Philly Starbucks barista accused of mocking a customer’s stutter

Philly Starbucks offered $5 to the customer who was allegedly mocked by a barista for his stutter. Photo: Facebook

It’s been less than three months since coffee giant Starbucks came under fire for calling the police on two black patrons who were sitting in one of its Philadelphia coffee shops waiting for a friend. Now, a Philly Starbucks is again being called out for poor treatment of one of their customers — and this time, it involves a speech impediment. 

An employee at a Philly Starbucks at 34th and Walnut streets in University City allegedly mocked a man’s stutter on June 27 while taking his coffee order, according to NBC Philadelphia. In this latest incident, a 28-year-old University of Pennsylvania graduate student identified only as Sam, who has a stutter, stuttered when ordering his coffee. According to Sam’s friend Tan Lekwijit, the Starbucks barista then replied with “Okay, S-S-S-Sam,” then doubled down on the insult by writing “S-S-S-Sam” on Sam’s coffee cup.

“His name on the cup was written as ‘SSSAM,’ which was disrespectful,” Lekwijit wrote in a Facebook post detailing the incident. Afterwards, Sam reportedly wrote an email to Starbucks complaining about his treatment. To make amends, Starbucks wrote back apologizing that Sam “felt disrespected,” and offered him $5. 

“Clearly, Starbucks missed the point. It was about how you treat people with speech impairments, not how you write names,” Lekwijit wrote, pleading with Starbucks to be more considerate of customers.

“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. Getting this kind of treatment from people, especially service employees, only scars them—and I beg Starbucks employees to have this in mind,” Lekwijit said.

Starbucks said in a Facebook post that the worker who mocked Sam is no longer employed there.

The National Stuttering Association weighs in on Philly Starbucks controversy

The National Stuttering Association spoke out on behalf of the man who was mocked.

“Teasing a person about stuttering, no matter the environment, is wrong and reinforces common misconceptions about people [who] stutter,” said NSA Chair Gerald Maguire, MD. “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.”

After Lekwijit’s post drew attention, angry Facebook users voiced their outrage over what appears to be Starbuck’s continued insensitivity toward customers.

“Stop giving starbucks your money! …bias training was BS,” wrote C Antonio Chavarria Emes, referring to the so-called “anti-bias training” that took place at Starbucks after the arrest of two innocent black men in Starbucks’ Rittenhouse Square location. 

“You can train the mind not the soul have not given them a dime of my [money],” wrote Facebook user Gerri Graves.