19 Apr 2018

I’m Genuinely Asking

Culture Wars 35 Comments

Regarding the Starbucks controversy, I read this article and was struck by this passage:

The arrest of two black men sitting quietly in a Philadelphia Starbucks has set off a national discussion about whether there are any places or activities where race doesn’t color the experience. Even something as innocuous and common as waiting at Starbucks for a friend looks different when viewed through the lens of America’s ongoing race problem.

On social media, many white people expressed shock. Who hasn’t ducked into a local Starbucks to take advantage of its bathroom or internet or electrical outlets? But this simply is not the experience of many black people, myself included, who know all too well the pressure to buy something unwanted or unnecessary in order to avoid added scrutiny — a Black Tax, if you will.

To answer his question: I haven’t. It would not occur to me to use a Starbucks for internet or electricity without buying something. If I were out in public and had an emergency develop, I would certainly use their bathroom, and if the line weren’t long I would almost certainly then go buy something. (Indeed, on my recent trip to NYC my girlfriend had to use a bathroom while we were out, and I bought something from the restaurant to keep everybody cool.)

I agree that probably if I went into a Starbucks and plopped down at a table, that the manager wouldn’t ask me to leave. (This is hypothetical because it wouldn’t occur to me to do this. Even if I were waiting for a friend, I would buy something or I would tell the cashier what I was doing so they wouldn’t think I was free loading, in case I didn’t want to drink the coffee before my friend arrived.) But oh my gosh if the manager *did* ask me to leave if I refused to buy something, then yes I would be gone.

So anyway, I’m genuinely asking: How do you folks answer the bold question in the quotation above?

35 Responses to “I’m Genuinely Asking”

  1. Jim says:

    I feel the same as you. I always order something if I go in and take a seat.

    As soon as I read this story I simply assumed what likely happened was they were asked to leave for not ordering anything. I’m assuming they were probably there for a while before they were even asked. When they were asked to leave, in oppression focused entitlement minded attitude, they refused, and so the cops were called. They were still there when the cops arrived.

    Apparently the manager was a pretty hard-core SJW. I live in the Philly area. It’s pretty pervasive. You think one wont be running a Starbucks?

    Seems to me, this is, pure and simple, black privilege at work. You know, that same privilege that’s laid bare when you ask black college applicants if they’d check “Caucasian” as their race on the application if given a chance, or if they’d rather stick with the “African American” checkbox.

  2. Dan says:

    I’m the same as you. I don’t even feel comfortable using the restroom at a gas station unless I buy something. No chance I’d just chill at a place of business without buying something. Hell, I remember leaving a bar a handful of years ago and I stopped in a gas station while I waited on a cab. I bought something as soon as I got there and asked if he’d mind if I waited inside for my cab. It was literally below 10 degrees outside. The douche told me no, so I stood outside freezing my butt off for 20 minutes.

  3. Tel says:

    To answer his question: I haven’t. It would not occur to me to use a Starbucks for internet or electricity without buying something.

    It would occur to me, yes, but I’d be feeling a bit sheepish about it, and if asked I’d probably buy something.

    But oh my gosh if the manager *did* ask me to leave if I refused to buy something, then yes I would be gone.

    Well the thing is that in this situation the police report mentioned quite clearly that the police asked these people several times to leave (even after the manager has also asked them to leave) and they refused to leave even when the police were right there. After that, they were arrested.

    Now here in Australia, the state police are packing hollow points (outlawed in war, under the St. Petersburg Declaration of 1868) which can put a hole in you the size of a basketball, and the law is almost always on the side of the police.

    Check the case of Roberto Laudisio Curti who died mysteriously under a pile of arresting officers, after stealing a packet of biscuits. I should point our that Roberto was partly naked and high on drugs at the time, therefore drawing attention to himself, but I’m not dwelling on the details of the case. Point I’m making is that all the police involved got let off, and that’s completely normal, so if you pick a fight with the local police you are not standing up for your rights, you are plumb stupid.

    … a Black Tax, if you will.

    That’s a load of B.S. and a victimhood mentality.

    I’m not a great supporter of Starbucks and neither are most conservatives, so that’s probably why they have very few friends right now (there’s no shortage of independent coffee shops so frankly I don’t care) but the shop is there to make a profit, and just about everyone understands that. It’s not a public utility for your benefit.

  4. Harold says:

    How we behave personally is not always a good guide to how others behave. It is common to use restrooms without paying.

    Here is a comment on a forum from someone who works at McDonalds:

    “Have you ever seen a McDonald’s manager kick somebody out or get in their
    face about using the bathroom and not buying anything?

    I didn’t think so.”

    Here is another
    “Department Manager, Military Veteran
    Answered Oct 12, 2016
    You won’t get kicked out (of our store) unless you are being disruptive to other customers or doing something that’s deserving of being kicked out. We have several incidents where there will be customers (paying or not) that will remain in our store for awhile, even hours…. I’ve been in many McDonald’s stores throughout my years and have never witnessed anyone being kicked out unless there was a legitimate reason.”

    These staff consider it very usual for people to be challenged in thai manner and have never seen it happen.

    Personally I would feel uncomfortable using the toilets without paying. My wife feels no such discomfort. This may be a factor of the relative ease of finding a quiet space for such relief for men and women. Whatever I think myself, it seems that a great many people use toilets without buying anything and this is generally tolerated in McDonalds and other restaurants.

    The idea of “black privilege” is a new one on me. I guess that is why “passing for black” is such a common phrase.

    If we think about this logically, I doubt anyone can deny that fairly recently (second half of last century) blacks were treated very differently and much, much worse than whites in the USA. Surely no-one can disagree with this. Things are much better now, thankfully, but I don’t believe that that clear and undeniable prejudice has quite vanished yet. There is still different treatment and it is pretty hard to make a convincing case that there is not. In one example, a Stanford University study showed that police that blacks with less respect than whites, based on body camera recordings. http://www.pnas.org/content/pnas/early/2017/05/30/1702413114.full.pdf. Another study that showed police were actually more reticent in shooting blacks also found that police treated blacks with less respect for minor infringements. There really is no shortage of such evidence.

    Given this evidence plus the reasonable “default position” that racial prejudice was very clear in the recent past and will inevitably take some time to disappear completely, to reject current prejudice against blacks takes a significant amount of confirmation bias.

    • Jim says:

      Who would deny some amount of prejudice? Humans are biologically tribal and “kin recognition” is the norm. It will NEVER be eliminated.

      But who can deny that today, victimhood pays dividends and oppression has become valuable social capital?

      You’re in a dark alley at night, cutting through a neighborhood you’d rather not be in, when a group of young men emerge from a dark building in front of you. Suddenly the universe is suspended and you’re given an option. Those men could be a group of black men, or they could be a group of white men. Given no other information, how do you choose?

      If you say it makes no difference, you’re either virtue signalling or you’re completely ignorant of the crime statistics.

      That said, if I added the fact that the black men were coming from a Bible study I’m pretty sure the choice would also be obvious.

      • Harold says:

        “Humans are biologically tribal and “kin recognition” is the norm. It will NEVER be eliminated.”

        I agree with you here. We will probably always have negative feelings towards the “other”. However, who we perceive as “other” can and does change. There is no insurmountable reason why black Americans have to be perceived as other by whites, and vice versa. Seventy years ago Germans were very much thought of as other, but now we rub along quite well.

        Given that we are aware of this biological response, we are in a position to do something about it, if we wish. We can recognise it as an instinctive heuristic that is not necessarily based on evidence. We can then choose whether to act in this by using our reason to make rational choices. The only way we will combat prejudice is to recognize that we are all subject to it as part of our biological make up, then choosing not to give in to it. It is those who deny they are at all prejudiced who have no defence against it. Somewhat like those who deny they are affected by advertising.

        On victimhood, yes, people can claim victim status to derive benefits. It is one problem. The thing that made their claim believable in the first place is a much larger problem and one we should not lose sight of while worrying about the first problem.

      • RL Styne says:

        Problem is, Jim, there are several reports that the manager of the Starbucks is a blue-haired social justice warrior. No way in hell would such a person throw someone out for being black.

        We need the cctv tape. Too bad Starbucks is too scared to put it out.

    • Dan says:

      “Have you ever seen a McDonald’s manager kick somebody out or get in their
      face about using the bathroom and not buying anything?

      I didn’t think so.”

      Tons of McDonald’s and other fast food chains lock their bathrooms and keep the key behind the counter. They won’t give it to non-customers. Heck, McDonald’s was just recently in the news for kicking out a homeless man that a customer brought in with him and bought food for. That person couldn’t have picked a worse example to try to make his point.

      Also, using restrooms may be common, I assume it is common enough considering how many establishments lock their bathroom doors to prevent it, but this was a bit more than that. These guys had no intention of buying anything and just wanted to chill at Starbucks. It’s not like they popped in real quick to use the restroom and take off. And who in their right mind would refuse to leave after they asked you to buy something or get out? That aspect is certainly not common behavior.

      • Harold says:

        I was responding to the question in bold. Whilst I and many others do feel uncomfortable using bathrooms without offering something in return, such a making a purchase, there are many who do so without such qualms, and many who accept it as perfectly normal. The people who expressed the views above may have been wrong, but in their experience it had never happened and they assumed this was the case everywhere.

      • Harold says:

        A point that might have been missed is these comments were made by employees before this recent incident, not in response to it. They were not trying to make a pint about this incident.

    • guest says:

      “Things are much better now, thankfully, but I don’t believe that that clear and undeniable prejudice has quite vanished yet. There is still different treatment and it is pretty hard to make a convincing case that there is not.”

      There is different treatment because blacks are raised to view themselves as a part of a black-based socialist community, and also to view whites as perpetuating a white-based economic tyranny of non-whites.

      The vast majority of blacks *expect* other blacks to hold similar socialist views, and they immediately relate to one another on this basis when they first meet (believing they share in a common victimhood). Most whites are aware of this, and they make on-the-spot preparations to interact with blacks according to this widely understood paradigm.

      One can whole-heartedly accept that blacks to not have a race-based proclivity to any particular behavior, whatsoever, and that all blacks are individuals – *and still* it is completely reasonable to treat blacks differently because of the knowledge that most blacks choose, as individuals, to voluntarily define themselves by a race-based, socialist identity.

      That is not a contradiction. Just ask a black person if they expect other blacks to hold certain beliefs.

      • Harold says:

        Do you think that only black people are prone to viewing black people according to how they are raised to view black people?

  5. Josiahneeley@yahoo.com says:

    The closest I’ve come to this is once I bought a drink from a Starbucks while on my way to a meeting and then later on my way back from the meeting I stopped and used the bathroom without buying anything new. But I’m not going to just go in and sit down without buying anything and even if I’m waiting for someone I almost always go ahead and order what I want while I’m waiting.

  6. Michael says:

    I hadnt heard anything about so did some quick research. Without being witness to what had transpired prior to the arrest, it’s difficult to say what the exact context was. However, I think generally the rule is to give any ‘suspects’ the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise.

    It seems the claim is that they were indeed waiting for a friend. I agree I would not go into a starbucks and loiter, using the internet or just a chair without making a purchase. However, if I had arranged to meet people there I might wait to make a purchase until my friend arrived.

    Further, if an employee did come by and ask me if I wanted anything, and I said I was waiting for a friend, I’m very, very confident that the employee would back off – at least for a period of time. I’d say as time stretched on, maybe around 20-30 minutes, it would become acceptable to prod us again and ask us if we’d like to purcahse something or leave.

    Did the employee give them the (I feel customary) time? I dont know. Does seem like race was an influencing factor, especially when the police became involved though.

    And apparently their friend arrived just as police arrived, corroborating their intentions.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Michael wrote: “Does seem like race was an influencing factor, especially when the police became involved though.”

      Can you elaborate? I would have said, “It’s possible race was involved with the employees initially asking the guys to either buy something or leave, because I think I could plop down in a Starbucks for a while before someone said something to me.” But once they were asked to leave and refused, isn’t it obvious that the staff would call the cops on them? And when the police asked them to leave and they refused, isn’t it obvious they’d be arrested?

      • Michael says:

        Like you, I think that I would be given more time prior to purchasing before being asked to leave, but similarly I have an expectation that the Police would attempt to mediate the conflict prior to initiating an arrest. I can’t find the original articles now (such a flood of follow-ups…) but I believe in the original sources I read it said that they claim the police did not ask them questions or even ask them to leave, but immediately turned to arrest.

        If that is the case (I could be wrongly recollecting the source, or the source couldve been incorrect) than that is pretty extreme behaviour given even the claimed infraction and I wouldn’t expect police to deal with me in that manner (even in our imperfect system).

    • Rory says:

      According to NPR they were there “2 minutes” from the time they arrived to the time the police were called:

      “[Donte Robinson] and [Rashon Nelson] awaited a third man for a scheduled meeting. Nelson said that he had asked to use the restroom and that an employee informed him it was for paying customers only. ‘And I just left it at that.’ But the manager didn’t. A police report states the men cursed at the manager after she told them bathrooms are for customers only. She called 911 to report that the men were not making a purchase and were refusing to leave. It reportedly took just two minutes from their arrival to her call for help.”


      I guess I’m naive, but that seems like such a short amount of time it’s too outlandish to be believed. Then again, that figure would have to be an order of magnitude off to even begin to make their wait unreasonable, in my book. I haven’t seen any outlets claim that they were their for 20+ minutes from time of arrival to when the police were called.

      • Jim says:

        If this is true then my assessment of what took place is completely wrong. I will conditionally take the correction.

      • Dan says:

        Regardless, plenty of places demand that you buy something to use their restrooms, and if you refuse, start cursing at the manager, refuse to leave, and then continue to refuse to leave once the cops get there, my sympathy for you is zilch.

      • Tel says:

        A police report states the men cursed at the manager after she told them bathrooms are for customers only.

        I missed that bit, but standard practice is that if you abuse an employee you are ALWAYS required to leave. The business has requirements under “Occupational Health & Safety” laws to protect employees.

        If cursing was involved that would make sense that the men were asked to leave immediately. That said, I very much doubt that the police got there in a few minutes.

      • RL Styne says:

        Problem is, Rory, the two minutes is THEIR CLAIM. There is no proof. They claim they had 2 minutes to come in, ask for the bathroom key, be told they need to purchase something, find a seat, an employee to come to their table and ask if they want something, they say no (they actually brought in their own drinks, which is pretty rude), and THEN presumably the police were called.

        The police then gave them the chance to leave on their own several times. The men then insulted the cops (see the police chief’s video), told the cops they weren’t leaving, and then were arrested.

        Honestly, do some basic fact checking. NPR isn’t always accurate and certainly doesn’t always tell the whole truth.

        • Rory says:

          When I said “according to NPR” I meant just that – according to NPR, and nowhere did I claim that NPR is gospel. And as a matter of fact I said that the 2 minute timeline seemed like, and I quote from above, “such a short amount of time it’s too outlandish to be believed”. I understand that these stories can run wild and it gets tiresome talking with people who do accept the story as written by NPR, CNN, etc. and leave it at that, but can I at least get the benefit of the doubt considering we’re posting on an anarcho-capitalist’s blog?

          But since you didn’t ask: my take is the story is blown out of proportion, but there is fault on both sides.

          Obviously, as a patron, you can’t expect to swear at a manager (or any employee really) and then deny a request to leave given by a police officer and expect not to get arrested. I doubt even the most ardent Starbucks protesters find this controversial. Under what I consider fair and just property laws, the reason for their eviction is immaterial, making any discussion about what they were doing, how long or short of a time they were there for, or any explanation for the eviction a red herring. They were asked to leave, they didn’t, they got arrested.

          That being said, while I generally hold it’s good form to purchase something when making use of a restaurant’s premises, I don’t think it is obscene that someone would choose to wait and order when their party arrives. Just off the top of my head, let’s say my friend is going to meet me at Starbucks, and he texts me that he’s just arriving now. I say “hold on – you got the coffees last time so at least wait for me to come so I can pay for both of us”. Is this really an emergency situation for Starbucks? Seriously? Now, the 2 men in this particular news story claim they were there for 2 minutes before having the police called on them. Less than 2 minutes to be confronted by an employee or manager to be asked to leave for not making a purchase is so ridiculously absurd that it defies belief. Might their perspective be biased? Absolutely. However, in digging around I have seen precisely zero news outlets dispute that time frame, including the Daily Caller and other right-leaning sources. I also see a fair bit about people being denied the use of the bathroom without purchase in the wake of this event, but as far as I can tell from several articles the contention was that they were simply waiting for their friend. That doesn’t make it the cast-in-stone truth, but I would think it would be both trivial for Starbucks to dispute this and invaluable for their image. Moreover, I’m not assuming malice on the part of the individuals arrested – my standard position. Provided that’s true, “2 minutes” was their good-faith perception of the time from their arrival to the call to the police (not the actual arrival time of the police, but just the call). My question is: even supposing this is unintentionally biased in their favor, how far would they have to be off in this estimation for the request to leave the premises be reasonable? Mind you at this point I am conceding the property rights in effect here. This is a question of personal policy, and my intuition is I would wait closer to 15-20 minutes AT LEAST before starting the process of getting them to leave. I’ll plant my flag and say that even given my own feelings of probably-best-to-make-a-purchase-before-hanging-around, if I see a coffee shop owner kicking people out for simply waiting 15 minutes for a friend I’m more inclined to believe that their true calling is serving George and Jerry at the soup stand than “wow this guy is really meting out justice with an even hand”. So if you’ve been following me so far, that means that the arrestees’ perception of time – unchallenged as of the time of this post – would have to be off by a factor of 7.5 for the Starbucks manager to be reasonable, and no one’s in a hurry to correct this huge discrepancy as this guy/gal is being called a racist.

          Speaking of, the whole racial element strikes me as total conjecture, given that I don’t know anything about the usual policies of the store, what actions the manager has or hasn’t taken in the past, and whom those actions were or weren’t taken on. Perhaps I’m sheltered.

          Interested to hear your or anyone’s opinion on this.

  7. Rory says:

    I’m not submitting this as a coy admission of my opinion on the event one way or another, but I will say that while plumbing repairs were going on at my house that made it impossible to use the facilities for an extended period of time, I did run to Starbucks to use their restroom. I felt compelled to buy something afterward, so of course I bought a highly caffeinated drink and left, just to really roll the dice until the plumber was finished.

  8. Khodge says:

    I would not stop in without buying something. That being said … given the current social norms, do the police really want to get involved?

    It just occurred to me that “social norms” seems a totally inadequate description but there does not seem to be a clear, non-confrontational way to state it. For instance, black privilege, the apparent choice of the comments here, does not pick up socio-economic factors, or even geographic considerations, that may be in play.

  9. Cabbage says:

    I think this likely likely has less to do with race and more to do with economic social norms.


    I think what your missing is that people on the left (the author) expect to use other peoples stuff for free without consideration thus misidentifying the issue as race.

    Where as someone on the right understands it is rude and to assume the use of others equity without consideration.

    • Craw says:

      In other words, upbringing. It would never occur to me to sit in a restaurant for a couple of hours without buying something. “Waiting for a friend” is no justification.

      Actually I think everyone understands this, and are playing dumb here for political reasons.

      Am I the only suspicious of the timing in this, when the friend shows up the very moment the arrests are made?

  10. Silas Barta says:

    Agree with Bob, Dan, etc. I’m just opening my eyes to a subculture of people who help themselves to a restaruant’s stuff without buying anything.

    (Then again, I’ve also lived in downtown San Francisco for about five years which has a huge homeless problem and is pretty Nazi about anyone who comes in anywhere without buying something.)

    It’s also another wide-scale violation of my Scylla-Charybdis Heuristic: everyone saying it’s okay to sit down at a coffeeshop without buying anything, no one saying at what point they’d be justified in asking you to leave.

    • Craw says:

      At the point they realize you’re white.

  11. Greg says:

    I’ve used (or my kids) the bathroom at a Starbucks many times. Or met somebody from Craigslist without buying anything. I’ve never been asked to but anything.

    I’ve also walked into car dealerships and been offered coffee and used their bathroom without buying anything. Am I morally obligated to buy a car every time I go to the dealership?

    I’ve sat through time share sales pitches, gotten my $100 good certificate and not bought anything. Am I obligated to buy a times share?

    If you are asked to leave, fine, but there is no obligation on anyone’s part, and sometimes half the challenge is getting customers in the door, however that happens, even if they don’t always buy /that time/.

    I can’t comment on what happened somewhere I wasn’t, but I hope I answered your question.

  12. Craw says:

    Starbucks schmarbucks. I frequently wander into a Holiday Inn or Hilton, and slip into a room for a nap or a shower without buying anything. I’m not bothering anyone!

  13. Cabbage says:

    Ironically, I’m sititng at five guys burgers right now and two black girls come in, fill up their free peanuts thing, go to the till ask for two empty cups, fill them up with water and leave. 5 minutes later they come back and grab more peanuts and leave. Like wtf

    • Craw says:

      In other words, didn’t take up a seat or use the washroom.

  14. Steven says:

    I remember going to a restaurant once and not all people were buying a meal. The owner told everyone not buying a meal that they would be kicked out unless they ordered something. One of them was not happy but ended up buying something anyway. We were a group of all white people.

    One thing which I haven’t read in the comments has to do with age. I remember that as a teenager (or even early 20’s), if we went places and were not buying anything (or even if we did), the owners of the places we were at would look at us with more suspicion and were ready to kick us out for far less than older people. If you’re a young male, people expect you to cause more problems and will be less tolerant with you than a 75 year old woman. A woman of this age would probably not get kicked out of anywhere without buying unless she caused significant disruption. Even if she did, the owner would probably do it in a much more gentle way. Its alot less socially acceptable to kick out seniors than young people (especially males).

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