By Jennifer Earl, ,
Published July 03, 2018
A Philadelphia man is accusing a Starbucks barista of teasing him for having a stutter — even using extra letters in his name when printing it on the cup label — after a routine visit to a coffee shop last week.
The man, a University of Pennsylvania graduate student who only wants to be identified as Sam, told The Philadelphia Inquirer the Starbucks employee teased his speech impediment after he ordered at the counter.
“Okay, S-s-s-sam," Sam claims the barista repeated back to him.
Sam was shocked, but he was even more surprised to see his name written as "SSSam" on the receipt pasted on his plastic coffee cup minutes later.
"Getting this kind of treatment from service employees is unacceptable, whether or not it is intentional."
“It’s rare, as an adult, that that kind of disrespect happens. It happens, but it’s really rare to see it in print," Sam, 28, told the newspaper. “It felt rude."
Sam's friend, Tan Lekwijit, took a picture of the label and posted it on Starbucks' main Facebook page Wednesday, requesting that they look into the matter — not just for his friend, but for anyone with a speech disorder.
"Getting this kind of treatment from service employees is unacceptable, whether or not it is intentional," Lekwijit told Fox News Tuesday.
Lekwijit said his friend also emailed Starbucks' customer service department later that day to report the incident and got a "pretty standardized" reply, apologizing for the mix-up and gifting him $5 toward his next purchase.
"Clearly, Starbucks missed the point. It was about how you treat people with speech impairments, not how you write names," Lekwijit wrote in a Facebook post.
Starbucks spokesperson Reggie Borges agreed the email response "wasn't handled right."
"Admittedly, we didn't do a good job of understanding the situation. It was not an appropriate response," Borges told Fox News, adding that Starbucks regional vice president Camille Hymes "immediately" reached out to Sam after reading Lekwijit's post.
"Camille apologized to him on the phone. Our customers come into stores to have a really good experience and this was not reflective of that," Borges said, promising to conduct a full investigation. "We're trying to figure out what took place and once we do, we'll take the appropriate actions and make a decision on how to handle it in the coming days."
Lekwijit said he isn't trying to get the company in trouble, he just wants to raise awareness among employees for the future.
"I'm doing this not only for my friend, but also for other people with speech disabilities, which are not discussed much compared to other types of disabilities," he added.
Borges added, "We want to do right by those folks, and do our very best to fix things not only with that customer directly but also address it in the store."
Starbucks closed more than 8,000 stores nationwide to conduct anti-bias training on May 29 — a month after two black men were arrested in one of its Philadelphia stores.
Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson were asked to leave after one was denied access to the bathroom. They were arrested by police minutes after they sat down to await a business meeting.
The pair settled with Starbucks in May for an undisclosed sum and an offer of a free education. They also reached a deal with the city of Philadelphia for a symbolic $1 each and a promise from officials to establish a $200,000 program for young entrepreneurs.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.