Why "Out of Order" Isn't Out of Bounds To Customers

by Ryan Cleek

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June’s micromoment of the Month is all about transparency in business:


The restroom at my local San Francisco Starbucks has been Out of Order for at least seven months. That’s what the signs have been telling me, anyway. After the first month, I thought, “man, contractors must be expensive in the Bay Area,” but then I grew suspicious.

What could be so wrong with the facility that it would be unusable for the entire seven months I’ve lived in this city? How long was it broken before I got here? Is the restroom even broken, or are the employees just tired of cleaning the bathroom?

This particular Starbucks is located in the same complex as my apartment, and dozens of regulars spend all day working or studying here. I’m not the only one who has noticed the bathroom’s extended rehabilitation.

Shirking responsibility does not help.

I asked a couple different managers what the problem was, and they both told me it had “something to do with the plumbing and the apartment complex.” I’m not sure what that means. All I know is: I walk half a mile to Peet’s Coffee and Tea when I want to work in a cafe, because I don’t want to lose my table, my coffee, or my stuff every time I need to use the restroom.

Recently, however, I was surprised to see that they updated their sign. Now, it says “It will be fixed soon. We promise. This restroom is out of order. We apologize for the inconvenience.”

Reassurance becomes meaningless.

It’s wonderful that they recognize our frustration, but reassurance isn’t the only thing we need, at this point. Why not be a little more transparent? Give us a specific timetable for the repairs. Or, if the facility is unusable for over a year, maybe you should take the restroom sign down and make it look like a closet, or anything else that won’t tease us and our over-inflated bladders.

Sometimes, I feel like they don’t care about the inconvenience to their customers, and maybe that’s because a broken bathroom is actually a convenience for employees, since they get to avoid having to clean the bathroom.

Or, the worst-case-scenario is that they’re lying to my fellow customers and me.

Other times, I think maybe the employees know just as little as their customers. If that’s true, then they’re even more frustrated than we are, since they haven’t had a bathroom in their workplace for at least seven months, and annoying customers like me keep asking them for answers they don’t have.

transparency in business

Customer-facing employees can always make a difference.

Personally, I feel sorry for the baristas in my Starbucks. I have a feeling this whole bathroom fiasco is out of their control, but I bet there are plenty of other customers who aren’t giving the baristas the benefit of the doubt.

Wouldn’t it benefit everyone – baristas and customers alike – if everyone knew what was going on?

So, Starbucks Baristas: tell us everything you know about the situation and show us that we’re all in the same boat. That’ll help us customers recognize that you’re on our side, and make us more likely to be on yours.

Also, fix the bathroom! I want to spend my workdays with you, your atmosphere, and your delicious and refreshing iced green tea lemonades!

Image credit: orangeaurochs via Creative Commons license

If you liked this post, check out our previous micromoments of the Month below!

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Ryan Cleek

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