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Philly Starbucks Offers $5 Apology for Bigoted Barista Mocking of a Customer's Disability

A tone-deaf apology, a PR campaign with a commercial name-dropping a celebrity, a one-day training, a chairman steps down and here Starbucks is none the wiser.


Sam, a UPenn doctoral at the Wharton School, was getting iced coffee and stuttered when the Starbucks barista at the Walnut and 34th Streets store in Philadelphia asked him for his name. She was actually entitled enough to make fun of Sam’s stutter and then write his name as “SSSam” on his cup.

When his good friend, Tanner Lekwijit, posted the picture of the cup on Starbucks’ Facebook page, the company deleted it multiple times. Sam, who preferred not to be identified, sent a complaint to the company and received a generic email response sorry you “felt” disrespected, here’s $5.

This comes at the same time as the NAACP’s wrap-up and presentation of a 30-page evaluation of the April Starbucks racial profiling incident and the anti-bias training that followed.

The authors noted the company’s lack of speed with developing a plan of action. Following the April racial profiling, three additional bias incidents occurred in May, including one right before the anti-bias training where an employee wrote an anti-Latino slur on a customer’s cup.

What followed after Sam’s further exposure of the company’s misguided focus on the name spelling, and not the bigotry, was a call from a Starbucks regional vice president, Camille Hymes, who apologized.

“We are taking this incident seriously, and we have begun a full investigation,” Reggie Borges, a Starbucks spokesperson, said. “We have a zero-tolerance policy for any kind of discrimination.

Howard Schultz, former Starbucks chairman, resigned one month ago amid the backlash from his responses to the racial profiling incident and his leadership of corporate culture, including his failed #RaceMatters campaign.

Among the NAACP report’s recommendations for the company are: corporate leadership must take ownership and accountability, and the company must publicly accommodate more marginalized groups, teach the basics of bias and provider intervention training for scenarios with customers and employees and conduct a civil rights audit of company policies and processes.

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