As Starbucks prepares to close its stores later this month for mandatory racial-bias training, an incident in suburban Los Angeles is showing why that training is needed.
A barista at a Starbucks in La Cañada Flintridge is accused of printing a racial slur on a Latino customer’s drinks on Tuesday.
Priscilla Hernandez told CNN that a co-worker at the restaurant where she works went to the nearby Starbucks and bought drinks. It’s a coffee run they make just about every day.
The co-worker ordered a white chocolate mocha and an iced caramel macchiato and told the barista his name is Pedro, Hernandez said.
But she said that when he brought back the drinks, she noticed that “beaner” was written on her drink instead of Pedro. “Beaner” is a derogatory term for Mexicans in the United States.
“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 followed up with a complaint to Starbucks on Twitter. The company soon 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,” Starbucks said on Twitter.
Hernandez said she and Pedro met with the chain’s district manager on Thursday morning. She said the manager was very apologetic and promised to investigate the incident.
Hernandez told CNN that Pedro declined to comment for this story. A Starbucks spokesperson who was identified only as Erin told CNN on Thursday night that a company leadership team “met with the customer this morning at one of our local stores in the area and he accepted our apology. This kind of mistake is unacceptable, and we will take additional steps to assess what happened here and how our partners can be better.”
The coffee chain is planning to close all 8,000 of its company-owned stores on the afternoon of May 29 so it can provide racial-bias training to its 175,000 employees.
The training was announced in response to the arrest of two African-American men last month at a Philadelphia Starbucks while they were waiting for a business meeting. As part of a settlement with the men, Starbucks and the city agreed to support a $200,000 initiative to encourage young entrepreneurs.
Correction: This story has been updated with the correct name of Priscilla Hernandez.