Starbucks employee fired for mocking customer's stutter at Philadelphia store

Starbucks Barista Fired After Making Fun Of Customer's Speech Impediment

PHILADELPHIA — A Starbucks barista has been fired after making fun of a customer’s speech impediment at a store in Philadelphia.

The customer's friend posted a photo of the coffee cup on Facebook after his friend was mocked by the barista for his stutter on June 27:

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“My friend Sam, who is a stutterer, stuttered his name when ordering a coffee at Starbucks. The barista said, ‘Okay, S-s-s-sam,’” Tan Lekwijit wrote in his Facebook post. “When he received his coffee, he was shocked to see that his name on the cup was written as ‘SSSAM,’ which was disrespectful.

“Later that day, he wrote an email to Starbucks Customer Service and got a pretty standardized email saying they were sorry that he ‘felt disrespectful [sic]’ for the way they wrote his name and offered him $5. Clearly, Starbucks missed the point. It was about how you treat people with speech impairments, not how you write names.

“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. Getting this kind of treatment from people, especially service employees, only scars them -- and I beg Starbucks employees to have this in mind.”

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Starbucks confirmed the incident and the writing on the cup.

“In retrospect, this could have been handled better,” Starbucks spokesman Reggie Borges told Cox Media on Wednesday. “From our perspective, we have no tolerance for this kind of behavior from our partners. We did a full investigation and that employee is no longer with the company.”

Another Starbucks in Philadelphia provoked national outrage when a store manager called police on two African-American men waiting to meet a friend inside the coffee shop in April.

The manager complained that the men hadn’t purchased anything and wanted to use the restroom.

The two men were arrested by Philadelphia police for trespassing.

They were not charged with any crime.

Starbucks officials apologized and compensated the men following the incident.

Starbucks also closed down over 8,000 stores in May for racial bias training after the incident. Over 175,000 employees participated in the mandatory training program.

Borges told Cox Media that the training was an “important step in the journey to create a welcoming place within all Starbucks stores,” and mocking someone’s speech or any kind of disability is “not tolerated” within the company.

Borges said that the customer was “gracious and understanding” after Starbucks officials apologized for the employee who mocked his speech impediment.

“Coming in to our stores, you should have a positive experience. There really isn’t a training for knowing how to treat other people with respect and kindness,” Borges said. “To be kind, thoughtful and understanding is something we should all have, and we have no tolerance for this kind of behavior.”