Ethics Observation On The Tempe, Arizona Starbucks Incident

Ethics Alarms does not endorse any organized boycott efforts against any product, business or organization. However, if any corporation is begging to be boycotted, it’s Starbucks…

In case you missed it:

On July 4th, six Tempe, Arizona police officers visited a local Starbucks to get some coffee. The officers paid for their beverages and stood together, sipping coffee and chatting. A barista approached one of the officers, whom she apparently knew by name because he is was a frequent customer, and informed him that a customer  currently in the store “did not feel safe” because of the police presence. She asked the officers to move out of the customer’s line of sight (!) or to leave entirely.

The officers  left, but apparently reported the incident to the Tempe Officers Association, which described the incident on Facebook and added,

This treatment of public safety workers could not be more disheartening. While the barista was polite, making such a request at all was offensive. Unfortunately, such treatment has become all too common in 2019. We know this is not a national policy at Starbucks Corporate and we look forward to working collaboratively with them on this important dialogue.

The Tempe Police put out their own statement:

Starbucks, proving at least that it has not completely lost its mind, quickly apologized to the  Department, with a representative meeting with the police chief.  The statement:

“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,”


1. In response to the incident, the hashtag #DumpStarbucks began trending on Starbucks and Twitter. I do not like organized boycotts, but I personally will not go into another Starbuck’s store as I travel wound the country, nor will I buy their Keurig-style coffee pods, even when they are on sale. Starbucks is just a different manifestation of the phenomenon that has Ethics Alarms banned from Facebook: it is another company that is abusing its popularity and power to engage in forced social engineering and manipulation of public opinion.

2. At Starbucks, this comes from its presumptuous CEO Howard Schultz and his addiction to virtue signaling, as well as his ignorance regarding what American virtues are. It is not surprising that his young and callow employees misunderstand the message, and behave in destructive and stupid ways. The line on conservative media is “Go Woke, Go Broke.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out that way (Nike’s stock has increased in value since it declared the American flag racist), but it should work out that way.

3. A national company should be neither woke nor un-woke, unless politics and social issues are its business. Every American should feel welcome to be served or to purchase products, and not feel that only customers with certain beliefs are welcome. Starbucks is guilty of selling politics and ideology with its coffee. It is an excellent candidate for having its metaphorical head put on a metaphorical pike and left to rot in the metaphorical town square.

4. After the barista is fired, someone should interview (him? her?) and ask where in the world (he? she?) got the idea that one customer could demand that another  leave because the offending customer caused the complaining one to feel unsafe. Would she have done the same for a white woman who was made to feel unsafe by a black customer, or a male? Was it college, or the community, or leaders of the Democratic party telling supporters to harass Republicans in public places that rotted her values and common sense? Or was it the culture at Starbucks itself?

5. Lest we forget, at a Palo Alto Starbucks in April, Starbucks customers and baristas allowed man wearing a red Make America Great Again to be run out of a store by a vicious “resistance” harasser. In the post about that episode, I wrote in part,


I want to see Howard Schultz asked why his employees at the Starbucks didn’t protect and defend their customer. Similarly, why didn’t other customers confront [the harassing customer] as she was abusing the man? I would have, because that’s what my father taught me to do in these situations, but I assume most–many–some Americans still believe in the community’s duty to stand up for the mistreated and oppressed. Or would Howard’s rich little caffeine addicts also have sat silently while brownshirts harassed a Jewish man?

These observations apply with equal legitimacy to the Tempe incident.


6. When I write on Facebook about these kind of issues, an old friend who has unfortunately been permanently crippled by a career in Democratic politics inevitably says, “Why do you always blame progressives and Democrats for such things?” Why? Because this episode could not and would not have happened, indeed would not have been conceivable, until the various component institutions of the progressive movement successfully poisoned the culture with the ideas, fertilized by political correctness,  that

  • …there is a right in America not to have to deal with ideas, individuals, institutions or speech that one finds objectionable.
  • …”safe” no longer means literal physical safety, but ideological and social isolation from influence or dissent.
  • …the police are a racist, hostile force in the community, not a benign, necessary one.

Who else but progressives and Democrats are responsible for this? Yes, I hold the left side of the spectrum absolutely responsible. It is destructive to society, and the ideological Left is accountable. I am sick and depressed at the degree of wilful ignorance and complicity in the indefensible by progressives and Democrats who have previously indicated that they were civilized, fair and responsible. Clearly, they are no longer.

7. Boy, the company should seek its money back from whatever the compliance  firm was that Starbucks used when it  closed thousands of its stores last year for anti-bias training. This was ordered after the explosive Philadelphia incident when police were called to remove two black men who refused to buy any Starbucks products while waiting to have a meeting. I guess the training was only about abusing and mistreating minority customers, right? The lessons didn’t apply to, say, police officers and supporters of the President? Of course not.

8. Tempe’s police should be praised for defusing the incident by quietly leaving without objecting (as, for example, I would have done) I cannot imagine a similar reaction in New York, Chicago, or my home town of  Boston, Massachusetts.

9. On the other hand, to quote “Fargo,” I’m not sure that I agree with you a hundred percent on your policework there…” If a customer is made nervous by the police, wouldn’t that warrant a bit of investigation?


Pointer: Steve Witherspoon


39 thoughts on “Ethics Observation On The Tempe, Arizona Starbucks Incident

  1. Sorry, what have I missed?

    Looking at this incident in isolation, and from half way around the world:

    A junior employee at a franchised business did something stupid and offensive, possibly whilst feeling frightened by the whinging customer.
    The franchise apologised and said this was against their policy.
    Yes, the franchise should jump on this and ‘send a memo’ across the organisation, and should have stated this.

    I get that this may be part of ongoing wokeness issues and can easily be seen as just one more example of that attitude. But, taking this incident in isolation, what has management done wrong; with the exception of specifically stating they would be addressing the issue franchise wide with a directive?

    Surely I’m misreading this post? (And no, I’m not calling ANYONE Shirley!)

    Who is running the ‘Dump Starbucks’ campaign: wokies – because of the apology – or those to the right of Stalin?

    Full disclosure, so to speak. Starbucks tried to sell their dish water in Australia, apparently unaware that we have had a thriving coffee culture for at least 50 years, or thinking that their coffee was superior, and fell flat on their face. Clearly we had already boycotted them here!

    • Starbucks as a corporation has made it clear some time ago they’re all about the leftist virtue-signaling. There was that stupid “Race Together” campaign with Starbucks employees “engaging in conversations about race” with their customers, and distributing questionnaires about how many different race friends you have. Then there was the incident where a cashier had a couple of squatters kicked out, and since those squatters happened to be black…

    • Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Paul. Let’s make a deal. We won’t comment on goings on in Australia about which we have no idea, and you can do the same about goings on in the U.S? Fair enough? And I know from our young Aussie friends that you all take great pleasure in looking down your noses at non-Aussie coffee because no one else washes their coffee making implements often enough. Good for you. Happy coffee. And let’s not forget, if it hadn’t been for the U.S., you’d be speaking Japanese and working for your wonderful Japanese overlords.

    • Who is running the ‘Dump Starbucks’ campaign: wokies – because of the apology – or those to the right of Stalin?

      Point of Order:

      Stalin was a leftist, not in any way in the ‘right’… policies, genocide, or politics.

  2. “If a customer is made nervous by the police, wouldn’t that warrant a bit of investigation?”
    My first thoughts exactly! My professional curiousity would have forced me to make some additional inquiries of the person.

  3. It’s terrible that Starbucks has such a virtue signaling jerk like Howard Schultz as CEO to set the tone for such incidents to occur. Perhaps the board of directors should considering giving him his golden parachute and firing him. As far as the snowflake that made the complaint, I hope he wanders into a biker bar and complains that he can’t get a grande latte there.

  4. A great many things occur to me, here. First, six police officers …the only thing 5that would make me feel safer would be the entrance of the 4th Armored Division, with all equipment running and loaded for bear. Second, why would the barista EVER take action against 6 paying customers because of 1</b. paying customer? He/she needs a few lessons in capitalism. Finally, given the first point, why did the police not investigate further, as has already been asked?

    • Well, of course they should have gotten free coffee, and they also should have bought the punk customer a Triple Venti, Non-Fat Latte With Caramel Drizzle, Soy, No Foam, Decaf, Half Sweet, Extra Shot, at 120 Degrees, and using the customer name “Pig Hater”.

      • My god I now see the reason for wealth inequality. Had those people saved their money and not bought overpriced coffee they could have invested and made more money and the fat cat seller would not have been made rich.

        Does anyone else see the irony in portraying the rich as fat when they focuse on saving while those not rich tend to consume more than their incomes allow.

        • Two sayings/posters from the ’80s come to mind, Chris: “Poverty Sucks” and “You can’t be too rich, and too thin.” I suspect you remember those.

      • No, no. No free coffee. Most departments have rules about this, calling it a gratuity. And such a rule would never be broken by the troops.

        When I first saw the story I immediately thought about the reaction of the Sergeant when he found that crowd in there.The department I am most familiar with had a strict rule of “2 uniforms” in an eating establishment. Such crowds of uniforms make the public wonder “who is watching the store?” and wanting to accuse them all of goofing off. One is not off-duty (or on break) in the eyes of the public when the officer is in uniform. Tempe may not roll that way.

        I would boycott Starbucks over this but they wouldn’t notice; I dumped them when they went on the “race” thing and backed it up with the anti-gun crap.

  5. Frankly, I see a lot of overreaction here.
    A customer overreacting to the presence of police (paging Hanlon and his sharp blade here), a stupid overreaction.
    The barista overreacting on behalf of the customer — he/she should simply have said, “They are welcome here.” But, a young, inexperienced person (if that’s the case) trying to please a customer and keep the peace — not a firing offense.
    The Tempe Officers Association calling for a boycott, if based on this one incident, as it appears, clearly an overreaction. The barista made a mistake, the company apologized profusely. Yes, yes, the company is responsible for its employees, but, if this is a one-off, then a boycott is wrong.
    Refusing ever again to patronize Starbucks, well I wouldn’t go that far myself (I rarely patronize them as it is). But, that refusal as stated is not based on just this one incident, so, maybe, not really an overreaction.

    • Wait—you really think that kicking police officers—not just paying customers but police officers—out of a store for no reason and precipitating a national embarrassment for your employers, not to mention showing the common sense of a closed head injury victim— isn’t a firing offense? Really?

      • I could agree that it might be a firing offense, but, I would have to know more about the employee, the work history, the training (especially in conflict resolution), and exactly what transpired between the employee and the cop she/he spoke with.
        It seems the employee made a request based on personally knowing one of the cops. Offensive, yes, but not exactly kicking them out. Was there more discussion, or did the cops just say, ‘Okay, we’ll leave’?
        I have seldom been to a Starbucks, but my impression is that a lot of the employees are young kids with not a lot of life experience, so, no, firing would not be my first impulse.

        • A further thought or two — was this employee the manager, or, was it a: ‘Hey, you know that cop, go do something’ kind of situation? And, what about the manager? Most Starbucks training is on the job, somewhat overseen by the manager, and the bulk of that training is how to take orders and make the ‘dishwater’ into something tasty. Should the manager be fired?

  6. Normally, when I’ve been working in the Arizona sun all day and smell like a pile of old gym socks, I don’t consider myself particularly suitable for gentle company. Still, when I read about a company that’s suffering lost business because their socially-conscious employees have acted tactlessly, I’m moved to compassionately set aside my qualms. Those poor people need my support, no matter how malodorous and filthy I may happen to be as I relax in their shop over a delicious beverage!

    In fact, I should go further to support them: There are many homeless people in Arizona who would enjoy receiving a Starbucks gift card. Picture the joy in the eyes of an unwanted, panhandling drug addict, when he sees that someone cares enough to give him the chance to enjoy a delicious coffee in the comfort of a Starbucks Coffee Shop. Since I already have a couple of Starbucks gift cards that I received as Christmas gifts and never used, it would cost me nothing to show a little compassion for the downtrodden.

  7. Four words explain this entire state of affairs: Hands up, don’t shoot.

    This representative republic was damaged in so many ways in 8 short years. All intentionally.

      • If we educate objective as possible ethical historians, I think it will eventually be admitted and recorded.

        Getting historians who are as objective as possible and ethical might take a generation or two considering how historians are generally trained today. Let’s hope and work toward it happening someday.

  8. Steve Witherspoon and Gamereg:
    Yes, yes, and yes respectively. However, if they have made a stumbling step in the right direction by apologising it seems to me we should pat them on the back for that rather than kicking them in the crotch!
    It’s kiss, kick, kiss; not kick, kick, kick.

    You missed the Oi, Oi, Oi. It’s just fake without the Oi, Oi, Oi!.

    Yes, lets make a deal, you don’t assume that I have no idea about goings on in the US and I’ll feel free to ask questions and make comments as I seek to expand that knowledge. I spend a fair amount of time checking out stuff in the USA, including invariably going through Ethics Alarms where Starbucks failings have been extensively highlighted; because what happens there has a habit of rolling downhill to us. We have ANTIFA and we have our own Little California, the State of Victoria. I am well aware of Starbucks history, but see my comment about kicking them when they do something half right for a change. Yes, it was only half right, but that’s a big improvement over totally wrong!

    Re: Coffee. Touchy, touchy. Surely you can cope with the fact that not everyone on the face of the planet falls down and worships EVERYTHING that you do over there? Please, allow us freedom of thought on this one issue!

    Re: WWII. Jeez, let it go. We appreciated everything you did, we have been amongst your closest allies in every conflict since your troops first went into battle in WWI – in the company of Australians, and our tiny little nation was the first to shoot down a Japanese aircraft – before Pearl – and the first to give the Japanese a land defeat, mostly with untrained and ill equipped reservists, at Kokoda and Milne Bay in PNG. We may or may not have held the line at Milne Bay on our own, but thanks for being there with us.

    Perhaps I’m a softy at heart, but going all postal on them here seems to be a great way to convince them it’s not worth changing from their usual woke dream.

    • I agree the apology offered by Starbucks appears substantial and genuine. I also agree you make more progress with people using sugar instead of vinegar. It is also clear the culture of Starbucks needs a change in direction. Let’s see if the mild vinegar offered by the police department is followed by something sweeter by the company to incentivize better corporate cultural behavior. If not, it will likely be back to the vinegar. (To be clear, many vinegars are delicious.)

    • Then again, there was that time your Admiral Crutchley left the Savo Island beachhead screen unled and the allied navy suffered the worst defeat in fair fight ever. You “mates” played no role at all in the Coral Sea or at Midway, and at Leyte Gulf you provided 2, count ’em two, ships of all engaged. That said, at least you didn’t go coward like your sheepherding cousins in NZ, who slammed the door on our ships and call themselves brave for doing it, then wanted to spend extra money to make their two (count ’em two) warships unable to keep up with other allied ships. Make that coward and idiot for them electing this Jacinda flake.

      Now that we’re done slamming each other around, let me tell you a little anecdote of my own: I often have breakfast on Saturday at one particular diner or another. I won’t name names for obvious reasons. One is a semi-regular breakfast place for 7 NJ state troopers. Another has as many as 10 PA state troopers come in for breakfast. I can tell you right now that if any other patron was to tell the solid old school Greek owners of either place “they’re making me feel uncomfortable” (helps if you add the Eric Cartman voice) that patron would be told in no uncertain terms to go piss up a rope. If some patron went up to another patron and started giving them crap about their political t-shirt or hat, they’d be told in even less uncertain terms to get out. However, it’s unlikely to happen in either small-town NJ or rural PA, where people respect each other.

      I know it doesn’t seem fair to point to the left as being responsible for this phenomenon, but the only story I’ve heard anything like it from the right is the fictional story of three US vets (1 Vietnam POW, 2 former embassy guards) putting the run on loudmouth protesters at Best Western near the University of Idaho in the wake of 9/11. Yet again and again we hear of the left harassing cops, veterans, administration officials, and so on, and it being portrayed as virtuous. Here’s the thing – we’ve heard this story of “woke” coffee shop person gives cop or veteran crap many times – the coffee shop always ends up getting a big black eye and having to apologize – unless it’s specifically a “woke” shop, in which case shame on the cops for not using common sense and going someplace they know they aren’t wanted. The employees should know what’s going to happen, and the employers should be real clear on it and take action to prevent it. It should be in the handbook, in bold type, that no one is to be refused service due to employment, veterans’ status, or politics, and anyone who does so will be summarily fired.

      Frankly I wonder just what kind of world these idiot virtue-signalers envision? A world without police, armed forces, or conservatives? Just who would keep order there and how would they do it? This world where a few all-wise visionaries rule benevolently over a paradise where everyone contributes what he can and receives what he needs doesn’t exist. Trying to move us in the direction of a place that doesn’t exist is silly at best, dangerous at worst.

    • Paul, I don’t even drink coffee, or tea. I avoid Starbucks stores like the plague. But I have lived in Arizona since 1981 and sent my son to ASU in Tempe and am very familiar with the rot in our university system that has led to producing graduates or students like the Starbucks employee who had the temerity to deem police drinking coffee in a purported coffee shop as a something “unsafe.” What’s more American than cops in a coffee shop (or a doughnut shop)? If I were a cop in the U.S., I’d consider having all my fellow officers take a month off and see how safe people feel at the end of that month.

      Australia is a continent but has a population half the size of California, hyah? It’s incredibly homogeneous, except for the Chinese who are buying all those empty apartments and incredibly wealthy and overpriced because it’s essentially a coaling station for the Chinese. Running an all white recently former Brit colony of twenty-five million, except for those annoying indigenous people in the outback, is a walk in the park compared to running a country of over three hundred million populated by all sorts of people. Think about sticking to you knitting and keeping your passive aggressive down under superiority to yourself.

  9. …the police are a racist, hostile force in the community, not a benign, necessary one.

    And yet they expect this racist, hostile force to enforce “common sense”, “sensible” gun legislation in an even-handed manner.

    As my longtime Usenet ally, Chris Morton, wrote,

    As a Black man, here’s what I say to “woke” SJWs:

    1. The police are all violent, racist sociopaths.
    2. Only the police should have guns.

    Pick ONE.

  10. Michael R, Replying to Slickwilly:
    “90% of America is ‘right of Stalin’.” Thanks for recognising my point. To lefties, anyone to the right of Stalin is a Nazi these days.

    Steve-O-in-NJ: Perhaps a bit simplistic in your military assessment; many mistakes were made, and Crutchley was called away by (your) Turner. Australia had a population of seven and a quarter million in 1943, the US had one hundred and thirty six million. Surely you don’t expect us to be represented at every battle in the war, let alone in force? We had been in it for over two years before the US joined in and so you missed a few yourselves!

    As to the rest of your comments, I’m right with you.

    As for you comments OB:
    “Running an all white recently former Brit colony of twenty-five million, except for those annoying indigenous people in the outback, is a walk in the park compared to running a country of over three hundred million populated by all sorts of people. ”

    You previously said: “We won’t comment on goings on in Australia about which we have no idea….” Seems you have broken your promise. Australia is an extremely diverse multicultural nation, at least as diverse as the US, the vast majority of our indigenous population lives in urban areas, and our tiny population is spread over a country that is almost as large as yours. If you think that is easy there is something unusual in whatever coffee you ARE drinking. I’ll continue with my knitting, you might like to follow your own advice and get an idea. If you ever decide to come over and take a look for yourself I have a spare bedroom and I’ll show you around the North!

    And none of this really applies to the subject of the original post. I still hold to my position; kick them when they do their usual woke thing, but if they do ANYTHING half right, acknowledge that.

    • Well, here’s a guy on the other side of Maricopa County who’s worried about being safe as well.

      He’s protecting the community. Good for him. He’s also mentally ill. And has just been released from prison.

      We don’t even have to make a reductio ad absurdem argument about people being concerned about ‘safety’ and ‘safe places.’. It’s being acted out in real time. And it’s a serious problem and it’s been created in the American academy.

      I’ve been to OZ twice, Paul. For a total of about five weeks. Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Port Stephens. And worked with and for lots of Aussies. Just typical, non American stuff as near as I can tell. Saw an article the other day by some guy in the UK or somewhere saying he should be entitled to vote in US elections because what happens in the US will have a big effect on his life. A fairly typical attitude in the rest of the non-US world, I’d say. And it gets really tiresome.

      And bullshit on Australia being diverse (which is nothing to brag about in any event.. It’s run by public school twits working at McQuarrie’s, just like any other part of the Commonwealth. And otherwise full of obnoxious, loud blokes. Descendants of the POHMs?

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