At all of the Starbucks I’d visited so far, I had posed as a normal customer. For the last two stores I was planning to visit, I decided to introduce myself as a reporter to see what would happen. Would anything change? Would employees (or “partners,” as Starbucks likes to call them because “employees” is now politically incorrect or something?”) be more, or less, willing to talk to me?
They all ran screaming.
At the first location I tried this, I started off by saying, “Hi, I’m a reporter and I’m doing a story on your race campaign. Got a second?”
The kid looked terrified. He couldn’t have been out of high school. “Uh…I’m not supposed to say anything to reporters or news people. Baristas don’t represent or are (sic) authorized spokesmen. Do you, uh, want a manager?”
So the baristas were trained not to say anything to reporters. The three baristas who had given me their opinions earlier, for the first piece I did on the subject had all been off the record. I’d caught them after they’d taken off their aprons and left the store. It probably helped that after finishing a shift they all hated Starbucks anyways. If this young man had something he wanted to say to me he couldn’t do it from behind the counter where a manager might hear.
On to the next location.
There, I got as far as, “Hi, I’m a reporter-” before a supervisor seemingly teleported in front of the barista I was talking to and cut me off.
“Okay, let me give you the number for media relations. They can discuss the race campaign with you, but no one in the stores is authorized to comment.”
Clearly, I was not the first reporter who had been in here. Since I was clearly not getting anywhere here, I moved on to the next Starbucks. Again, I approached the nearest employee and introduced myself as a reporter.
“What publication?” he asked. “My manager’s gonna wanna know.”
I told him that I’m the Editor of Punching Bag Post. He disappeared into a back room. I moved in, hoping to overhear what the manager might tell him.
I got up there just in time to hear the manager say, “Never heard of them, let me…” followed by the sound of typing.
“Hmm…” the manager said a few seconds later. “They’re conservatives. Yeah, if we try to talk to them they’re just going to shout us down and make fun of us. Send her to media relations; they can hang up on her if she’s getting nasty.”
I guess Starbucks only talks to those who share all their views.