Starbucks Barista Mocks Customer’s Stutter, Gets Fired
What’s with Philadelphia’s Starbucks outlets in 2018? A few months after a racist incident at one area location prompted an outpouring of anger and ultimately a nationwide racial sensitivity training course, a new mishap suggests not every barista has a handle on how to treat all customers with respect just yet.
Over the weekend, a Facebook post by Wharton student Tan Lekwijit alleges that a friend with a stutter was the subject of some less than stellar treatment from a barista at Starbucks’ 34th and Walnut Street location near the UPenn campus on June 27. “My friend Sam who is a stutterer stuttered on his name when ordering a coffee at Starbucks,” Lekwijit’s post reads. “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.”
When Sam first reached out to Starbucks customer service to complain, he received what Lekwijit calls “a pretty standardized email” and a $5 gift card. But as Sam’s story gained steam (garnering over 200 Facebook comments on the original post), Starbucks corporate felt the need to step up and address the incident more seriously. A comment on the post from the Starbucks Facebook account explained that local leadership was in contact with Sam to “better understand what took place,” noting that “we have zero tolerance for discrimination.”
When reached by Eater, Starbucks spokesperson Reggie Borges clarified that regional vice president Camille Hymes was able to get in touch with Sam about the situation, and added that the employee responsible for the incident was no longer with the company.
Hopefully that termination should bring this saga to a close. But given that the incident took place less than a month after 8,000 Starbucks locations closed their doors for an afternoon of sensitivity training, it’s evident that there’s still some work to be done when it comes to fostering a welcoming climate for all guests. But with a number of additional trainings scheduled, hopefully they’ll have time to eventually get it right.