Don’t let Starbucks take away our public restrooms
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One of the ultimate examples of “corporate solutions to government problems” is the Starbucks bathroom.
American cities are particularly lacking in public restrooms, and rather than addressing them directly, lawmakers have been content to let Starbucks and other chains handle them. (Yes, I said duty.)
20 years ago, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg deflected public pressure to fix the toilet problem, joking that “there are enough Starbucks to let you use the bathroom. bathroom”. (Then he took on the real scourge of Gotham known as Big Soda…but that’s a rant for another day.)
It’s been an imperfect solution at best, but it’s about to get a whole lot more complicated.
Here’s the deal: Starbucks is done being a public restroom.
The company’s acting CEO, Howard Schultz, recently said his stores may have to reevaluate the policy that allows anyone, customer or not, to use the bathroom. My colleagues Nathaniel Meyersohn and Danielle Wiener-Bronner have the whole story here.
Schultz said he’s worried about safety, and while he hasn’t completely reversed the policy, he appears worried about a growing “mental health” issue threatening Starbucks employees. (By the way, I don’t know what he means by that mental health comment, and he didn’t give any examples. I guess Starbucks employees are just legitimately tired of having to clean the bathroom so much , and Schultz is doing everything he can to prevent his staff from revolting and forming unions. Anyway, the fact is that, whatever the reasoning, Starbucks has every right to lock the doors of his toilet when and how he wants, and unless you own stock, you don’t have a say in that decision).
For more than 20 years, Starbucks has been a de facto public bathroom, especially in cities, and now that it’s reassessing its policy, it could force the issue back into the political sphere.
“The commercial solution is really not a good solution… No rational person would want Starbucks to pay for traffic lights or streetlights,” said Lezlie Lowe, author of “No Place to Go: How Public Toilets Fail. our Private Needs”.
MY TWO CENTS
So here’s a free, unsolicited idea for Mr. Schultz and Co: Wait, wait a minute before you go and force me to spend five bucks on an over-roasted cup of coffee (yeah, I said it) just to so I can use the restroom whenever I’m dumb enough to run errands in Manhattan.
I get it – bathrooms are gross, and no one wants to think about their barista having to go from milk frother to toilet plunger to cash register and back again.
So here’s an idea: rather than closing the restroom, make it the best part of the store. Hire restroom attendants to free baristas from extra work. Turn your dreary toilets into a palace, with multiple stalls and fresh flowers and scented mints and candles and Enya’s greatest hits playing over the speaker system. Fill them with that lovely soft toilet paper and install that flattering lighting that all Instagram influencers love.
Woah woah, Mrs. Morrow, we can’t afford it, you say? Fake. You can. Will it be expensive? Yes. But let me tell you something, Buck-aroos, you have to spend money to make money. Starbucks is a solid brand, but what else do you have but legally addictive stimulants that you sell at a borderline criminal markup?
All I’m saying is you can take your current bathrooms, which in my experience have all the aesthetic appeal of the port authority terminal, and make them something people really want to stop.
And look, I hear you on the whole rhetoric “private enterprise can’t take on all the failures of government”. But, for example, I’ve lived in New York long enough to know not to expect the most minor improvements to the city’s basic infrastructure – I can’t hold my bladder so that the city includes this one.
Amazon is buying One Medical, the ultimate millennial-focused healthcare company, in an all-cash deal valued at approximately $3.9 billion.
For the uninitiated: One Medical is a membership-based primary care service that promises customers “24/7 access to virtual care.” For an annual fee, you get access to its slick website where you can book appointments for doctor visits that take place either on Zoom or in bright offices that look like they’ve been pulled from a West Elm catalog.
Why it matters: Amazon is doubling down on healthcare as an industry primed for disruption. It acquired PillPack, an online pharmacy, in 2018, then launched its own digital pharmacy in the United States. (He also tried and failed to partner with JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway on a project to provide better and cheaper health care… Turns out that’s a very hard thing to do, though, and the project was officially abandoned last year).
The next installment in the Netflix saga is going to be tough to watch.
Here’s the deal: After losing nearly a million customers last quarter, Netflix needs to come up with a sustainable revenue plan to satisfy investors. And, as my colleague Frank Pallotta writes, it will involve removing some of the things that made Netflix Netflix.
In other words, pleasing Wall Street is going to mean irritating, or at least annoying, customers.
First, add advertising that interrupts your “Ozark” frenzy.
- It’s a huge change. Even as recently as 2019, Netflix assured shareholders that being ad-free is a “deep part of our brand proposition.”
- Cut to three years later, and the company is banking on a new subscription tier that will be cheaper for customers (yay) because it’s supported by ads (boo).
- Subscribers will have the choice to stay ad-free, but they’ll pay a premium for it, and it feels less of a treat.
Next, crack down on account sharing.
- The days of queue jumping are numbered.
- Netflix is already experimenting with features to force people to pay extra to share their accounts.
These moves are all crucial to Netflix’s bottom line, but they also undermine the goodwill Netflix has built with viewers who have long enjoyed its innovations — like its chillingly accurate hinted watches, the “skip intro” button. “, trending lists, “shuffle” function for when you’re overwhelmed and just want the bots to choose something for you.
“The original consumer proposition, which was of incredibly great value, is now rocking,” media analyst Michael Nathanson told Frank.
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