Has Starbucks Really Banned Engagement Rings?

So remember that new employee dress code Starbucks issued back in October? The one that everyone initially rejoiced about because it finally permitted baristas to have visible tattoos? Well, the tide has turned, apparently; everyone is now freaking out about that same dress code, because reportedly, it states that Starbucks has banned engagement rings on employees. But to be honest? I don’t understand why everyone is so upset. This is definitely going to be an unpopular opinion, but if you’re willing to entertain a different point of view for a minute, hear me out:

First off, I find it a little bizarre that the outcry is occurring now; it's part of the bigger guideline about jewelry that was included in the dress code revision, and it was pretty clearly stated in the memo the chain issued about it almost a month ago. And what’s more, I actually think the claim that Starbucks has banned engagement rings is inaccurate — as far as I can see, nothing in it says anything remotely resembling, “You can’t wear your engagement ring at work.” You can see the whole thing here — it’ll probably be a familiar image, as it’s been making the rounds since the middle of October — but here’s the bit that concerns us right now:

That’s it. “Wearing a ring is okay if it’s a plain band, no stones.” It’s not anti-engagement ring — it applies to all rings. And from both a practical standpoint and the food safety concerns to which they’re referring, it makes perfect sense. Here's why.

Baristas use their hands. They use them a lot. They use them to do everything from food prep to operating machinery, and if you’ve ever been a barista, you’ll know that. You’ll also know that if you’ve worked any other job that requires a lot of use of your hands — elsewhere in the service and restaurant industry, in technical theatre, in construction, or in any number of other fields. I’ve worked a lot of those types of gigs myself, and I tend to wear a lot of rings. But even without specific guidelines, I routinely took them off of my own accord, mostly because they got in the way — and most of them didn’t even have stones in them. Sometimes they slid around a lot (sometimes slipping off my fingers entirely during the colder months); they dug painfully into my fingers at other times; and you know how diamonds are hard enough to cut glass? Well, faceted gems can just as easily cut a person, and when you’re working in close quarters with two other baristas behind a tiny counter... well, you do the math. It really is a safety concern.

Of course, I’m also skeptical of engagement rings in general, largely due to the questionable history behind them. The “tradition” of the engagement ring doesn’t actually go back that far — and the whole thing about diamond engagement rings in particular? It was an ad campaign run by DeBeers in the ‘30s. Bearing all this in mind, it’s entirely possible that the reason I don’t have a problem with a dress code guideline pertaining to jewelry is because I don’t think engagement rings are the undying symbol of love they’re often made out to be. But that’s just me.

Look. I understand wanting to wear something on your ring finger at work to indicate that you’re married. I do. It makes perfect sense. But the Starbucks dress code isn’t forbidding you from wearing rings completely — just ones with stones. Why not just swap out your diamond for a simpler band while you’re at work? It still presents the important social cue of, “Yes, I’m taken, thank you very much"... just with a little less sparkle. Is that really that big of a deal? And if it is, can someone please explain to me why? I'd really like to understand, but from my current frame of reference, I just don't.

Then again, if it were me, I’d probably make the swap with or without the rules. I’m clumsy; in fact, I wouldn’t put it past myself to lose my ring in the bottom of someone’s Salted Caramel Mocha.

Images: tarale/Flickr; Roobb Stark/Tumblr