Starbucks is doing all it can to avoid another PR disaster after a period of bad press.
The coffee chain, which closed all U.S. stores on May 29 for racial bias training after an employee called the police on two black men who were waiting for a friend and had them arrested, is in hot water once again after a Facebook post appeared to contain evidence of another employee mocking a customer with a stutter.
“There is no tolerance for this type of behavior. We’ve taken immediate corrective action and have apologized to the customer,” Starbucks told Us Weekly in a statement on Thursday, July 5. “We want our stores to serve as a welcoming place for everyone who visits and strive to ensure our partners provide a positive experience.”
Still, much of the damage had already been done. The Facebook post, which was shared by Tan Lekwijit on July 1, includes a picture of a Starbucks cup with the name “SSSam” typed on it. Lekwijit also explained the incident in the caption, writing, “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.”
Per Lekwijit’s status, Sam then wrote an email to Starbucks’ customer service about the incident, which took place on June 27 just a few miles away from where those arrests occurred in April, and received a standard email back with a $5 gift card.
That’s when Lekwijit took the matter into his own hands and posted about the incident on Starbucks’ Facebook page. “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,” he wrote on July 1. “Getting this kind of treatment from people, especially service employees, only scars them — and I beg Starbucks employees to have this in mind.”
Starbucks spokesperson Reggie Borges told Eater that the company’s initial response to Sam’s complaint was lackluster, explaining, “Giving a $5 gift card is certainly not the way we want to handle these things … we obviously want everyone to walk into our stores and have a great experience and that wasn’t reflective of that.”
Borges then noted Starbucks has plans to focus upcoming training sessions on how to treat customers in a way that makes them want to return to Starbucks. “When it comes to anyone that walks into our stores, training or no training, we want them to feel welcome,” he explained. “And we want to have partners that understand the value of that.”
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