Starbucks kicks customers out in New York storm

#112/365It’s an interesting question if Starbucks customer service promises flew out the door as eight customers were kicked out during a freak storm in Long Island last week. “It was like a monsoon,” stated Gregory Sullivan 46, a history professor at the US Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point.

In a Manhasset store, lights went out during a freak storm. When the power in the store failed, the staff told the customers to leave. Customers were extremely upset since the weather was ghastly and dangerous. The story made headlines throughout the nation, and it brings up some interesting points. According to Starbucks website, the first line begins with, “We want you to enjoy your trip to Starbucks every time you visit the store.”  Their Code of Conduct states they “conduct business responsibly to benefit society.”

If a customer was injured in the store from slipping on the floor, or if a tree fell through the window, would Starbucks be responsible? It can become a liability issue for the store. Americans are known to be litigious; would have allowing the customers to stay in the store present a future law suit for the company?

On the other side of the coffee pot, did Starbucks intentionally put people in a potentially harmful situation by kicking them out of the store into a hazardous storm?  Shouldn’t any responsible business have at least a back-up generator for emergencies? We all know to take shelter, and wouldn’t it have been prudent to move tables around, push the customers away from windows, and thus have some protection from the storm? Some customers say it should have been the moral responsibility of the store to try to help anyone from being forced into an even more dangerous situation.

Starbucks sent out a memo to all of their employees shortly after the incident. It read:

Customers Impacted by Storm – NY Store 7246 Urgent: You may receive contacts regarding the closure of Manhasset, NY store 7246 due to heavy storm conditions. A blog has reported on the fact that customers were asked to leave when the store closed, but while the storm was still in force. If you receive calls from customers who were in the store, or those who read the blog regarding the closure, please handle per normal procedure – express empathy for any inconvenience experienced and reassure that their feedback will be forwarded immediately. Make sure to enter the caller’s name, phone number, and/or email address. After the contact, please email this information to Cate Sharkey at csharkey@starbucks.com immediately. Notate the case accordingly. Until further notice, there is no need to forward case notes to the DM and request follow-up through that channel. Please contact your supervisor if you have questions or need additional guidance.

Does customer service apply to a freakish situation like this? Should Starbucks have allowed the customers to remain in the store until the storm passed or were they justified telling patrons to leave?  What do you think?

photo credit: Kirstea

2 Responses to “Starbucks kicks customers out in New York storm”

  1. Rob Wallis said:

    Sep 24, 10 at 1:33 pm

    Of course customer service applies! It is situations like this when you need to throw the rule book out the window. Granted, they may not get many storms like this, so possibly a generator is not warranted, but we ARE all people (OK, some of us I kind of suspect).

    It seems a lot of their damage control could have been avoided by acting like humans at the time, instead of fearing liability suits.

  2. Chip Bell said:

    Sep 25, 10 at 12:01 pm

    Would great customer service be asking everyone in the store who remained to sign a liability waiver? Which is safer in a major storm–being on an open street or being in a store surrounded by large plate glass windows? Could it be the Starbucks store manager deemed the store without power to be a much more dangerous place for customers than in the street seeking safer shelter? In a major storm, is a store manager’s first responsibilty to the safety and welfare of his or her employees on site due to contract and responsibility, or to his or her customers on site due completely to choice?