This story in the NY Post got a lot of attention [Wednesday], saying that many Starbucks locations in New York are closing their public bathrooms. Starbucks denied the story — although I'm still trying to find out whether at some stores, managers or owners may make their own decisions to make bathrooms employees-only, as long as that complies with code.
I think the reason the story struck such a nerve was the quote: "Starbucks cannot be the public bathroom in the city anymore." Many readers said, that's true -- Starbucks really is the first place you look for if you're out and about in the city and you need a bathroom. You never get flack for using the bathroom without buying anything — and often, you do go ahead and buy something, once you're inside.
So — do you agree that Starbucks has in some sense become the de facto become the go-to public bathroom in NYC? In a way, it fits in with the Starbucks communitarian ethos — letting people sit as long as they want, free wireless, people watching, reinventing the coffeehouse as a kind of "public square."
To the extent that is true, is it a good thing or a bad thing for the bottom line? (no pun intended!) For the customer experience? For the employee experience? And is there any policy, written or unwritten, encouraging stores to be generous with letting the public use the bathroom? One person even speculated that the reason that New York City has not been quicker to install public toilets is that Starbucks had stepped in to, um, relieve the urgency of the problem.
On the other hand, some customers and employees have been known to complain that some people take advantage and that the stores and bathrooms have become messy and hard to navigate. Why don't they lock the bathrooms and provide a key or key code to customers like other chains do?
The New York Times
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