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article imageWhat are they inking? Starbucks could let workers reveal tattoos

By Nathan Salant     Sep 22, 2014 in Lifestyle
Seattle - Most customers probably do not know this, but Starbucks has always required its tattooed coffee servers to cover up body ink when behind the counter.
That may be changing.
The Seattle coffee giant has privately told employees that it was reconsidering its tattoo policy as part of a company-wide effort to improve morale.
“We are always actively engaged in discussion with our partners to determine how to make their Starbucks experience better and more valuable to them,” company spokesman Zack Hutson told the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper.
“We know the dress code and tattoo policy is important to them so we are taking a fresh look at it,” he said.
The change is reportedly under consideration as a result of CEO Howard Schultz's summer pledge to focus on improving employee careers, the newspaper said, and was revealed this month in a message from Starbucks COO Troy Alstead.
Other company improvements being considered include performance and length of service pay, an on-shift food benefit and allowing tipping on its Android app.
But the changes also follow loud criticism of its rigid scheduling practices, which sparked a national debate about improving service-industry jobs in general.
Starbucks has promised to improve its scheduling policies while citing its progressive employee benefits, which include online college subsidies, healthcare for most workers and retirement benefits, the newspaper said.
But many aspects of the company's dress code probably are not open to debate.
Employees are not permitted to wear perfume or aftershave because the company says it could affect "the taste and aroma of our coffee," and piercings are strictly limited to earrings -- two maximum per ear, the newspaper said.
The national debate about tattoos worn by workers at Starbucks' 20,000 stores most likely began when an employee in Atlanta who objected to having to wear long sleeves, even in summer, started an online petition to change the rule.
The petition attracted more than 21,000 online signatures, the newspaper said, and apparently also got the attention of corporate headquarters.
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