Starbucks Barista Gets $47K in Tips After San Diego Woman Shames Him for Telling Her to Wear Mask

"It's so shocking to see something get so big that only happened within a few minutes," barista Lenin Gutierrez said in a video shared to Facebook

Lenin Gutierrez
Lenin Gutierrez. Photo: GoFundMe

Nearly $50,000 has been raised for a Starbucks barista in San Diego after he stood up to a woman who was not wearing a face mask.

In the state of California, it is required that people wear masks in public, including restaurants and cafes.

After barista Lenin Gutierrez refused to serve Amber Lynn Gilles because she did not have a face covering, the woman posted a photo of Gutierrez on Facebook, writing, "Meet lenen [sic] from Starbucks who refused to serve me cause I'm not wearing a mask. Next time I will wait for cops and bring a medical exemption."

Gutierrez received an outpour of support, and a GoFundMe campaign acting as a virtual tip jar for the barista has raised $47,118 as of Friday afternoon.

"It's so shocking to see something get so big that only happened within a few minutes," Gutierrez said in a Facebook video.

He went on to explain his side of the incident.

According to Gutierrez, he was assigned to the front cash register, and when he saw a woman with no face mask, he asked her if she had one she could put on.

"She told me, 'No. I don't need one,' " Gutierrez said. "I was going to show her the paper that we've been provided saying that we require face masks, but we can still help — but before I can say anything, she flips me off, she says, 'No. I don't need one.' And she started cursing up a storm. She started calling people 'sheep' and she left."

Gutierrez said that within a few minutes, the woman returned and asked for his name.

"She took a photo of me and said, 'I'm calling corporate,' and started cursing some more at everyone, and just left, this time, for good," he recalled.

"I thought that was going to be the end of it," Gutierrez said, "I didn't know it was going to come to this."

Gutierrez said that before the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) rendered everyone indoors, he was working as a dance teacher and is an aspiring dancer.

"With this donation that everyone provided me with GoFundMe, I can make these dreams reality," he said. "I can fuel my passions even better now. So from the bottom of my heart, thank you so much for it. It's just amazing to see that I can actually make these dreams of pursuing more into dance a thing now. Thank you so much for it."

Gilles maintains that she was refused service, telling PEOPLE that while she did not have a medical exemption, she has asthma and allergies. “I felt like I was being harassed,” she says.

A spokesperson for the company tells PEOPLE, "We want everyone to feel welcome in our stores. We respectfully request customers follow social distancing and safety protocols recommended by public health officials, including wearing a facial covering when visiting our stores."

The spokesperson adds that more information on what customers can expect in Starbucks stores during the pandemic can be found on their At a Glance page.

Earlier this month, the coffee chain announced that it is planning to close up to 400 stores and shift its focus to add locations that exclusively offer pick-up and to-go services, PEOPLE previously reported.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.

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