Sammy Nickalls
July 13, 2015 9:25 am

Starbucks has got a serious bathroom problem. And no, we’re not talking about a hygiene problem—we’re talking about a creepy problem.

Last Thursday at around 10:30 AM, a five-year-old boy discovered a cellphone in the bathroom of a Starbucks in Lancaster, California. This may sound like someone accidentally left their cellphone in the bathroom, but no: it was hidden. “My son used the restroom first and I used the restroom after him,” the boy’s mother, who asked to remain anonymous, told KTLA 5. “I noticed he was staring at the sink a little bit perplexed. I asked him what was wrong and he said, ‘Mommy, why is there a phone under there?'”

The phone was positioned in a rather frightening manner: propped up by paper towels with the camera facing towards the toilet. The woman immediately told the Starbucks employees, who notified the sheriff’s department. “The deputies discovered that the [cell phone] was running in a video-recording motion,” Lt. Joseph Fender with the Lancaster Sheriff’s Station told KTLA 5. “. . . They were able to get some type of surveillance video from the location, however I don’t know what the contents of the video are at this time.” Nothing short of horrifying.

The police have since acquired surveillance footage from the Starbucks and are reviewing the tapes. “It’s such a violation of privacy,” the woman told KTLA 5. “Not only of mine, but my son.”

Starbucks is aware of the problem and has reached out to KTLA 5 with a statement. “We are disturbed by this incident and take our obligation to provide a safe environment for our customers and partners (employees) very seriously,” Starbucks representative Jaime Riley told KTLA 5. “Our store partners took swift action as soon as they became aware of the incident by immediately alerting the Sheriff’s Department of the situation.”

The issue, though, is that this isn’t just an isolated incident. In 2011, there were at least three cases of taping in Starbucks bathrooms, starting in May with a San Dimas resident who secretly videotaped over 40 women — including children — using the restroom at a Glendora Starbucks. The camera was disguised as a plastic coat hook and was hanging from the wall across the toilet, according to the Los Angeles Times.

A month later, a 44-year-old man set up a video camera in a unisex bathroom of a Starbucks that was located in Brandon, Florida. The camera, which was affixed to a pipe under the sink and pointed towards the toilet, was spotted by a Starbucks manager. In a release, the perp stated that he had “previously done so approximately six to seven times in the past two months,” according to The Tampa Tribune.

Shortly after that, an outraged dad sued Starbucks after his five-year-old daughter found a video camera in a Washington Starbucks bathroom that was pointing at the toilet. “We take our obligation to provide a safe environment for our customers and our employees very, very seriously,” Starbucks spokesperson Alan Hilowitz said about the incident, adding that these incidents are “extremely, extremely rare” since as of 2011, there were 17,000 locations in the United States, according to Reuters.

But “extremely, extremely rare” doesn’t seem to be accurate, since a bathroom-camera incident happened once again when a Texas man hid cameras in “several different locations,” allegedly including a Starbucks, NBCDFW notes.

Including last week’s incident, that would mean that a camera has been found in a Starbucks bathroom at least five times. Obviously, it can be difficult to monitor these things while still retaining the privacy of customers, but it’s evident that something needs to be done, ASAP. This is a bathroom mess that is in dire need of clean-up.

(Image via iStock)

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