A graduate student with a speech impediment claimed that a Starbucks barista in Philadelphia mocked him for stuttering.
The alleged incident took place at a Starbucks on Walnut Street in West Philadelphia last Wednesday when a barista wrote extra letters before the customer’s name on the coffee cup, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
The customer, Sam, claimed that when the employee spelled his name on his Grande Iced Coffee, the employee wrote “SSSAM.”
“It’s rare, as an adult, [to see] that kind of disrespect happen,” Sam told the paper, reportedly requesting that his full name not be published. “It happens, but it’s really rare to see it in print.”
Tan Lekwijit, a Facebook user who says he is Sam’s friend, wrote in a post that the employee made fun of Sam’s stutter before his friend received his order.
“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,” the friend wrote. “Getting this kind of treatment from people, especially service employees, only scars them—and I beg Starbucks employees to have this in mind.”
Lekwijit reportedly commented on Starbucks Facebook page explaining what had happened, but then claimed the company deleted his post.
When Lekwijit posted the comment again on his personal Facebook page, a Starbucks representative left a statement in the comments section:
Hi, Tan. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We want our stores to serve as a welcoming place for everyone who visits and want to ensure our partners provide a positive experience. Our local leadership has reached out to Sam to better understand what took place and the specifics of his experience and apologize directly. We have zero tolerance for discrimination and are addressing this immediately.
Sam told the Inquirer that he initially reported the incident to Starbucks customer service by email, and received a $5 credit. Fox News reported that a regional vice president from the chain reportedly apologized to Sam and asked for a full investigation into the incident.
Starbucks has had an image problem since the police arrested two black men in April at a separate Starbucks location in Philadelphia for not ordering anything. The arrests prompted many social media users to urge customers to #BoycottStarbucks.
The company responded by temporarily closing its doors at 8,000 Starbucks locations on May 29 to hold mandatory anti-bias training sessions for its baristas.
But some diversity leaders say Starbucks’ anti-bias training does not go far enough to prevent these types of incidents from happening.
Breitbart News reported that NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund’s Sherrilyn Ifill and Heather McGhee, president of progressive think tank Demo, authored a report saying the coffee company needs to undergo a “racial equity overhaul” that includes civil rights audits and racial sensitivity training.