One year after becoming CEO of Starbucks, You are faced with a leadership test when two black men were arrested in a Philadelphia Starbucks.  The men were waiting to meet a business associate, but they didn’t purchase anything while they were waiting. The store manager asked them to leave, and they refused, explaining that they were there to meet someone. The manager called the police because the men refused to leave, and the police arrested them.   Another patron at Starbucks recorded the arrest on her cell phone, and it quickly went viral. In an interview after the arrest, the woman who took the video mentions that she had been sitting there for a while, and she wasn’t asked to leave even though she didn’t order anything.  Additionally, the video shows the business associate of the black men show up during the arrest, and he asks the manager and the police what the men had done wrong. The general public and those who witnessed the arrest labelled it as discriminatory and racist. What should be your response in this matter? Discuss the ethical issues involved in the incident. (15 Marks)

Mentors Comments:


  1. Discuss what would be your response and how will you handle various ethical issues involved in the question.
  • As the CEO of Starbucks first I would issue a statement of apology to the people who were arrested in the incident due to bias and also apologise to the stakeholders as Starbucks does not have any company policy for asking the customers to leave if they have not bought anything.
  • I would take full responsibility for the actions of my employees, and acknowledge that Starbucks customers were hurt by the arrests.
  • The apology also would have a detailed actionable steps Starbucks leadership would follow to learn from the situation, including meeting with community stakeholders to learn what they could have done better.  
  • I would ensure that employees would receive more training, including about when to call authorities and ensure that the company would conduct a thorough analysis of the practices that lead to this incident.
  • I would also meet with the two men arrested face to face to involve them in dialogue on what Starbucks needed to do differently.

2. Discuss the ethical issues at hand. E.g Bias and racism; lack of application of mind and retrieval of facts necessary for action etc

  • Bias towards certain community:-
      • In this scenario, the manager was suspicious just because the men were of a particular community.
    • Lack of ability to retrieve facts correctly:-
      • As an organ of law enforcement, the police should have found the truth and then take action but they just believed the words of the store manager and made arrests.
    • Even the customers have not made efforts to convince the officers that the men in question have not done anything wrong
    • Lack of clear policy guidelines by Starbucks on which managers need to act before taking any action.
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4 years ago


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