Starbucks, recognizing it’s often a safe space for the most vulnerable visitors, has installed needle-disposal boxes in some locations.
The coffee giant started adding the boxes in several U.S. markets this January after receiving requests from employees last year, a spokeswoman said. It will add them to any store where employees cite a need, she said.
"We are always working with and listening to our partners for ways we can better support them when it comes to issues like these," Starbucks said in an email, citing "scary situations" and a need to ensure that its workers "are out of harm's way."
The chain has been training employees to treat anyone who walks in the door as a customer, whether they intend to make a purchase or not. The policy move followed a highly publicized confrontation in Philadelphia last April in which a store manager called police on two black patrons. The open-door policy offers a fresh set of challenges, employees have said, from more homeless or mentally ill visitors and even a surprise bathroom birth.
The spokeswoman said there doesn’t seem to be a direct connection between its welcoming approach and the need for needle-collection boxes, noting that it’s “an industrywide concern and not unique to Starbucks.”
Business Insider, which reported the news earlier, said the boxes had been added to about 25 markets.