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December 30, 2010


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sounds like there's more to the story ...

Coffee Soldier

Starbucks policy is that there are to be no visible body piercings (other than 2 per a ear) or visible tattoos. A person could be hired with tattoos but know they are to be kept covered same goes for piercings but they would have to come out for their shift. Ex. a partner has tattoos down his calves he could not wear shorts. A partner could be fired for having tattoos if they violated the policy of keeping them concealed. I find it very annoying that in my store not a single tattoo is visible and maybe 10 of 20 partners have them yet I can go to the nearest city and they are walking around with them on their necks and it seems to go unnoticed. Tattoos and piercings for years have been turned a blind eye to by DM's and SM's seemingly depending where stores are located. You'd never see tats in ME, VT, or NH but go to Boston and they are in most every urban store...it's BS for those of use who have them.


there is way too little said in that statement.
if he covered his tattoos the whole time, and was hired with them, there should not be a problem.


Hey, it's policy, and it's right there in the dress code. No visible tattoos. I have a few, and always keep them covered up. Do I like the policy? Not really. It's a throwback to the old attitudes that only sailors and ladies of questionable values have ink. But I do understand that it's easier to simply throw a blanket over all tattoos, rather than having to judge what is acceptable, tasteful, etc. Plus, if every barista is free from visible tattoos, it keeps up the image of interchangeable 'Bux locations, where you can expect to get the exact same drink and the exact same service, no matter where you are. Baristas should be friendly and memorable to the regulars, but only in as much as they can be replaced with another green apron without much fuss. (Wow, that sounds more bitter than I was aiming for!)

I <3 music

Selective enforcement is common at the Buck. It doesn't just apply to tattoos.


There is certainly a possibility that this barista was fired for unjust reasons (this is the planet Earth, after all and these things happen, even at Starbucks), but I simply can't trust the word of a mother about her son's termination. She simply wasn't there on a day to day basis to know why he was fired or what he was actually doing during his shifts.

I'm not saying she's wrong, I'm simply saying that her perspective is skewed and her information is all second hand from the barista.

It's a non issue at this point.


Slow news day, eh?

just another partner

i have several large tattoos in well hidden places (ribs, hips, half sleeve/shoulder, foot). when i hire baristas i let them know that i have several tats and if i can keep them covered then they can too. it is non-negotiable in my store. i allow partners to have more than 2 piercings in their ears, but any in other places (other than ears) must have clear spacers etc in them. my DM is completely covered in tats and always wears shirts buttoned all the way up and wears long sleeves (even though we are in florida and it is hot as hell most days) to cover his tattoos.


There is a history behind the dress code. When the Starbucks Union started gaining steam, the company fired union activists for violating written policy. This could be something as minor as having an untucked shirt. When the union started becoming a huge threat, the company rewrote the dress code. It is about 12 pages long, and includes detail down to what you can use to tie back your hair. If I remember right, the dress code also covers socks and shoelaces.

The dress code is a tool to let the company fire anyone at any time for violating policy. People are routinely fired for all sorts of reasons, and the company justifies it by saying they were fired for violating the dress code. We have had horrible people fired for violating the dress code and wonderful people fired for violating the dress code. It is a catch-all that the company uses to cover its a**.

Basically, the dress code is so impossible to adhere to that about 95% of all baristas are violating it at some point. As music says above, selective enforcement is the name of the game.

Coffee Soldier

Just another partner....letting partners have the spacers in still in considered a piercing according to my DM...the partners in my area cannot wear spacers and have to completely remove any (aside from ears) piercings...this is a perfect exmple of how everything varies from store to store or area to area.


So you let some partners violate dress code by having multiple ear piercings, but you wont let me violate dress code for having my tattoos show?? Prepare yourself for some kind of lawsuit.

yeah, I said decaf

The baristas at my local non-Sbux coffee shops have tattoos, I have tattoos, and I am bummed to hear that this is a policy at Sbux. Seems to be common among big corporate entities. Sad... I keep trying to convince myself that Sbux is hip.

James Connolly

As dress said, dress code is basically another weapon to use against workers so they can be fired for any time regardless of the actual reason.

I'd suggest Jennifer get in touch with us at the union and see what we can do to help.


Hello Hello! This is your favorite PNW store manager here. I have fired tons of partners for not covering there tats. (13) I had a clear first impression convo with each partner and explained the dress code policy. They all signed the partner handbook and that is that. Three write ups for the same policy infraction and your gone.


Grow up! No respectable business allows tattoos to be visible. That is a choice you made when you got one.

Go live in Japan and see how your treated.


And James, your a fool. Dresscode is the most basic policy of every company in America. If you twist this to your anti-corporate message your are just plain foolish. How was the whiskey you feeble drunk? Did you feel good on the floor the 26th? Or did you blame your dropsies on corporate ignorance?

and by the way......I did work in a farm labor camp as a kid and loved it.



"Basically, the dress code is so impossible to adhere to that about 95% of all baristas are violating it at some point."

I don't know what company you work for, but the dress code at Starbucks is incredibly simple and easy to follow. If you honestly think it's impossible to follow, I have to assume that you haven't read the actual partner handbook.

Let me know what confuses you about the dress code and I'll be happy to explain it to you. I always keep a copy of the handbook in the backroom of any store where I work, so I can pull it out and refer to it as needed.

And, frankly, people don't get fired for breaking dress code. People get fired for flagrantly disregarding dress code and showing no intention of following proper policy. If you forget to cover your tattoo once, you're fine. If you forget to cover your tattoo every day, you might get fired. Although in my six years with the company, I've never once known anybody who has ever been terminated for dress code violations.

So tuck in those shirts, cover those tattoos, and make sure your clothes are compliant with dress code. You're adults and I'm sick of telling you things you already should know.



Waltie it doesn't happen often but I agree with you 100% here.
I have tattoos that I keep covered every day at work. It's really not a hard policy to follow. Whoever said the dress code is 12 pages long must be looking at some other company or perhaps a victim of the ever popular "regional directive". My partner handbook has dresscode covering about 2 pages in very easy to understand language.

I don't agree with every aspect of the dress code but that's what Mission Reviews are for. I voice my objections while following the policy as it stands.

There's got to be a lot more to this story than has been reported so far. I'd never trust a mother's word that that's the ONLY reason her son was fired. Lady, he's probably not telling you he was chugging a beer after close or that he pocketed $10 from the tip jar...


Northwest, Apple is a company that allows employees to show tattoos and piercings and I find them to be a highly respectable company to work for....


I will tell you why Starbucks does not allow visible tattoos, since common sense seems a little lacking here.

There are tattoos that are offensive. But only some people will be offended. Others may appreciate it. There is no true way to determine a potentially offensive tattoo from an inoffensive tattoo. In order to remove that responsibility from the barista/customer/manager, Starbucks nipped the whole problem in the bud by simply not allowing tattoos to be visible.

I kept this in mind when I got my tattoo (on my back shoulder) and have no problem covering it. Waltie, I'm with you on this one, too. I can't believe how many people wear tennies, or shirts too short to tuck in, or try to leave their nose rings in on their shift. You know the dress code, you agreed to it when you took the job, follow it! Not hard, not hard at all. Incidentally, I've never been out of dress code.


Amazing how some people will use the discussion of dress code to make assumptions about the character of anyone who questions or dares deviate from it. "What? You dare disagree with me and with the Official Dress Code? You're a drunk, an imbecile and I fear for the future of my country."

And by the way, I feel that a latte just tastes better when it is made by a person with body art. And a nose ring? Man, that would be even better than foam art!


Maybe I'm just the luckiest barista in the world...or have the coolest store manager. But I have tattoos that are never covered. I have a piercing that I never take out. My shift has snake bits (lip is pierced on both sides)and I'm sorry, but I'm never going to tuck my shirt in. It really is a store to store thing, but I do appreciate the fact that I can have size 2 ears, and it not be a problem anywhere.


From someone who has tattoos, I have no problem covering them up.

Would I like to not have to? Yes, it would make it less of a hassle to do dishes without getting my sleeves in the way. lol I do understand that this is a mainstream coffeehouse that is trying to look professional. I also know it's easier to say no to all tattoos, then hearing hoopla about deciding why person A's tattoo is alright, but person B's is somehow offensive.

On the other side of things, I do know of many successful companies that do allow visible tattoos (indie coffee shops, apple, target, gap, express, (several other clothing retail) alberstons, publix, and best buy).

I will also have to say I'm sure any professional job where you sit in an office in a nice suit in the air condition it is more comfortable covering them than running around a hot store.

But regardless, it's not my decision to make, it is Starbucks'. My choice to work here, my choice to get my tattoos... So I just follow the rules so I can pay rent and go to school. Then one day I'll have my office job. :-D


Not only is the tattoo thing out of touch with other hip/cool places; Quaker Steak and Lube, but the policy about fake nails is stupid. Nicely done french manicure acrylic nails look very nice. Howard needs to come out of the dark ages.


lattelady, the nails thing is a health code thing.

Many municipalities say that you cannot have fake nails or nail polish on when working food service.

So it is a blanketed starbucks policy.


If you work in an "at-will" state, the labor laws say the business can fire you for no reason at all or any reason. The only exception to the at-will law is for sex, race, religion, etc.

Tattoos and piercings are a convenient target.


my personal peeve is the hats. In my district the dm insists we wear our hats even though the health department does not require the hats. He will fire you immediately for not wearing it and yet tats and piercings, weird colors in the hair and questionable comments and jokes by partners are ignored. Some people in positions of power are useless.

Coffee Drinker

Long nails may look beautiful from the top, but one shudders to think what's under them, especially working with food, money, the bathroom, and touching people all day.


The nail thing isn't the only health-code mandate. Tucked-in shirts aren't just about how things look - if you're working with machines and food prep, states require that you can't have shirts and shoelaces hanging out to get caught on something or leaving dirt/germs on surfaces. 90% of dress code items are about keeping workers and customers safe and reassured rather than just corporate look. I'm sure if SB had the nerve to enforce an "all about our image" dress code, things could be much more insufferable.


sure, because weak flakey chippy natural nails are so much cleaner in a pastry case than well kept acrylic ones.
i am a nail tech, and the nails rule is backwards BS.


I think the nail rule is an all around no painted nails or fake nails. The steam wands can actually take the paint off nails and it would suck to get a Triple Grande Two Pump Soy Lt. Whip Mocha with a who acrylic nail in it. Most managers I've worked with will allow a few exceptions (Prom, Weddings) but would keep that partner on Register.


A policy is a policy. If you accept the job, you accept the conditions of employment. It's your right to deface your body as you wish, it's not your right to work at Starbucks. If I see someone with a goat head-devil face skull fire and skeleton tattoo, well, I don't try to befriend them. No one is offended by no tattoo. And, when I was an SM, I found a beautiful french manicured acrylic in the pastry case from a former employee. Short, clean nails. Is that such a horrible oppressive rule?
PS: the Union is a joke. Does the union set up a pension for the Sbux members? Health care? 401K? No, they just whine about policies like tattoos and hours being cut and stomp around outside of stores....


@waltie-for once i agree with you
@lattelady-and when your nail comes off in a latte, it adds classy flavor as well. That is not a starbucks thing, that is a everywhere food service thing.


As a partner of nearly 5 years (I'm a 13*****), I'm going to have to side with the people saying its a tool to fire people. Dress code is pretty much standard for any company, however what some people don't realize is the conflict over company values (diversity, etc...) and a dress code which doesn't match up to it. I, and at least 10 other partners I know, knowingly violate minor aspects of the code, merely because they're kind of ridiculous. No one notices or cares. My DM probably couldn't pick out what's wrong if I asked him. The only time dress code is used is for flagrant violations coupled with other reasons to be fired. If a partner has a tattoo they don't cover, but is an amazing barista/shift/ASM, no one will say anything about it. If they suck at their job, then its an issue. Its nigh on impossible to fire people at sbux, at least in my region, and its not at all uncommon to drum up a reason for termination if it gets to that point. For example, a shift with a vendetta against me very nearly got me fired a while ago for going against her very incorrect ideas about the use of shot glasses (she claimed they were never to be used, even for CMs and iced drinks). Thankfully, that didn't happen and after she was transfer out life returned to normal for me. The point being, you can be fired for having your shoe untied, or an unkempt beard, but they won't ever do it, unless someone wants to find a reason.


gcpanda, you're right, and that's the problem. Selective enforcement is what makes this topic come up. My prior SM, now a DM, fired a barista for not shaving. No other reason. We even bought him shavers and cream, he just chose to come in looking like he fell out of bed into some clothes. My DM did a dress code check every time she came by. The thing is, if you let one policy slide, then what's the big deal with being a few minutes late every time? I'm a good barista otherwise... or what if I take 15 minute 10's, I make a mean latte... My apron has a month's worth of buildup on it, but I do such a great job. Etc...I was a very cool boss, but the expectation was there.


"I, and at least 10 other partners I know, knowingly violate minor aspects of the code, merely because they're kind of ridiculous."

I'm curious to know which aspects of the company's dress code you consider to be ridiculous.


As an employee, you don't get to decide which parts are "stupid" and which you should follow. Have fun following that mantra in the real world and falling on your ass. Not to mention that the dress code is not that strict.

James Connolly

Walite, things like wearing a white undershirt with a black polo, or no white socks, just off the top of my head.

Personally, I have no ink, and I never will because it's not for me, but a blanket ban of visible tattoos is ridiculous in this day and age. A policy that states, 'no sexually explicit, racist, or drug related tattoos' makes far more sense than an absolute ban.

And Northwest, always a pleasure to see your charming self crop up in the comments again. Still continuing to project your insecurities onto those who dare disagree with the Big Green Mermaid, I see.

I <3 music

In our nation bending rules is a pillar of capitalism.


"things like wearing a white undershirt with a black polo, or no white socks"

I agree that the no white undershirt under a black polo is strange, but it's not hard to follow. I'm sure somebody, somewhere had a reason to make that rule, and since it does no harm and it's easy to accommodate, who cares? Just wear the black t-shirt (or the white t-shirt under a white shirt.) As for the socks thing, I've also heard people interpret it to mean no white socks, but it doesn't actually say that. White socks are allowed. It simply says that socks have to be dark or neutral. White is neutral. In fact, I think that might be the definition of white.

Now, I've worked with managers who have mistaken the policy the way you did and forbidden people from wearing anything buy black socks. However, this isn't a problem with the dress code, it's a problem with bad managers who failed to understand the dress code itself. That's why any discussion about dress code needs to refer back to the handbook. If your managers says your socks are against dress code, ask them where it exactly it says that. Since it doesn't say that, there's no problem.

As for the across the aboard ban on tattoos, this has already been explained. somebody have tattoos that might be offensive or objectionable (I have a friend who has a tattoo on his arm of a skull with a bleeding eye socket), so it's easier (not to mention smart business sense) to just say no visible tattoos at all, instead of having to take each tattoo on a case by case basis.

I certainly wouldn't want to be the guy who had to deal with a discrimination case because the guy with the swastika tattoo thought his rights to free expression were being denied. You might thing that ban on "racist" tattoos would cover it, but that person might point out that Swastikas predate the third reich by a few thousand years. So... no tattoos. It's a sound business decision that isn't the least bit ridiculous when you look at it logically.


I don't cover up my tattoo in my store and I've never had an issue with my DM or SM


Well, you're lucky, girltoy. Be glad your work in a store with managers who don't care about the rules. I've worked in stores like that, I didn't really enjoy myself. Managers who pick and choose which rules to follow are often popular with some baristas, but they ultimately end up harming their development as partners and hurt the store. Some of the rules they choose not to follow might, you know, actually be there to help everybody.

Now, do I think there should be a rule against tattoos? I really don't care either way. Like James, I have no tattoos nor will I ever because I think they're dumb. I enjoy looking at a cute girl with tattoos and I can definitely admire the artistry and craft put into some of the more intricate and well done designs, but ultimately I'd rather just wear a cool looking t-shirt than have my body mutilated. But if you want to get a tattoo, that's fine by me. It's an art that has been around for many thousands of years so who am I to question it.

So I wouldn't care if Starbucks lifted the ban. In fact, if there was ever a resolution put forward where partners could vote on it, I'd probably vote to allow tattoos, because I don't care either way.

However, I understand *why* the ban is in place, and I know that I'm going to follow the policy and make sure the people with whom I work do as well. Because, you know, that's my job.

James Connolly

Waltie, the problem with the dress code isn't just some bad apples. The whole thing is designed to be arbitrary and create a situation where most workers end up violating it in some way so as to provide a convenient pretext to fire them if they do something that the company doesn't like. Rarely, this is a good thing, as in a situation in a nearby store where a partner was known to be stealing tips but got fired for a dress code violation, and but usually it's the worst kind of bullshit. I'm not saying there shouldn't be a dress code, but it does need to be simplified to prevent abuse by the company.

As far as your defense of the tattoo policy goes, that dog doesn't hunt with me. You could add violent imagery to the 'sexually explicit, racist, or drug related' ban I came up with previously and cover your friend's tattoo. It's not good business sense, it's just lazy thinking.


And hopefully this is the last thing I'll say on the subject, but it's an important point to make:

A manager who allows baristas and shifts to flagrantly disregard policy aren't cool or even just easy going. They are cowards who are either unable or unwilling to have difficult talks with their partners about standards and job performance. I don't want to have to tell people to cover their tattoos or tuck in their shirts, but I do because I care about my job and my partners. And you know what? This might sound lame, but taking the time to have those difficult, often awkward conversations where I have to coach people makes me a better leader and the people I'm coaching better workers. This is a fundamental thing that anybody who wants to be any kind of leader needs to understand.

A manager who is too afraid or just unwilling to hold their partners accountable when they break policy are ultimately making them selves look week and diminishing their abilities to lead teams to success. Even worse, they are simply shifting the problem to the next manager who comes along and actually steps up and excepts people to follow policy.

So until the policy changes, cover your tattoos and follow dress code. If you have a job at Starbucks, that means you're an adult so the expectation is that you act like one. End of sermon.


"The whole thing is designed to be arbitrary and create a situation where most workers end up violating it in some way so as to provide a convenient pretext to fire them if they do something that the company doesn't like."

This is a specious argument. Since you don't actually know the intentions behind the creation of the dress code, you just look silly when you throw out wild accusations like that. And, again, you're repeating the same lie that the dress code so strict and complicated that it is all but impossible to follow. It's actually very simple and ridiculously easy to follow.

Bottom line: If aren't following dress code it's either because you haven't taken the time to learn the policies or it's because you are knowingly breaking it and just don't care. There's no third option I can think of, because the dress code is absolutely that easy to follow.

And to go back to my swastika argument, somebody could make the claim that because the Swastika predates Nazi Germany, their interpretation isn't actually violent imagery. I'm not saying that hypothetical argument is correct, just that it could be made if they opened the possibility of tattoos being ok if they fall under certain criteria. The reason tattoos are banned is because nobody at Starbucks legal wants to deal with that kind of headache.

Just follow dress code, people. It's not hard.


I don't get the ear-gauging thing. It seems like a not so subtle way of saying "don't hire me, I don't make good long-term decisions."

Coffee Soldier

I agree with Waltie (and I have a few tats covered of course)....a corporation that is in the business of serving cutomers from all different areas and walks of life should not be determining what is and isn't acceptable to be tattooed on someone working for them on a visible part of their body...a blanket policy of no tattooes visible is the easiest and best way to go. I could honestly say if I went to any coffee shop and the barista had a giant swastika tattooed on his/her arm I would never go back in disgust that this shop had someone with what is associated with that symbol's beliefs...but on the oppostie side of the coin there are some poeple that may find this person intresting and go in and start a conversation but any tattoo drug related, political, religious, violent, vulgar, sexual....there are far too many categories for Stabucks to decide what could be displayed. A donkey could be taken in offense to a Republican or a animal rights activist...I mean people can find some sort of reason to complain about anything...this way is really the only way I can see a company try to appeal to the masses across the World without rocking the boat!

Another side note...is when and where do people aside in biker gangs, bands, obscure racist or anti-something groups ever think that their offensive tattoos will ever be accepted? I would never expect to be hired with a wrap around pot leaf on my arm in anywhere but a headshop anyways!

Someone earlier mentioned Apple employees can have visable tattoos...does anyone know how they determine what can be displayed? or do they really just let anything go?


I don't particularly like the dress code in that I have to tuck in my shirt, but I do it. I don't particularly like not being able to wear fake nails or polish, but I get it. I've got 5 tats and you can't see any of them, I understand the policy that you have to cover them.

It really isn't that hard to follow the policies. You don't like it then leave or don't work there. I don't like them, but they don't bother me enough quit or buck the system. I just follow them.

Be thankful of the jobs that you have instead of complaining about the rules that are put in place to give you that job. It's really easy.


If you work at Starbucks and don't plan on moving into a better career at some point, you're a fool.

If you have a tattoo on your forearm, wrist, fingers, neck, etc, then you clearly don't plan on getting a real job.



My coworker has a tattoo on each of her wrists. She just covers them up with watches and wide bracelets. Oh, did I mention that this is her side job for insurance? She already has a career, she's co-owner of the largest modeling and talent agency on the east coast. I know plenty of people with forearm tattoos holding career jobs. I am an archaeology and anthropology student who intends on getting a wrist tattoo, and I asked my advisors and they were confused as to why I would think anyone could care!

So no. Only "certain" career jobs.


Will you're stuck in the dark ages. I see professionals with tattoos all of the time. Lawyers, executives, police officers, doctors the list goes on.

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