What Starbucks should be doing is charging to use the bathroom

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I wrote a piece for Time.com about the decision at Starbucks to shutter 600 stores. You can read it here. It’s brilliant and all, but the real reason I’m blogging is so that I can pass along this text my friend Richard sent me over the weekend:

Starbucks is toast—waiting in line for the bathroom at the brighton beach location—two people in front of me drinking dunkin donuts coffee

I just called up Richard to see if he minded me passing along his comment. He said to go for it. And then he added that he had only gone into the Starbucks to use the bathroom.

The people who run Starbucks aren’t unaware of this phenomenon. I once asked a regional VP if she didn’t sometimes want to put a “customers only” sign on the bathroom. “Sometimes, yeah,” she said, “but that’s not who are are.”

It never ceases to amaze me how big companies maintain a sense of culture, especially when that culture involves something like being nice beyond the normal human limit of niceness. I mean, Starbucks employees still have to clean the bathrooms, right? I guess the argument is that at the end of the day “being the good guy” comes back to you in the form of proud, hard-working employees and happy customers. Or maybe it’s happy competitors’ customers.