Until quite recently Starbucks and the government were the only two large organizations catering to the dysfunctional at the expense of its rule-following.
The government presides over the transition of public sidewalks into outdoor toilets, with used syringes adding a splash of color. Starbucks is bringing the sidewalk inside and opening its bathrooms to one and all, regardless of whether or not the visitors are customers.
Starbucks is a brave new business model. A combination of temporary office suite and daytime homeless shelter.
It’s also a model that appears to be damaging the coffee business. Forbes reports on a study conducted by the University of Texas at Dallas and Boston College schools of business. “Monthly visits to Starbucks dropped 6.8 percent compared with other nearby coffee shops after the open-bathroom policy was put in place in May 2018.” The study termed the drop in business “large and significant.”
The study also validated a prediction of mine. “Researchers looked at the proximity of a given Starbucks store to a homeless shelter and found that customer traffic declined at almost double the rate at stores closest to homeless shelters versus those farthest away.”
Meaning I was right on target when I wrote that Schultz’s stores now function as the concession stand in a homeless encampment.
Now a third organization is looking to follow Starbucks down the path of resistance to reality. Major city libraries are abolishing fines for keeping books, videos, CDs and other items past the due date.
KTLA quoted Los Angeles Public Library honcho John F. Szabo, “We are proud to serve the largest, most diverse population of any library in the nation. By removing barriers and going fine-free, we will be better able to serve everyone in Los Angeles.”
Proving once again, any justification containing either ‘diverse’ or ‘inclusive’ is a statement of illogical nonsense.
The library will also lengthen the amount of time before a clingy borrower won’t be charged a late fee from two renewals to three “unless another patron requests the item.” Meaning the patron requesting the item had best be an optimist because there’s no mechanism for motivating a patron to return it.
No late fees and the borrower can continue to check out new items while the overdue book’s relevance to current events slowly recedes into the distance.
Naturally, politicians want to share in the glory. LA Mayor Eric Garcetti pontificated, “We are ending these fines because patrons show care and integrity in the handling of these precious materials - and nothing should stand in the way of Angelenos who want to share in all the library has to offer.”
Fact is the patrons who “show care” are the patrons who return material on time or pay the fine. The rest are deadbeats.
This If-You-Can’t-Do-the-Time-Don’t-Pay-the-Fine movement is more social engineering. NPR found Diana Ramirez - a resident of Tijuana, Mexico! - to personify San Diego’s decision.
“For nearly a decade, Diana [hasn’t] been able to take a book home from the San Diego Public Library. Her borrowing privileges were suspended ...because of a mere $10 in late fees, an amount that had grown to $30 over the years.”
Thirty bucks and she can’t pay the fine? My first question would have been, during that ten-year period how many smartphones or tattoos did you buy?
Ramirez didn’t pay the fine because it wasn’t a priority.
Abolishing fines is just the bookshelf edition of fighting ‘mass incarceration.’ San Diego found, “nearly half of the library’s patrons whose accounts were blocked as a result of late fees lived in two of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. ‘I never realized it impacted them to that extent,’ said Misty Jones, the city’s library director.”
It could be the fines “impacted them” because they don’t pay their bills.
Fines are entirely neutral. There is no ‘unconscious bias’ in a calendar. A potential fine doesn’t prevent anyone from visiting the library and checking out a book any more than a potential speeding ticket keeps people off the highway.
All this moronic policy does is penalize library patrons who follow the rules. Good luck waiting on a reserve list for a best-seller when due dates are merely a suggestion. If catering to deadbeats was a viable marketing strategy Redbox wouldn’t charge late fees either.
Indulging deviance can spread to formerly rule-following folks. The Starbucks study found free-for-all bathrooms cut into revenue from former customers. “Increased use by the general public of bathrooms and tables is estimated to have negative impacts, partly because people who might have previously felt compelled to make a purchase in order to sit or use the bathroom now no longer do.”
Just like patrons who formerly felt obligated to return books by the due date.
Michael Shannon is a commentator and public relations consultant. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.