Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Barnes and Noble Bookstores at War with the Homeless


Many Barnes and Noble bookstores in the US are starting to remove couches and comfy seating in order to combat the homeless problem. Apparently the bookstore chain has policies in place that make it problematic to deny patrons access to the bookstore itself, so many locations are removing couches so homeless people will pick another location to sleep for hours at a time.

This story has been confirmed by the USA Today, where a journalist spoke with staff at their favorite B&N bookstore. The employees – albeit not overtly — said Barnes & Noble chose to get rid of its big, cozy chairs to prevent the homeless from loitering in its stores. While they never used the term "homeless," the employees instead referred to these loiterers as "undesirables," or even "smelly people."

Not only are B&N bookstores all over the country removing reasons for homeless people to chill, but libraries are dealing with the exact same issue. Libraries are considered public spaces that are kept in business because of public funding. This prevents the libraries from acting as a gatekeeper or putting security in place to deny certain people entry. Unlike a bookstore, a library simply can’t remove chairs to solve the problem.

I think Barnes and Noble needs to augment their internal policies to give stores more flexibility to freedom to deny entry to people who do not buy books but use the store as a bathroom and a bedroom.  Sure this might ruffle a few feathers, but paying customers want chairs and couches to chill on while they are reading a book they intend to purchase. Screwing over legitimate patrons by removing couches to give homeless people the boot is doing nothing but punishing people with money to spend.

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