Last week, two black men were arrested in Philadelphia for sitting in a Starbucks. In the face of such apparent racism and growing demands to #BoycottStarbucks, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson announced that every company-owned store in the United States would close on May 29 for “racial-bias education.”
It’s a bold, necessary move that will cost the company a lot of money. While many customers are thrilled by Starbucks’s decision to confront the situation, some are ticked off that their need for an iced caramel Frappuccino is taking a back seat to these inclusivity efforts–and they are taking to Facebook to voice their complaints.
Online complaints against corporate giants can often feel like shouting into the void, but Starbucks is taking an interesting tactic. It is actually responding to them, and not with the usual corporate speak. The company’s social media team has not been playing nice, and has not been shying away from stark truths: There was “no reason for the police to be called” and we “cannot deny that this is a race issue, which is why we are implementing this training,” went one response.
- When one customer complained that millions of people are being denied Starbucks because of “one incident in a country with thousands of locations,” Starbucks replied: “There are countless examples of implicit bias resulting in discrimination against people of color, both in and outside our stores. Addressing bias is crucial in ensuring that all of our customers feel safe and welcome in our stores.”
- When another griped that Starbucks was punishing customers for a day “because of a handful of employees.” Starbucks replied: “Our goal is to make our stores a safe and welcoming place for everyone, and we have failed. This training is crucial in making sure we meet our goal.”
Corporate social media is too often a forum for empty lip service, which makes this unflinching approach a refreshing strategy—and definitely a better use of Facebook than reposting old memes.