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Hi, Kevin Coupe here and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.

So Starbucks announced the other day that it is loosening up its official dress code for the third time in about six years.

Back in 2014, Starbucks said its baristas could for the first time have visible tattoos, as long as they did not contain vulgarities.

Then, in 2016, the company said that employees could veer away from the previously approved shirt colors of solid black and white, and could wear a variety of shirt colors that include gray, navy, dark denim and brown. Employees can also wear patterned tops in these colors.

Now, the company says that employees can wear facial piercings, because "we believe the Starbucks Experience is best delivered when partners can bring their whole selves to work."

Of course, "whole selves" only goes so far - the facial piercings can't be larger than a dime.

I feel bad for the poor managers who are going to have to keep a supply of dimes on hand so they can measure - not as easy as you might think at a time when so many people use their Starbucks app to order and pay for their coffee.

It reminded me of when I went to Iona Prep in the late sixties and early seventies, and the school's principal, Brother Delaney, used to go around and measure students' sideburns and check on whether their hair hit the back of their shirt collars, which was forbidden. (We didn't know it at the time, but it ends up, in retrospect, that the Irish Christian Brothers were being vigilant about all the wrong stuff. Nobody has sued them, after all, for hair length … they've been sued multiple times for sexual abuse. Like I said, they were focused on all the wrong stuff.)

I think that this is as clear an indication as you could ask for that it is hard to hire and keep good people. It is a sellers market, and so Starbucks is having to be a lot more flexible than it used to me, even if that means running the risk that some folks might be put off by the appearance of the folks making their lattes.

I'm not a piercings guy. Not even a tattoo guy. But spending every summer in Portland, Oregon, I've sort of gotten used to this stuff. In the end, what's really important is the quality of the service and the quality of the coffee.

I know retailers out there that have vastly different feelings about this. There are some who are rock solid in their rules - no piercings, no visible tattoos, no exceptions. And there are some who have no problem because they believe it adds a sense of hipness and authenticity to the store.

It would be nice if it all were about how customers would react, but the reality of the moment is that when good people are hard to find, even the most conservative retailers have to figure out how they can be more flexible even while being true to their brands.

It isn't easy, but then, nothing is these days. This is just another example of the kinds of issues and decisions with which retailers have to grapple.

One pretty good bet … it isn't going to get any easier.

That's what is on my mind this morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.


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