Starbucks employee fired after mocking customer's stutter

Lloyd Doyle
July 9, 2018

Weeks after closing its stores to conduct anti-bias training, Starbucks is again the subject of controversy: a now-fired barista from a Philadelphia store location is accused of mocking a customer with a stutter.

Starbucks said the employee was axed because their behaviour did not meet their expectations of the experience Starbucks' customers should have.

"His name on the cup was written as 'SSSAM, ' which was disrespectful", Lekwijit wrote in a Facebook post detailing the incident.

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.

Starbucks said in a reply to Lekwijit's Facebook post that the employee was no longer with the company.

Lekwijit uploaded a photo of the drink which said "SSSAM".

The customer with the stutter emailed Starbucks and was offered $US5 ($NZ7.37) as an apology, according to the post.


"There are many people with speech disorders who are in a worse position than my friend and struggle with self-esteem and self-confidence". "All we wanted was to raise awareness among Starbucks employees, or any service employees, of speech impediments". "It was about how you treat people with speech impairments, not how you write names", wrote Sam's friend.

"Teasing a person about stuttering, no matter the environment, is wrong and reinforces common misconceptions about people [who] stutter", said NSA Chair Gerald Maguire, MD.

In May, Starbucks held anti-racial bias training for thousands of USA employees after a worker at another Philadelphia store called police on two black men waiting for a friend.

Lekwijit also declined NBC News' requests for interview.

Starbucks announced on Twitter Thursday that the employee had been sacked.

Starbucks later commented on Lekwijit's post and said it was investigating.

However, Lekwijit told the Inquirer that he feels Starbucks' recent sensitivity training should have also covered people with speech disabilities, so that no one else like Sam is mocked. "We want our stores to serve as a welcoming place for everyone who visits and strive to ensure our partners provide a positive experience". We have taken immediate corrective action and have apologized to the customer.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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