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Opinion: Manbuns, mermaids and free markets

By Jefferson Weaver

I have been accused, and rightly so, of drinking too much coffee.

The bean that caused riots in Persia and built fortunes in South America, Asia and Africa is a major part of my life. At the gritted-teeth insistence of several doctors, I have substantially reduced my intake; at least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

As with many things, I prefer coffee to be simple. Strong, black and hot. Not bitter.

It doesn’t matter if it’s boiled in a gallon-size tin pot on an open fire, dripped through a paper filter, brewed in an old-fashioned percolator, or forced through the tiny cup in a Keurig — it just needs to be black, unpretentious, and caffeinated. I do like an occasional “coffee drink.” Since my grandmother made such concoctions, they are acceptable. They ain’t coffee, black and steaming, but they are tolerated.

I don’t care who knows that I drink coffee. It matters not a whit to me if the frappe is half-latted or soy-wheyed or frapped or whatever. Whether from a diner or a local coffee shop, I just like good coffee. I have never understood the concept of raising coffee to some sort of art form, which is one of several reasons I have never cared for the Starbucks folks.

I’ve been in a Starbucks café two, maybe three times, out of curiosity, convenience or necessity, and I’ve never been impressed. I actually had a “barista” sniff at me once, despite the fact I was clean, recently showered, and better dressed than the man-bun cupcake had ever been in his life. He glanced at my boots, rolled his eyes and begrudgingly fetched my plain, black coffee. I smiled, and sincerely wished him a blessed day.

One of the few things many fast food restaurants can do right is coffee, and I can generally get better coffee for less than half the price than that peddled by the Children of the Mermaid. Hence, they don’t get my money, so I am sure my opinion would never carry the weight of a teaspoon of hand-chopped sugar in the raw.

In my opinion, the company really spilled the grounds with its latest gaffe.

On July 4, a squad of Tempe, Arizona, police officers went to a Starbucks on their break. They were standing inside, enjoying their drinks, when an employee asked them to move “out of the line of sight” of a customer, since the customer was “uncomfortable” around police. They opted to leave, which the barista reportedly thought was an even better idea.

In my experience as a police reporter, most folks who are uncomfortable around police have a guilty conscience. Regardless of the customer’s guilt or innocence, the move was as boneheaded as organic decaf, in my opinion.

It took them a few days, but to their credit, the Starbucks management did finally issue a sort-of apology. As I write these words, corporate coffee people are meeting with the Tempe Police to “improve communications” so “this doesn’t happen again.”

Pardon?

The way you ensure it doesn’t happen again is fire the employee, chew out the manager, and apologize to the officers. It doesn’t require an encounter group. It requires genuine humility, maturity and common sense.

Starbucks has had a lot of experience apologizing lately. Last year’s situation in Philadelphia was handled poorly on every side (except by the cops, in my opinion).

The two guys who were waiting for their associate could have gone ahead with their order. They had no more business being customer-monsters than the barista had being a reactionary jerk, but calling the police was a bit much. Again, a simple chewing by management and a few firings would have been more meaningful than
closing all stores for two days for sensitivity training and spending several hundred thousand dollars in self-promoting mea culpas.

I admire Starbucks for two things –- their corporate commitment to their political views (virtually none of which I condone) and their very profitable business model.

I’m happy that they can succeed in a capitalist society while espousing some decidedly non-capitalist policies from time to time.

Take, for instance, the needle boxes in some cafes out on the Left Coast. Starbucks employees were getting jabbed by needles discarded by drug users. Rather than work closely with local law enforcement or drug treatment groups to create a safer environment for all their customers, Starbucks instead took the position that addiction is not the fault of the user, therefore discarding biohazardous materials is something we all have to deal with, unless we hate people who happen drug addicts. I’m not sure how a heroin addict can afford an $8 cup of coffee, but that’s neither here nor there.

One reason those cafes added the needle boxes was because of the corporate policy of allowing homeless people to use the restrooms in their stores, without making a purchase. It’s a nice idea, but in some places, the homeless people took over the cafe’, and paying customers were forced to adjust to the needs and demands of non-paying customers. Wanting to help someone up from the street is one thing –- forcing people to help them is entirely different.

Then there’s Starbucks’ hatred of the Second Amendment. They have a strict no gun policy in all their stores. Guns apparently make some of their customers uncomfortable. Personally, I’m uncomfortable around most people who aren’t comfortable around firearms.

To be fair -— contrary to what you read on the Internet — the CEO with Starbucks never said men and women in traditional marriages should stay away from his stores. The actual quote can be found in a Forbes magazine article. The words of both parties were twisted, bent, folded and mutilated into what both sides of the debate wanted to hear. I disagree with the CEO, but his remarks were misquoted.

We have a free market society and economy. I’m not a fan of boycotts, but I’m also not afraid to tell folks about my experience or opinions of a business. As I have noted, I disagree with just about everything Starbucks related, and have no intentions of spending a dime with them, but that was cemented in place July 4 in Tempe. Siding with some flibbertygibbet who is “uncomfortable” around police is just too much.

I hope Starbucks disables 911 in all their stores. If they are uncomfortable around police -– or allow workers who feel that way to insult law enforcement -– then they should spare us the hypocrisy of asking for help in case of an emergency.

I am around LEOs every day. They’re just people, too, flaws and all.

And I’ll still trust one of them long before I trust someone with a mermaid on their shirt, an artistic flare with whipped cream, and a manbun.

Starbucks can trust those police, too. Even when insulted, there’s hardly an officer out there who wouldn’t move heaven and earth for a civilian’s safety. They do that for everyone, even those who don’t like them — even those who make the officers uncomfortable.

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