Stacey Oberle 0

Starbucks, please revoke your ban of wedding rings!

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I have been a proud partner for nearly a decade, and for the past eight years, I have been wearing the ring that my husband gave to me when he proposed. When Starbucks released its new dress code banning any wedding/engagement rings that have stones, I was confused and heartbroken. Since then, I’ve done a ton of research.

I haven’t been able to find a single person who can tell me how my wedding ring actually poses a risk to my customers. I spoke with the FDA, and the woman I spoke to reminded me that they post a model, not a set of regulations. Their food code states:

Jewelry 2-303.11 Prohibition.
Except for a plain ring such as a wedding band, while preparing FOOD, FOOD EMPLOYEES may not wear jewelry including medical information jewelry on their arms and hands.

Even if this was a regulation, the simple truth is that we, baristas at Starbucks, do not prepare food. We pour drinks, and we serve food that has already been prepared, but our hands never come into contact with anything our customers will consume. We don’t touch the milk or syrup, the inside of the cups, or even the sip portion of the lids. When we handle pastries and sandwiches, we use tongs or gloves.

I went to the Washington State Food & Beverage Workers Manual. It states:

While preparing food, food workers must remove watches, rings, bracelets, and all other jewelry on the arms or hands. Exception: Wedding rings may be worn if they are covered with a glove when the food worker is preparing food.

I called the health department for clarification, and they agreed that they do not see pouring drinks and serving pastries and sandwiches as ‘preparing food’. They assured me that we do not pose a risk.

Some people are claiming that the no-stones policy is because there is bacteria underneath our stones, but how is that bacteria going to get into our customers’ mouths? My ring is regularly cleaned and checked. There is no more bacteria there than underneath anyone’s fingernails.

When I called the partner contact center, the man I spoke with couldn’t answer a single one of my questions. He was obviously unprepared for the amount of research that I have done. All he said was, “this standard is not going away,” and “there is a grace period for you to comply.” He told me that Starbucks is ‘compromising’ because we shouldn’t even be allowed to wear plain bands, though I can’t find a single food code that says that. Most married women I know have their engagement and wedding rings soldered together, and Starbucks has offered no solution to those of us who don’t own a plain band and couldn’t afford to go buy one if we wanted to.

I care very deeply for my customers, and I would never put anyone at risk. Every Starbucks barista I know feels the same way.

I have always been proud to be a part of this wonderful company. I’ve been excited to be part of the growth that we’ve made, but I can’t stand behind this unfounded change. My only hope is that enough people will help me convince Starbucks that they are making a huge mistake.

I don’t know what happened to the petition that originally got started because when I signed it, there were over 120 signatures, but this issue is too important to just vanish before Starbucks revokes its ban on wedding rings.

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