Just one month after Starbucks closed down over 8,000 stores across the United States to train almost 175,000 workers about racial-bias, one Philadelphia barista is now accused of mocking a customer with a stutter.
Apparently, the training didn’t cover guiding employees on how to deal with customers with certain disabilities.
A University of Pennsylvania graduate named Sam, who wished not to use his last name, said he was at the coffee shop located at 3401 Walnut St, according to Philly.com.
When the 28-year-old gave his name to the barista, she reportedly made fun of him by replying “OK, S-S-Sam.”
However, that wasn’t it. To make the matters worse, the employee went as far to write “S-S-Sam.” on the coffee cup.
“It’s rare, as an adult, that that kind of disrespect happens,” the man said. “It happens, but it’s really rare to see it in print.”
“Stuttering is an affliction that harms people every day,” added Sam, who has had a stutter since age 6. “But I’m not the right person to be the face of that fight.”
Though the employee in question clearly lacked any civility, she was also not very smart as by purposely distorting Sam’s name on the cup, she put herself in trouble.
Sam’s friend Tan Lekwljit posted a photo of the plastic cup on Facebook, first on the company’s page and then on his account, after Starbucks repeatedly deleted the complaint.
“I am writing this not because I want to get anybody in 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,” Lekwiljit wrote.
However, according to a Starbucks spokesperson, Reggie Borges, the coffee giant’s regional vice president Camille Hymes got in touch with Sam to learn more about what happened.
“We are taking this incident seriously, and we have begun a full investigation,” said Borges. “We have a zero-tolerance policy for any kind of discrimination. We don’t feel like this [discrimination] is reflective of our values or of our mission. We want everyone who comes to our stores to feel valued and to have a positive experience.”
But before the ugly episode drew attention, the company didn’t do much when Sam complained to the customer service via email. As all he received in response from Starbucks was a very generic apology, along with a $5 credit.
“I thought it was kind of insulting,” said Sam. “I also thought they didn’t take my issue seriously. It was as if they give $5 to anyone who complains about anything. I sort of got a generic email, and I didn’t feel like I was heard.”
Clearly, the coffeehouse missed the point as the issue was not how the employee spelt his name but how they treated customers with disabilities, such as speech impairments. The barista might be just fooling around, but the fact is, she gave a huge blow to Sam’s self-esteem – which $5 cannot make up to.
Just in last couple of months, the coffeehouse came under fire when two African-American men at a Philadelphia Starbucks were arrested for apparently no reason. The incident sparked widespread fury, but the racism didn’t seem to stop as soon after another black man was allegedly barred from the restroom at a Starbucks while a white man was allowed in.
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