Grabbing a quick cup of coffee turned into quite a sour experience for a group of Muslim young men at a Starbucks in Philadelphia recently.
The three stopped at the Starbucks location to get some coffee to-go and had already grabbed their drinks and left the store before realizing what had been printed in the "customer name" section on their drink labels.
In that spot where a name should have been was "*ISIS*" instead of the name of the person who had ordered the drinks.
Niquel Johnson had given his Muslim name, Aziz, when asked for a name for the order. Johnson said that he has been using the name for the last 25 years and has never had this issue before.
Abigail Hauslohner reported the incident on Twitter:
Three young Muslim men in Philadelphia last wknd went into their neighborhood @Starbucks (where they are frequent c… https://t.co/fs4G8rAYxw— Abigail Hauslohner (@Abigail Hauslohner)1567110486.0
The group were frequent visitors of this particular location, as it is in their neighborhood and close to their workplace.
It is also frequented by the congregants of a nearby mosque, so employees are used to seeing Muslim customers.
@Starbucks They filed an online complaint. A Starbucks representative responded Monday (in an email that Niquel, wh… https://t.co/u3b73627Cq— Abigail Hauslohner (@Abigail Hauslohner)1567110855.0
Starbucks spokesperson Reggie Borges told The Washington Post:
"After investigating, we don't believe this was a case of discrimination or profiling. The customer approached and provided the name Aziz. The barista mistakenly spelled it incorrectly. We have connected with Mr. Johnson and apologized for this regrettable mistake."
An earlier statement from the Starbucks official claimed that the company had contacted Johnson's family to relay their apologies. But Johnson says the niece, Alora, they claimed to have spoken to does not exist in his family.
So not only did Starbucks fail to properly follow up on the online complaint from Johnson, but they also discussed the case with an unknown woman who has no relation to Johnson and allowed her to speak for him.
Johnson had provided his own phone number on the online complaint form, so it should have been simple to make sure they were contacting the correct person.
On a call with another Starbucks representative, Brian Dragone, there were attempts to reconcile how the company managed to speak to someone unrelated to Johnson and to apologize.
Johnson was not interested in empty apologies, however:
"No, this can't be resolved by a simple apology at this point. I feel as though I was discriminated against, and there's no apology that can simply be an apology at this point. I just think your colleague is making this story up."
Johnson is considering legal action against the company, but has not decided on a course of action yet, saying:
"I feel like they're not taking it seriously as it is. You think they would have their facts in order. How could they allow anyone to speak for me?"
Several people on Twitter pointed out that Starbucks baristas' track record for spelling names is not that great, lending credence to that possible explanation.
@ahauslohner @Starbucks @GtownMasjid Starbucks baristas misspell names everyday, everywhere. My friend Maury just… https://t.co/1iS8LChZPL— PetsareNOTdisposable⭐⭐⭐ (@PetsareNOTdisposable⭐⭐⭐)1567357541.0
@darncuter I get Terri and Karen too because people never hear my name right! https://t.co/KH1tzwVy0f— Kerrie🍓 (@Kerrie🍓)1567433604.0
@ahauslohner @Starbucks @GtownMasjid I bet you at least HR and Legal was involved. But the mishearing the name does… https://t.co/3fK4jNq3pE— Sans𝕕𝟚𝟘 (@Sans𝕕𝟚𝟘)1567207369.0
Given incidents of racial profiling and discrimination at Starbucks locations over the past few years, including one that caused the company to shut down its locations for a full day for sensitivity training, one would think that employees would be better trained.
Even if the name on the cups was an honest spelling error or a case of having misheard the name in a loud environment, the way that Starbucks has handled the complaint process has definitely failed to hold up to expectations.
The book American Islamophobia: Understanding the Roots and Rise of Fear is available here.
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