Starbucks Barista Refusing Bathroom to Cop Shows Corporations Don’t Let Employees Think for Themselves

It's not a bias against cops, it's a lack of employee empowerment.

Starbucks policeA Philadelphia police officer claims he was denied access to a bathroom at the Starbucks at 13th and Chestnut Streets in Center City — and he’s not happy about it.

According to a Facebook post that has since gone viral, the officer says that a “young blonde liberal” refused to give him the bathroom key code. After being told the bathroom is just for paying customers, he asked again, only to be refused again. He then went on to say that “it’s hip for this generation to berate and totally disrespect cops in front of the public and praise cop killers as the heroes of their time.” Here’s the full post:

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Police Officer Joe Leighthardt shared a photo of the officer’s comments and then watched as it went viral. His post got 1,606 likes, 8,162 shares and 652 comments (as of Monday at 12 noon.) The officer involved in the Starbucks incident remains unnamed.

I visited the 13th and Chestnut Starbucks on Monday and was told by a barista that the “young blonde liberal” was off today. The store manager declined to comment or even tell me if the cop’s version of the story is accurate. Another employee told me that the policy had been to only allow paying customers to use the bathroom, but that has since been changed. A Starbucks spokesperson said “Starbucks restrooms are open to the public,” but did not say whether this particular location had a different policy.

Police-supporting commenters on Facebook are up in arms:

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I think we all agree that police officers work on the road and rely on businesses to show some compassion and welcome them for a bathroom break. It’s not only added security for the business, it’s the right thing to do.

But the anger at the “young blonde liberal” is misguided. She was just doing her job by citing the corporate policy that only paying customers are allowed to use the bathroom. The problem lies in corporate cultures that don’t allow for any leeway, employee empowerment or independent thought. It’s very likely that the Starbucks barista is taught a blanket policy from her higher-ups — no bathrooms unless you’re a paying customer. That’s it. No wiggle room — even for a cop.

That’s the problem. Unique, out-of-the-ordinary situations pop up all the time, but stringent corporate rules make everything black-and-white. Didn’t realize you left the Phillies game through a side gate? Well you’re not allowed back in. Bringing food into a movie theater because you’re a diabetic and you need to monitor your sugar levels? Too bad, buy the overpriced crap in the lobby.

I certainly understand why this particular Starbucks wouldn’t want anyone and everyone using its two “one-person” bathrooms. The coffee shop is connected to a gigantic Macy’s store, which for some reason has its only customer bathrooms way up on the third floor, far from the men’s and women’s clothing sections. Surely, Macy’s customers prefer the short walk to Starbucks instead. Plus it’s on one of the busiest streets in the city and surely faces walk-in bathroom users all the time. Letting everyone use it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Heck, why would they put security codes on the bathroom doors in the first place?

But when a cop asks to use the bathroom, you say yes. It’s common decency, but in this corporatized world we live in, common decency goes out the window in place of stringent rules that don’t make sense 100 percent of the time.

It doesn’t make the barista anti-police, a liberal, or someone that praises cop killers. It just makes her a rule follower at a time when not following the rules can get you fired.