Sorry, The Newspapers At Starbucks Were Never Free

If you're a frequent, dine-in visitor of your local Starbucks, you may have noticed something missing since many cafes reopened to sit-down customers. If your thoughts upon hearing this observation were, "The free newspapers are gone!" — you're half right. According to the New York Post, Starbucks stopped supplying newspapers in its corporate-owned cafes in the fall of 2019; however, the thing many people don't realize is they were never free.

The New York Post notes that the coffee shop chain had been selling copies of the New York Times since 2000 and added The Wall Street Journal and USA Today in 2010. While the idea of reading the paper while enjoying a cup of coffee was popular, Mental Floss notes that there was a common misperception that the papers were complementary. Many customers would either read them or leave them in a messy heap on their table when they finished or would walk out of the store with a copy without paying. Ultimately, this misunderstanding about free newspapers led Starbucks to decide in 2019 to stop providing newspapers altogether.

New options for news

Although the major problem for newspapers at Starbucks was inadvertent theft, the newspapers were not the only thing the coffee giant pulled from shelves. Virginia's Prince George County News noted that the brand also removed racks containing bags of whole bean coffee and grab-and-go snacks. It was determined these were not selling well, cluttered store space, and had reduced the amount of merchandise and mugs available in many stores.

While the New York Post notes the move was seen as bad for newspapers, which have seen significant declines in physical sales with the proliferation of smartphones, The Chicago Tribune reported that in the aftermath of the newspaper phaseout, Starbucks announced it would offer free access to websites for Tribune-owned newspapers. These include The Chicago Tribune, The Orlando Sentinel, The Baltimore Sun, The New York Daily News, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and The Seattle Times. All of these papers are usually behind a paywall, which would be circumvented by people using Starbucks' free Wi-Fi in stores. The program was launched in late 2019 and was promoted as a "limited time trial," though, after the pandemic closures, it is unclear if it has been extended after stores reopened.