By Lloyd Graff

I’m writing this blog in my new favorite Starbucks in Flossmoor, Illinois. All of the employees are African American women. I am one of three white people in the shop. If there was ever a company whose culture frowned on racial profiling it is Starbucks, with its Jewish founder, Howard Schultz, son of a New York cabbie. Yet at one of its shops in an upscale neighborhood in Philly, a couple of well-dressed black men ended up in handcuffs because an employee of Starbucks freaked out and called the cops when the guys wanted to use the bathroom and hadn’t yet ordered their Frappucinos.

Profiling happens all the time and it stinks.

To stereotype, to profile, is human. It’s a means of protection built into our brains. It’s a decision-making approach taught to us almost from birth.

I have learned through the years that one of the beauties of everyday life is that profiling is such an imperfect tool for making accurate judgements. Its flaws present us with opportunities to exploit the fallacies of stereotyping.

Profile of a Starbucks cup.

For running a business, profiling is the screening device we use, consciously or unconsciously to make decisions. Too fat, too ugly, too young, dresses inappropriately, dropped out of school, served time, wears his hat funny, gets around in a wheel chair, farts a lot, too old. We have a million disqualifications. In our machinery business, Graff-Pinkert, we try to use profiling of unloved machine tools to our advantage as we hunt for unloved gems in the scrap category.

A couple years ago, the best college pitching prospect in the county couldn’t get an offer to play professional baseball because he had an embarrassing sexual incident in his past. The kid was completely blackballed by Major League Baseball. The incident happened 10 years earlier. Was it fair?

Is life fair?


One of the funnier cases of profiling, very literal profiling, took place a dozen years ago and was recounted recently by Michael Lewis in his book The Undoing Project. Lewis has a long chapter on Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Houston Rockets, who are favored to win the NBA Championship this year. Morey recounts his struggles through the years trying to figure out what players to draft, sign or trade to build a championship team.

He brings up the story of Marc Gasol, a Center from Spain whose brother Pau was already a respected player in the League. Marc had most of the pedigree to be a top five pick in the draft.

He had skills, a shot, a height of 7’1”, and a brother in the NBA. A no-brainer pick, except that the scouts and GMs hated one thing—his body type. Poor Marc Gasol had breasts. Because of his “man boobs” the profilers, the NBA draft mavens, all whispered with their half smiles that Marc really wasn’t “our kinda guy.” He went #48 in the 2007 draft. Upon entering the NBA, Gasol worked on his fitness, hit the weight room and became an NBA All Star for Memphis.


One more stereotyping story to savor. Last Monday’s Boston Marathon was run in brutal weather conditions. Freezing cold, sheets of rain. Perfect weather for Boston in April. Boston is the premier marathon in America and most of the top distance runners in the world compete there. The great marathoners do not pay to enter the competition. The best ones are guaranteed their expenses and sometimes are paid just to show up.

Vegas puts odds on the favorites, and very rarely does an outsider break into the top group. But in 2018 it happened.

Sarah Sellers, a 26-year-old nurse from Arizona, paid her $180 entrance fee. She runs at 4:00 a.m. back home in Phoenix because her job as a nurse anesthetist doesn’t afford her a lot of training time. She came partly because her husband Blake was running too. Sarah had run cross country and track at Weber State and was an Academic All American. But she isn’t a marathoner. Boston was her second marathon.

She just kept pushing in the horrendous conditions of Boston, and all of the big names kept faltering. She was 25th at the midway point and 13th at 20 miles. Sarah just kept running and finished the race in second place, collecting $75,000 in prize money and a spot in the Olympic trials.

The profilers in Boston and Las Vegas didn’t know her name before Monday in Boston.

Question: Is profiling necessary for successful law enforcement?

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13 thoughts on “Profilometer

  1. Grimstod

    I think you answered this in your own writing. “To stereotype, to profile, is human.”
    lets face it. We do NOT want a bunch of robots for cops. We would rather human did the law enforcing. Robots are great at machining but not law enforcement.

  2. Jim

    First of all I would say stereotyping and profiling are two very distinct actions. Stereotyping lumps groups together in order to make generalizations about behavior, speech, dress and lots of other things. Profiling uses very specific information; red shirt, black pants, tall, short, blue eyes, brown eyes, male, female… etc. in order to find exactly what you are looking for. I believe profiling is absolutely necessary for successful law enforcement.

  3. Jeff

    Was the employee profiling? She followed exactly what the Starbucks handbook says. She asked them politely to leave if they were not going to order and they made a fuss. They could have just left when the cops arrived and not made a scene.. Two sides to every story – if it were white folks, Asians, or many others that this happened to it would not even make the news. Our media exploits and blows up racial items every chance it gets. Reasonable people apologize and move on. Not here – she gets fired and her life ruined and the two guys are on national TV telling us what’s right and wrong & how Starbucks rules are BS. Not sure why things are so tough anymore. Listen to the manager and police and things certainly would have worked out differently.

  4. Gordy

    Once again it goes back to what we teach our children.
    Lets say I am sitting in Starbucks waiting for the person I am to meet. I don’t want to order until he gets there so we can sit together at the same point in the experience.
    The manager comes up to me and asks me if I am going to order anything. If I respectfully describe why I am waiting and convey my plans, they may allow me to continue, or they may press me to at least order a cut of coffee or wait in my car.
    At this point, I can create a big argument with the manager and take it to the police level, or I can act civilized and act as requested. MY CHOICE.
    These guys were brought up to handle situations differently that I was, regardless of whether I am Eskimo or Afghanistan, black or white. They chose to create an situation, and they got both barrels.
    I don’t have these kinds of problems. Period. Thank you mom and dad, and I hope I did this well with my own children.
    By the way, I wear blue jeans, I often have dirt on my hands, and I can run a machine tool. I am not typically dressed in a suit, so I get very similar profiling in these kinds of situations.

    1. Josh

      Yep, they should have just got up and left I guess. And Rosa Parks should have just sat in the back of the bus right?

  5. Nick

    Except the guys in Philly weren’t tossed for being black… they were tossed for being assholes. Watch the video.

      1. Gordy

        I looked around but I cant find it.
        Can you send everyone a link of the video at the part where the manager felt they needed to call the police.
        I haven’t heard of a manager calling the police for no reason until now, I would like to see what that looks like.
        I do see the part where the 2 men are walking out in a very respectful manner. That is all over YouTube.
        Something is amiss with this whole incident. There has to be more

        Good one with the Rosa Parks comment too.

  6. Bob

    Did anyone hear that this particular Starbucks was robbed a week earlier? I heard that once on a news report but have not heard it again. Trying to see if that happened or not.

  7. Ron

    Is life fair? Is profiling necessary? Meanwhile in Florida, two deputies are shot and killed while eating lunch and the media(and I guess bloggers) are more concerned with two black Americans getting kicked out of a coffee house.

  8. Max Lantz

    Wow … Distorted or Not Distorted;
    • I own a place, I am Orange and have one eye and no hair;
    • you come in and want to use the facilities, you are Green, have one hand and a crooked nose;
    • I ask if you are ordering you say I want to use the facilities;
    • sign on the facilities room door says patron use only; (there is a reason for this)
    • Reason for sign, cost to put in and maintain porcelain, water per flush, wipe paper, hand wipe paper and/or blower, labor to clean and disinfect for paying customers;
    • I ask please order the net of each purchase pays for it’s use … your still adamant about using the facility ; Why the big stink ??

    Cure … Yes please I’ll take a Mocha and I’ll be right back gotta visit the facilities.

    Pretty easy and understandable. Now go ahead and flush !!

    if your dancing around and leaking something no one will stop you from using the facilities for free .. they may even offer you their spare uniform.


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