The Starbucks on Pearl Street in Downtown Albany is where I often hang out on lunch. I’ll order a silly Frappucino Grande, open up a book, and keep my eye on the big clock at the bank across the street. I go there on average about three times a week, for probably forty weeks during the year. (Which, at $4.75 a frap, three times a week, for forty weeks, comes out to about $570 a year. And since I’ve been going there for eight years now, that totals about $4560. I just shuddered.) The point is, I’m a regular, and they know me. (There aren’t a lot of guys in pink pants, orange coats, and bow-ties in Albany.)
The one day I go there and sit down without ordering anything, a bottle of non-Starbucks-sold water in one hand, and a book in the other, I get called out by one of the workers and told I couldn’t stay there if I didn’t have bank business (there is an adjoining bank) or a Starbucks purchase. At first, I didn’t believe it. This guy knows me, he’s served me countless times in the past eight years, and this is one of the only times I didn’t have a Starbucks drink in my hand.
In the seat next to me was a Starbucks worker who was on break, eating a Subway sandwich, and not drinking or eating anything from Starbucks. She’s usually friendly, complimenting me on my hair or tie, so I turn to her and ask her where her Starbucks items are. She said she worked there. Okay, I get it. It’s fine for employees to take up seats and eat food from other establishments, but not regular customers who up until today gave their loyal patronage.
Did he have a right to ask me to leave if I wasn’t buying anything? Absolutely.
Was it a cool move to treat a regular customer that way? Absolutely not. The cool thing would have been to let it go, ignore me for twenty more minutes, and go on with our friendly banter the next day I was in line ordering an over-priced coffee drink. This was the first time I witnessed anything like that, as there are often people sitting there eating Chinese takeout with nary an item from Starbucks. In fact, as one friend put it, “the freaking homeless sit in there all day long and you are a regular paying customer.”
And so it goes in Downtown Albany.
UPDATE: I returned there the next day to see how many non-Starbucks people were sitting there not eating or drinking Starbucks’ products. I got two semi-clear pics out of about five who were there reading, texting, or idly sitting around without any coffee whatsoever. Hmmm… Even more amusing is the pledge on their FaceBook page: “Starbucks has an unusually human approach to business. We always figured that putting people before products just made good common sense.”
It usually does.