Starbucks Under Fire Again After a Barista Reportedly Mocked a Man's Stutter
Weeks after closing its stores to conduct anti-bias training, Starbucks is again the subject of controversy: a now-fired barista from a Philadelphia store location is accused of mocking a customer with a stutter.
Tan Lekwijit shared a Facebook post on Sunday describing the incident.
“My friend Sam who is a stutterer stuttered on his name when ordering a coffee at Starbucks. The barista said, ‘Okay, S-s-s-sam.’ When he received his coffee, he was shocked to see that his name on the cup was written as ‘SSSAM’, which was disrespectful,” Lekwijit wrote, sharing a photo of the labeled cup.
When Sam reached out to Starbucks Customer Service, he was offered a $5 gift card in an email saying “they were sorry that he ‘felt disrespectful [sic]'” for the way they wrote his name.
“Clearly, Starbucks missed the point,” said Lekwijit. “It was about how you treat people with speech impairments, not how you write names.”
PEOPLE has confirmed that the barista no longer works for Starbucks.
“There’s no tolerance for this type of behavior,” Starbucks said in a statement. “We’ve taken immediate corrective action and apologized to the customer. We want our stores to serve as a welcoming place for every one who visits and strive to ensure our partners provide a positive experience.”
Lekwijit added in his post, “I am writing this not because I want to get anybody into trouble, but because I want to raise awareness among the employees. There are many people with speech disorders who are in a worse position than my friend’s and struggle with self-esteem and self-confidence. Getting this kind of treatment from people, especially service employees, only scars them—and I beg Starbucks employees to have this in mind.”
In April, Starbucks announced they would be closing all company-owned stores nationwide (more than 8,000 locations) for a mandatory racial-bias education on May 29. Over 175,000 employees participated in the training, and the closing reportedly cost up to $12 million in revenue.
The training came after a video went viral of two black men being arrested in a Philadelphia Starbucks while waiting on a colleague for a business meeting.
Following the incident, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson appeared on Good Morning America, calling thethe incident “completely inappropriate” and “reprehensible,” and offered a personal apology to the men, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson.
“While this is not limited to Starbucks, we’re committed to being a part of the solution,” Johnson said.
Days later, Robinson and Nelson appeared on GMA to detail their experience, and admitted that they wanted to be part of the solution and want people to take action to create “true change.”
“This is something that has been going on for years, and everyone’s blind to it, but they know it’s going on, if you get what I mean,” Nelson said. “[We want to] help people understand that it’s not just a black people thing. This is a people thing.”
The coffee chain also recently announced they were changing their bathroom policy in response to the incident to reflect a viewpoint that every person who walks into their store is considered a customer, even if they haven’t purchased anything.