Wednesday, January 24, 2007
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I have a favorite Starbucks in my neighborhood that I pass on my way to work. So I stop there a few mornings per week for some caffeine fill-’er-up. The regular morning crew knows me well, but recently there’s been some new faces on the crew. Most weekday mornings the place is hopping with teenagers burning up Mom’s credit card on scones and latte; retirees reading the New York Times; professionals grabbing their morning fix; and myriad college students cracking their books to a Starbucks coffee.

So this winter, there’s been a few times where I walked in and there has been some homeless bum (a different one each time) sacked out in one of the big, cushy chairs, snoring, coffee in his lap, and with the most putrid smell coming from the vicinity of one who lives in alley dumpsters and doesn’t bathe. Now, of course, when this is the case, the place is completely free of the traditional coffee loafers – that is, the regular customers. They leave the joint. So last week I walk in at 7am, and this time the smell was overwhelming the moment I walked in the door. The homeless person was reeking of alcohol and unwashed body odors, and was sleeping and snoring with a coffee tipping over in his hand.

All the crew members were new faces, and so this time I spoke to the crew leader about it. I told her it was not proper nor conducive to brisk business, and that my patronage would be lost if this continued. What a creepy way to insult the customer. Starbucks is a business that must cater to its customer base, and most people who frequent a Starbucks do so for the atmosphere it provides them – a sense of being uppity, comfortable, and relaxed. Like it or not, that’s their core customer.

So instead, the employees feel sorry for the homeless people in the neighborhood – which is natural – and invite them in on the company’s dime, and treat them to $3 coffee. And who knows what kind of uncleanliness and/or diseases they are carrying and leaving in the cushy sofas – head lice, body lice, etc.? In the meantime, they completely destroy the company’s draw power in the process of offering up someone else’s business as charity. Charity is when you give of your own resources – time, money, or shelter – for the sake of assisting these types of individuals.

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