The Inversion

The Inversion by Robert Gore – Straight Line Logic

Soon, everything will be public knowledge, except what governments do.

Last Tuesday, May 29, Starbucks executive chairman Howard Schultz published “An Open Letter to Starbucks Customers” in The Wall Street Journal (it may have been in other publications as well).

Recently, a Starbucks manager in Philadelphia called the police a few minutes after two black men arrived at a store and sat waiting for a friend. They had not yet purchased anything when the police were called. After police arrived they arrested the two men. The situation was reprehensible and does not represent our company’s mission and enduring values.

The employee or employees responsible for calling the police may have acted out of racial prejudice. Or the black men may have done something not mentioned in the letter and calling the police averted a troublesome or potentially dangerous situation. Black people walk into Starbucks all over the country without incident. It’s difficult to believe the police were called simply because two black men walked in and sat down. But if they were, why not just reprimand and instruct, or fire, those responsible, apologize, offer lifetime free coffee to the two gentlemen, and be done with it?

Such a response wouldn’t require the following:

FOR SEVERAL HOURS THIS AFTERNOON, STARBUCKS WILL CLOSE STORES AND OFFICES TO DISCUSS HOW TO MAKE STARBUCKS A PLACE WHERE ALL PEOPLE FEEL WELCOME.

Offices and 8,000 stores were closed for an afternoon so that employees could discuss how to make Starbucks a more welcoming place. Judging by its success, Starbucks has already made millions of customers of all races, ethnicities, genders, and sexual persuasions feel welcome. You have to wonder what the employees responsible for doing so, probably 99 percent of Starbucks’ workforce, feel about this pointless waste of time, which could have been, in a company-wide email, condensed down to: Treat everyone who walks into Starbucks like you’d like to be treated.

Why did Schultz make a mountain out of this molehill? Nobody has questioned his or his company’s commitment to treating everyone walking into a Starbucks equally. This was simply an instance when employees may have failed to live up to the commitment. Schultz is a member in good standing of the establishment, and professes to believe all the things members are supposed to believe in. Why couldn’t he have handled the matter in the same way Robert Iger, CEO and Chairman of the Walt Disney Company, and another member in good standing, handled the Roseanne Barr matter?

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Robert Gore

Robert Gore was born in 1958 in Livermore, California. He grew up in Los Alamos, New Mexico, where both his parents worked for the Los Alamos National Laboratory. His undergraduate education was at UCLA. He graduated in 1980 summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa with a double major in economics and political science. He completed the JD/MBA program at UC Berkeley in 1984. He held part-time jobs throughout undergraduate and graduate school. He passed the bar exam and is an inactive member of the California Bar Association. Mr. Gore’s career in finance began in 1984 with a bank in San Francisco, trading municipal bonds. In 1985, he went to a Wall Street firm’s west coast municipal bond office in Los Angeles as a bond trader. He developed its block and institutional sales capabilities and after four years was promoted to manager of the region.