, who seems to have gone underground, surfaces and makes his case. And if cops make this poor wing-nut feel unsafe, who is he going to call if someone breaks into his house in the middle of the night? Starbucks? “Send a backup mocha latte — NOW!!”

Whatever the reason, the barista made the mistake of asking six cops rather than one nutter to leave the store. The cops complied. As she doubtless knows now, the proper course would have been to give the nutter a complimentary teddy bear and send him to find a safe space in the nearest herbal tea shop, where some tofu and hibiscus tea could have settled his alarums.

For me, a bigger question than why this barista decided to cater to a nutter rather than to Tempe’s finest is, What were the cops doing in Starbucks in the first place, paying more for coffee than they need to? There are better places to go when a cop needs a restorative while crushing crime. Doesn’t Tempe have a Krispy Kreme? Those KK glazed, especially right out of the oven, are sooo good. After two or three of these, any cop worth his baton could beat confessions out of any number of villains. (Steady on, friends of law enforcement. I’m kidding, I’m kidding.)

Reasonableness has been restored. Starbucks officials have apologized to the Tempe Police Department and the cops involved, as they should have. They have cooed the right words. This from Starbucks Executive Vice President Rossann Williams to Tempe PD: “On behalf of Starbucks I want to sincerely apologize to you for the experience that six of your officers had in our store on July 4. When those officers entered the store and a customer raised a concern over their presence, they should have been welcomed and treated with dignity and the utmost respect by our partners (employees). Instead they were made to feel unwelcome and disrespected, which is completely unacceptable.”

As Professor Higgins might have said, “By George, she’s got it!”

None of the accounts I’ve read have said what has happened to the barista who made such a boneheaded decision. My first impulse was to suggest she should now be schlepping week-old coffee in Starbucks’ new store in the Aleutians. But this employee may be young, unsifted in the ways of the world, and perhaps even hired after Starbucks’ famous half-day of anti-bias training in the spring of 2018.

This well-covered training day for almost 200,000 Starbucks employees took place after two men using a Philadelphia store as a meeting place without buying anything were asked to leave. When they refused, the manager called police. It all seems reasonable enough until we learn the two men happened to be black. So, of course, a fertilizer storm ensued, with the usual suspects saying the usual things. There was moaning and gnashing of teeth. Protests. The usual. Starbucks executives, more afraid of being called racist than of a rogue comet streaking toward Earth, shut down 8,500 stores for half a day for what was billed as anti-bias training. Americans should be pleased to learn, with Starbucks’ recent apology and promise of better behavior in the future, that the company’s anti-bias policy extends to police officers.

Larry Thornberry
Larry Thornberry
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Larry Thornberry is a writer in Tampa.
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