Starbucks stock opened at $59.13 Monday morning, not long after the company’s CEO went on live with “Good Morning America” host Robin Roberts to discuss the widely disparaged arrests of two black men in a Philadelphia store.
TODAY’S HEADLINES: Starbucks CEO addresses outrage
Widespread outrage, a local protest at the store involved and broader calls for a boycott persisted throughout the day. Prominent voices weighed in, including Atlanta rapper/actor T.I. – who led a protest at the now-closed Lenox Road location of Houston’s after a diner said she faced discrimination, and who previously participated in a protest against police brutality that closed an area highway.
By the time the markets closed for the day, Starbucks stock was trading at $59.43, a negligible change.
Short-term market value aside, the episode has the potential for systemic change within the coffee retailer with more than 28,000 locations.
“What happened to those two gentlemen was wrong,” president and CEO Kevin Johnson said. “Starbucks was built as a company that creates a warm, welcoming environment for all customers. That didn’t happen in this case.”
GMA host Robin Roberts asked what actions were being considered, and whether employees involved would face any punishment. Johnson indicated the remedy will be more systemic, rather than an isolated response regarding only the individuals involved.
“It’s easy for me to point blame to one person in this incident. My responsibility is to look more broadly, just to ensure this never happens again,” he said. “I’ve been very focused on understanding what guidelines and what training ever let this happen. What happened was wrong, and we will fix it.”
Within hours of the interview, Philly.com reported that the employee who dialed 911 had left the company as a result of “mutual” decision.
Johnson is in Philadelphia and repeated his desire to meet with the two men. He said he’s been in touch with the patrons’ representatives and hopes to invite them to be part of Starbucks’ institutional reforms.
“I’d like to apologize to them in person,” he said. “I’d like to have a dialogue with them.”
Author and commentator Eric Schiffer, CEO of ReputationManagementConsultants.com, said the episode means “Starbucks’ reputation faces a frightening free-fall that will be crippling for the brand amongst many within the African American community and beyond. The arrest of the two men created a dangerous body blow to a brand that typically takes bows, not punches.”
He predicts boycott movements could last from weeks to months, based on Starbucks’ continued response.
“Starbucks’ CEO was painfully unprepared for the eruption of the reputation earthquake triggered by the firm’s abuse of two African American men,” Schiffer said. “Starbucks backstabbed its strong trust with Americans and the world.”