A Philadelphia Starbucks came under fire in early July after a man said a barista made fun of his stutter and then mocked him by misspelling his name, NBC Philadelphia reported.
The man's friend Tan Lekwijit posted about the encounter on Facebook, and included a picture of the drink he said his friend received.
"My friend Sam who is a stutterer stuttered on his name when ordering a coffee at Starbucks. The barista said, “Okay, S-s-s-sam.” When he received his coffee, he was shocked to see that his name on the cup was written as 'SSSAM,' which was disrespectful," Lekwijit wrote.
Lekwijit wrote that Sam sent an email to customer service and was offered an apology and a credit of $5.
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"Clearly, Starbucks missed the point," Lekwijit wrote. "It was about how you treat people with speech impairments, not how you write names. I am writing this not because I want to get anybody into trouble, but because I want to raise awareness among the employees. There are many people with speech disorders who are in a worse position than my friend’s and struggle with self-esteem and self-confidence."
Sam, who asked for his last name not to be published, told the Philadelphia Inquirer it was "kind of insulting" and said "it’s rare, as an adult, that that kind of disrespect happens."
"Teasing a person about stuttering, no matter the environment, is wrong and reinforces common misconceptions about people [who] stutter,” Gerald Maguire of the National Stuttering Association wrote, according to NBC Philadelphia. “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.”
Many people commented on Lekwijit's post and compared it to other recent Starbucks controversies, particularly an incident that occurred in a different Philadelphia location in April when two black men were arrested while waiting to meet with a white businessman. The incident resulted in Starbucks shutting down thousands of stores for "bias training" of employees.
“I was angry, and I feel like no stutterer should be treated this way. Not just my friend, but for other people with speech disorders," Lekwijit told the Philadelphia Inquirer on why he decided to make the post. "I don’t’ know if the [bias] training they just had covered people with speech disabilities, but it should."
Starbucks later commented on Lekwijit's post and said it was investigating.
"We want our stores to serve as a welcoming place for everyone who visits and want to ensure our partners provide a positive experience," they wrote. "Our local leadership has reached out to Sam to better understand what took place and the specifics of his experience and apologize directly. We have zero tolerance for discrimination and are addressing this immediately."
The employee is no longer with the Starbucks, the company wrote in a separate comment. The Associated Press reported that the barista was fired.