US & Canada

Starbucks race row leaves customers a bitter aftertaste

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionBrandon Ward’s video of his encounter at a Starbucks has gone viral

The race row engulfing Starbucks has gone down about as well as a too-acidic drip coffee with customers at one of the company's many locations in Washington DC.

Several patrons at a branch in the Dupont Circle area of the nation's capital voiced disillusion with the brand, even as they continue to give it their business.

The coffee behemoth - a self-styled corporate trailblazer on social justice issues - has launched into full-on damage limitation mode.

So will the announcement that thousands of its US cafes are to close next month for a day of staff training on racial bias help contain the brewing crisis?

  • "Being an African American, we think this is an America thing, not a Starbucks thing. But for them to publicly say they're going to do diversity training is good. They addressed it, not wiping it under the rug." - William, 38
  • "I feel a little jaded because these things keep happening. As an African American, it's unfortunate we have to keep seeing these injustices. You get discouraged. You don't think of 'where I eat' and 'political views', but now it's becoming a thing." -Surita, 28
  • "I've been to Starbucks all over the country and I haven't had a problem and I'm black as midnight. Some black people's problems are theirs and theirs alone." - Michael
  • "Those two guys, first of all, should not have gone to Starbucks and then not patronised the place. I think Starbucks was not at fault. There was no racial bias. A few months ago, I was trying to use the restroom, and they asked me if I was gonna buy something. It's just their policy." -John, 60
  • "I once went to a city centre Starbucks, ordered a coffee and a cake. I put my coat, books and coffee on a table. I went towards one of the staff and asked him about the toilet. He replied 'Madam, the toilet is only for paying customers.' He did not even ask me if I purchased or not. He just assumed that I didn't. If this doesn't always happen to each of you white folks, you need to admit there is an issue here." - Shosho
  • "Starbucks is so ubiquitous that they've almost become a public space, like they can afford to be open to non-patrons as well. What we're really talking about is public spaces to convene, and wealth and lack of wealth. That's a question right now - how to share spaces." - Kristina, 40
Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionWatch the arrest of two black men at Starbucks - and the protests that followed

One leading scholar on discrimination said he was not surprised by recent viral footage showing alleged racially biased treatment of black customers.

Dr Ibram Kendi, professor and director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University in Washington DC, told the BBC that Starbucks should roll out "zero-tolerance policies" to fire any employees who mistreat customers.

"The policies that institutions and businesses have to exclude people, to make it so they can't use the bathroom or wait around for a while, are disproportionately targeting black people," Dr Kendi said.

"It tells us black men are consistently perceived to be criminals and a threat."

"Fundamentally, it has to come at a structural policy level that makes it such that it's no longer in the interest of the individual to mistreat a person of colour."