Starbucks has entered the limelight for the second time this year, as a Penn graduate student was allegedly mocked for his stutter by staff at a University City Starbucks.
The incident started when Tan Lekwijit and his friend Sam, a 28-year-old Penn graduate student, visited the Starbucks at the corner of 34th and Walnut streets on June 27. When Sam, who has a stutter, ordered a coffee, the barista allegedly replied by saying, “Okay, S-S-S-Sam,” and inscribed his order with the moniker "SSSAM."
Following the incident, Sam wrote to Starbucks Customer Service via email saying that he “felt disrespected” for the way they wrote his name, according to Lekwijit. In response, Starbucks offered Sam a mere $5.
"Clearly, Starbucks missed the point," Lekwijit wrote in a Facebook post. "It was about how you treat people with speech impairments, not how you write names."
The National Stuttering Association also responded to the alleged incident:
“Teasing a person about stuttering, no matter the environment, is wrong and reinforces common misconceptions about people [who] stutter,” said Chair of the NSA, Gerald Maguire, according to NBC10. “This news not only affects the individual who experienced this level of disrespect, but it also discourages countless other people who stutter from feeling empowered and comfortable with how they speak.”
The post quickly circulated around social media with many speaking out against the entire Starbuck franchise. The company commented soon thereafter, saying, "Our local leadership has reached out to Sam to better understand what took place and the specifics of his experience and apologize directly."
Starbucks said in a Facebook post that the worker involved is no longer with the company.
Earlier this year on April 12, two African American men were arrested at the Center City Starbucks in downtown Philadelphia as they were waiting to meet a friend. A video emerged on Twitter of the two men being handcuffed and escorted out of the building by roughly half a dozen Philadelphia police officers. The episode quickly garnered millions of views and incited widespread public criticism — including the call to
On May 29, following that incident, Starbucks closed its more than 8,000 stores in the United States to offer a day of sensitivity training to its more than 175,000 employees. However, this recent incident has called into question the efficacy of this day of training.