How many times have you witnessed a car parked illegally in a handicap spot – no tag hanging in the window, no license plate indicating a driver with disabilities. Just some dunderhead who thinks disabled access spots represent equal parking privileges for anyone. Or perhaps they simply don’t care. Ever want to confront such a person?
Meet Florida resident Rob Rowen, 62, who decided to challenge non-disabled individuals who blatantly parked in front of his favorite Starbucks café – and was banned by the coffeehouse for his efforts to protect the disadvantaged.
Writes local station MyNews13: “Rowen said he was banned from Starbucks for life because he called out customers who were breaking the law. He said he noticed several customers illegally parking in handicapped spots at the Starbucks on South Dale Mabry Highway, in Tampa.”
Rowen, who makes a daily trip to the South Dale Mabry Starbucks store, said he repeatedly watched customers pull into the handicap spot in front of the plaza who clearly had no right to be there. He took up the cause.
“I saw someone park, and it was obvious they weren’t handicapped,” Rowen said. “There was no handicapped parking sticker. It wasn’t a handicapped plate. And so I said to him, ‘You’re parked in the one handicapped space, and you need to move your car.’”
It kept happening, so Rowen started taking cell phone pictures of the illegally parked vehicles and showing them to the drivers, telling them that they need to move their vehicles or he would report them to the police.
When the Starbucks manager found out, she booted Rowen – initially for life.
“She said to me, ‘You’re harassing my customers,’” Rowen said. “I said, ‘I’m one of your customers. I’m a regular customer, and I’m trying to help you protect your other customers who might not be able to park anywhere else.’”
In fact, one belligerent customer who was called out by Rowen called the police on him – and ended up getting a ticket in the end.
“She said she was calling the police, you’re harassing me. I said go right ahead, so she ended up getting a ticket, which felt really good,” Rowen said.
Shortly thereafter, Rowen received his lifetime ban letter in the mail, telling him that he would no longer be served at that location because he was “causing disruption to business” and “threatening the well-being of a customer or partner.”
He took his plight to Facebook, calling himself Rob “Starbucks Wake Up and Smell the Coffee” Rowen. As you might imagine, his story went viral – and Starbucks was the recipient of harsh criticisms. After being shamed on social media, corporate Starbucks reversed his ban.
A spokesperson said:
“We understand Mr. Rowen’s concerns. We have been speaking with him about this and have resolved the matter. Mr. Rowen is welcome in any of our stores. We will work with him to improve the parking situation at the store and create additional awareness and understanding of this important topic.”
As to why Rowen was so passionate about the issue?
“My son-in-law has muscular dystrophy and is in a power wheelchair. I’ve seen so many times, the issue of him trying to find a parking space,” he said.
Good for you Rob. Now go get your latte.
Ever confront someone who was parked illegally in a handicap spot?