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Starbucks: ‘Free bathroom use’ tainted by lack of usable stalls

When you’ve gotta go, don’t go to Starbucks.

Seven months after the coffee kingdom declared its toilets open to all — no purchase necessary — visitors who hear nature’s call are finding it isn’t always easy to lighten their loads.

Finding a usable Starbucks toilet in New York might actually have gotten harder since last spring’s announcement — and not just for non-customers.

Starbucks chief executive Kevin Johnson declared the open-toilets policy after two black men were infamously arrested in a Philadelphia Starbucks. They asked to used the toilet and were told it was for customers only. When they sat to wait for a friend, they were handcuffed and charged with “trespassing”.

But a Post survey found some supposedly liberated loos in different Manhattan neighbourhoods closed to everyone.

It’s bad news, given that a “grande” drip coffee (around 450ml) contains a bladder-bursting 330mg of caffeine.

A half-dozen toilets were locked or barricaded for no clear reason. Others were closed for prolonged “cleaning” which an insider said was needed after extreme soiling caused by drug-using, incontinent vagrants.

“Letting everybody in has resulted in nobody getting in,” an employee at one branch fumed.

“Restroom closed,” declared signs at two Manhattan outlets. At another, the road to relief was blocked by rubbish bins. And furniture and boxes formed a barrier at yet another New York store.

media_cameraToilets were barricaded or closed for prolonged ‘cleaning’. Picture: Robert Miller
media_cameraAn out-of-service bathroom at Starbucks on 80 Pine Street in Manhattan. Picture: J.C. Rice
media_cameraStarbucks was plunged into crisis earlier this year. Picture: Scott Olson/Getty Images/AFP

A rope and traffic cones barred the way at one Downtown Starbucks. When a desperate visitor asked if the loo would reopen any time soon, a barista directed him to a nearby Dunkin’ Donuts.

After The Post asked for explanations from Starbucks’ Seattle headquarters, corporate spokesman Reggie Borges said that all the shuttered rest rooms had reopened.

But signs posted on about one-third of Manhattan’s Starbucks toilet doors don’t reflect the new policy, still saying “for customer use only”.

Most Starbucks toilet doors also sport numerical punch-code panels. Although some post the magic number, many don’t.

Mr Borges said: “Yes, some stores are still in the process of removing the signs.”

He said it wasn’t “as simple as using a screwdriver. Our stores have to work with landlords to make sure they’re appropriately removed.”

But, he added: “As soon as someone enters our door they are considered a customer whether they buy anything or not.”

On the punch codes, he said: “They don’t mean that you’re not allowed to use the rest room. “We are reconsidering them and might do away with the punch cards. If a barista won’t give you the code, you should call it to a manager’s attention.”

The new open-toilets rule pushed by Starbucks chairman emeritus Howard Schultz was supposed to help the chain repair the damage to its socially conscious reputation — which includes “community outreach” and a “fair trade” policy with its Third World suppliers.

Starbucks toilets can be an adventure even when they are open. At Broadway and 47th Street on Thursday, the men’s and women’s bathrooms were suddenly plunged into darkness, sending panicked customers fleeing to the bright lights of Times Square.

This article originally appeared on New York Post and was reproduced with permission

Originally published as Gross result of Starbucks toilet policy

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