Starbucks’ racial bias training can’t come soon enough.
The coffee chain is facing more backlash after a customer accused a barista in the company’s La Canada Flintridge, California, location of writing a racial slur on his cup.
Pedro, who asked not to be identified by his last name, ordered two coffees from the cafe and received his order with the word “beaner” on both cups in place of his name, he told NBC4’s sister station, Telemundo 52.
“It’s an offensive word used towards Latinos,” he said.
Pedro does not believe the slur could have been written by accident because the barista called his name once his order was ready.
Pedro’s co-worker Priscilla Hernandez was the one to point out the name.
“I asked him if he realized what they had put on his cup. He said no. So I was really upset about it, because that isn’t OK,” she said.
Hernandez said she called the store and they told her their employee couldn’t understand what Pedro had told them. They also offered a $50 gift card.
“Out of all the names they could’ve put on his coffees for ‘misunderstanding’ him they decide to put ‘beaner,'” she said, noting that the Starbucks employees apparently understood Pedro well enough to get his drink orders right.
Hernandez also told reporters that Pedro paid for his order with cash—which means that the Starbucks barista had to manually insert a name for the order.
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She then tweeted a complaint to Starbucks, and the coffee chain’s social media manager responded:
Thank you for letting us know, Priscilla. This is not the welcoming experience we aim to provide, and we have reached out to this customer to apologize and make this right. -Ryan
— Starbucks Help (@starbuckshelp) May 16, 2018
Starbucks’ district manager for the location offered Pedro a $50 gift card, which he declined, telling reporters it was “insulting.” Both he and Hernandez met Thursday with the manager, who reportedly apologized and promised to investigate the situation.
The incident comes on the heels of another racially charged incident in one of the chain’s Philadelphia locations. On April 12, two black men were arrested, purportedly for trespassing , after they had asked to use the bathroom (without purchasing anything). Both Starbucks and the city have met and settled with the two men, and the company’s CEO apologized.
Shortly afterward, Starbucks announced that it would close more than 8,000 of its stores on May 29 for racial-bias training. The move earned the company much-needed kudos for attempting to tackle a tough topic and goal.
No company has tried such training on this scale, says an expert advising the coffee chain, and the effort puts the science of behavioral change to the test. Starbucks’ push comes as behavioral scientists’ view of how best to address bias is evolving.
“Mitigating bias is one of the hardest things in human existence,” says David Rock, director of the NeuroLeadership Institute, which he co-founded on the idea that brain science can inform leaders on how to better motivate their employees, for example, or help them learn more.