CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) — Tuesday afternoon, Starbucks closed more than 8,000 stores across the country in wake of the recent controversy in Philadelphia.
Many have turned away disappointed, not realizing that Starbucks closed its doors to customers after 2:30 p.m. Tuesday. But for The multi-billion-dollar company, discussing racial bias and discrimination with their employees is far more important than losing those customers.
On April 12, a manager at a Philadelphia Starbucks called the police on two black men who were sitting at a table waiting for a friend.
They were arrested for trespassing, since they had not purchased anything.
The incident has sparked national debate, and Tuesday, Starbucks temporarily closed all its corporately-owned locations for diversity training.
“I think it is a smart move,” customer Andrea Hawthorne said. “All employees should know what is required from Starbucks, and they should treat everyone equally. It could have happened to any one of us.”
Hawthorne says she did not want to give Starbucks her business after the April incident.
“I did not feel like I should come back here,” she said. “But seeing the Starbucks is doing all this, going out of its way to train their employees, I’m hoping that things will be better.”
Others who frequent the Hamilton Place Starbucks say they would never expect this to happen at their Starbucks.
“I thought it was outrageous,“ Chattanooga customer Pendell Meyers said. “But I would assume it’s probably isolated, though. I wouldn’t think that would happen here.”
Some customers believe Chattanooga’s Starbucks doesn’t need the diversity training.
“At this particular Starbucks, it doesn’t matter what race you are because I see all nationalities,” Bill Belva said.
Belva believes everyone should be taught to see people equally, not just the employees at Starbucks.
“I think that we have to get back to a time period in which we treat each person as they are and we’re not overly sensitive to everything that comes along,” he added.
All Starbucks stores will reopen normally Wednesday.
The company’s executive chairman, Howard Schultz, says he hopes this will be the beginning of a new chapter for Starbucks.