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April 30, 2011


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But how do you know that the customer you're asking to watch your stuff isn't a thief?

SBUX Alum Bill

"Lieutenant Hollywood and other officers say one reason Starbucks is frequently the scene of thefts is because there are so many of the shops in the city: 298 and counting."

Gotta love the name of that police officer! Anyway, it sounds like this is only identified as a Starbucks problem because there are more Starbucks in NYC than any other similar business, so it naturally happens more often at Starbucks. Part of the problem may also be limited seating in some cafés - customers often leave jackets & other belongings at their table to "claim" their valuable seat, only to find them gone when they return. Not much SBUX can do about this, other than posting the usual warning signs & being vigilant wherever possible. I'm not sure if there's much a Barista can do, anyhow, if they spot someone darting out the door with someone else's laptop.

Coffee Soldier

If I saw someone grab a laptop or purse or anything like that in my store and run out with it I would attempt to focus on description and see if they got into a car and get make/model/plate # if possible then call the police and that's if there wasn't 15 customers in line waiting. No way am I endangering myself because a customer left their belongings on a table or chair unattended! This article is just giving criminals more ideas!


I guess it all depends where you live... in all of the stores I've worked I have never experienced this kind of problem. Many times we have had purses and electronics turned in to us by good-hearted strangers when they have been accidentally left behind. Then again, this is a pretty suburban area... in my experience this is the rural/suburban norm.


I've lost track of the number of times a customer has asked me to watch the stuff at their table when they run to the bathroom, to their car, to have a smoke, etc.

I always tell them the best I can do is try, but I make no promises. Because, you know, I'm working.

And on the few occasions when a customer has asked me to watch their kid(!!) when they have to step out, I've always said no, I'm sorry but I can't do that.


I have seen this repeatedly. The thieves are professionals and they target bags or laptops they can easily snatch.


We have been fortunate in my store. At least twice a week either a handbag or laptop has been turned in. Nothing has ever been stolen.

Staci d. Kramer

Someone asked how you know your fellow customer isn't a thief? You don't but if you're a regular you get to know the other regulars & that's usually where you start. No matter what, though, take your wallet with you when you leave the table.


Don't leave your stuff unattended. Doesn't matter where you are.


I actually had a customer leave his coat, laptop, and other items behind as he actually got into his car and drove away (intending, of course to return later). The customer who had been sitting near him ran over to me and told me the guy had driven away and left his stuff behind. I had to tell the guy that the other guy wasn't a terrorist.


I'd never ask a stranger to watch over my stuff for me. If you have to go to the restroom, take your laptop with you!


Better yet stop camping at Starbucks all day! I can never find a seat just to sit down for 15 minutes and enjoy my coffee. I went in one morning at 830 came back at noon and the same people were still in the cafe with their tall cups of coffee. No establishment is responsible for lost or stolen articles that is retail/food industry 101. Go home and use your lap top there.


People usually sling their shoulder bags over the back of their chair. One of the security guys told me they were thinking of getting rounded-back chairs so that it was impossible to hang a bag over the back. I don't think that ever happened.

At one point they stuck little hooks under the table so you could hang your bag near your knees. I don't know what happened with that initiative, either.

It is common for people to ask their fellow customers to watch their laptop -- but, truly, what is someone to do when they see a thief grab a laptop and flee out the door? These thieves are so good that they can get out in a flash.


New promotion coming up. We have a whopping 6 hours to do it tomorrow. I'm hoping it's an easy one.


People ask me all the time to watch their laptop while they run to the bathroom (I'm a customer, not employee). I must look honest or something.

Of course my MacBook Pro is way better than most of what I see out there, so maybe they figure I don't want their laptop.


You paid too much for that macbook pro. Go brag somewhere else.


"Will you watch my laptop?"

"Are you going to the bathroom or something?"

"No. It's just that I've got a sweet MacBook Pro. Will you watch me use it?"


Jealous. I had three hours to do our set. By myself. It's not too bad, but way more than I could get done in three hours. I left detailed instructions with the closers about what still needed to be done. Luckily, she knew before she came in that it probably wouldn't be done.


I should also mention that our SM is brand new, and doesn't have any experience previous to Sbux managing multiple people/ schedules. I'm assuming she'll get better, hopefully before the next set.


@Waltie -Too funny about being asked to watch kids.

@drive - I agree with you that there is a lot of small property crime going on in a Starbucks. I don't think most of it is "professional." My hunch is that many people who swipe purses (and the like) are often very non-professional high or intoxicated or highly addicted individuals hoping for a little bit of quick money to move on to their next high. Criminal yes, but professional, probably not.


I have worked in a busy downtown Chicago store for 3 years. I have seen roughly 10 phone snatches (2 averted by myself), lots of purses and wallets, and about 10 laptops go bye bye. One of those 10 was my own 6 month old MacBook Pro. I was working and it was in the back room on the desk. Three thieves distracted the crew on the floor while one snuck into the back, put it in his pants, and walked out. Worst day of my life. Still can't afford to replace it, 2.5 years later. :-/


crateish / nyc / waltie.
i giggled at that little bit. thanks :)

re: OP
we don't have the theif problem so much here. some customer take their stuff in the bathroom with them. we have one guy who leaves his laptop, but takes the laptop case, i've never figured that one out.. but i think were generally too busy running here or there that no one expects/asks us to stand still and watch their belongings. if anything they shout 'be right back!' on their way out as if we're going to throw away their net book while they run next door for a sandwich or something..


I can't imagine asking an employee of a store to watch my stuff. Just tell people it's not responsibility to watch your stuff or I don't have time to watch your stuff. The good thing is if this ever hits the media in a big way, people will side with the Starbucks employees. In other words, this will not be a p.r. nightmare for Starbucks. The only customers they might lose are the people who are the victims of this crime and they can't go anywhere else because no other establishment will have time to watch their stuff.


I know of one guy who had his phone stolen...I bought one of those laptop chain locks and attach it around the table...so if some scumbag steals it, they are taking the table with them too.


A lady at my store asked me to watch her laptop while she went to the bathroom. I said I could try, but I couldn't guarantee anything because, "We have a lot to do here." I'm sure my irritation showed. I was on drive-through. The buzzer might have gone off at any second. I couldn't believe someone would ask me to watch her things, as if I was not doing anything else. Then a co-worker came by and said, "What's going on?" She agreed to watch the lady's laptop. Grr. I was the bad guy now, without a doubt.

Sharon Lovoy

Here's the simple problem: There is NO PLACE to put your stuff in the bathroom other than on the floor. A laptop cannot be hung on a hook! :) Despite the fact that the starbucks.com site said they were going to put shelves in the bathrooms, this still has not happened in many starbucks (I travel for work and I get to visit a number of stores.) Give me a shelf and I promise not to leave anything out in the store :)

Mann Bruno

I don't think this would even be a problem if people stopped staying at Starbucks all day. Like someone else said, it is annoying to go to a Starbucks and not be able to find a good chair because there's 100 people on their laptops. I know sometimes you really NEED to use the internet, or maybe you have a break between classes but all the time? Maybe people should save up for some home internet service.

And even if it's not someone who likes to stay all day - Why would you leave your expensive laptop alone? Wait until after you get your coffee. Or bring a laptop case with you and use it if you have to go to the bathroom...

Laptop Inverters

Nice post. My friend John told me about this blog some weeks ago but this is the first time I’m visting. I’ll undoubtedly be back.

Kristen Cabbell

Isn't there a sign saying, "Don't leave your valuables unattended" somewhere in any Starbucks establishment? Laptops are too expensive to be left lying around in a place where strangers hang out.

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