I Went to Starbucks and Its New Open Door Policy Drove Me Out

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

The hunger got me at the wrong moment, as it turned out.

I’m was in New York, staying in the darkest hotel room in the world. 

Perhaps this affected my mood.

On Wednesday, though, I wandered into a Starbucks because I needed something quick and familiar. And because I wanted to see if the pumpkin scones taste even sweeter than the ones in California. (They do. It’s unbearable.)

What struck me, however, was that there wasn’t a seat to be had. 

The whole window was populated by humans on laptops, prodding away vigorously as if they were sending hundreds of ransom notes.

At the tables, the usual business meetings you expect to see in any big-city Starbucks.

It took quite a while for my order to be completed. I imagined, naively, that just one seat might have become free.

It didn’t.

Everyone was doing their thing. What was striking, however, is that their thing didn’t seem to involve consuming anything sold by Starbucks.

You’ll tell me that this has been a problem at Starbucks for years. 

I wonder, though, whether the coffee chain’s infamous Philadelphia incident earlier this year — when a manager called police on two black men who hadn’t ordered anything and were waiting for a business meeting — has emboldened more of these laptop loungers.

There’s not much shame in New York anyway. Now, perhaps, there’s none when it comes to taking up Starbucks’ space and WiFi bandwidth, given that the chain has instituted an open-door policy that allows anyone to come in and buy nothing.

I confess I walked — discreetly, of course — behind the people populating the window. 

Between the five of them, just one had any evidence of a Starbucks product purchase.

Meanwhile, there were people standing in any corner they could find — myself included — trying to balance a drink in one hand, a sandwich in another and a phone in a third.

I contacted Starbucks to ask whether the chain has noticed an increasing problem with laptop loungers taking advantage because now they officially can.

I’ll update, should I receive a reply.

Humans take advantage whenever they can. Especially in New York, a city built on the joy of taking advantage and loudly crowing about it afterwards. 

I’d had enough of it, though, and decided to leave. 

As I did, I gave the laptop loungers the beadiest of eyes. 

They didn’t notice.

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