When a customer orders a coffee drink at a Starbucks Corp. (NASDAQ: SBUX), the barista typically writes the customer’s name on the cup so that when the drink is ready the customer’s name can be called out. But a customer wearing a “Trump for President” T-shirt was identified by a store’s employee as “Build a Wall,” a sobriquet the customer felt humiliated and bullied her.
The incident took place at a Starbucks store in Dilworth, North Carolina, and the customer, Kayla Hart, said she immediately emailed the company’s customer service group.
In a statement from the company regarding the incident, Starbucks apologized:
We failed to meet this customer’s expectations of us, and we have apologized and are working directly with her to make it right. We have spoken with our store partners [i.e., employees] about this situation and are using this as a coaching opportunity for the future.
Starbucks has received some critical comments recently from baristas who are complaining about being overworked and underpaid in stores that are understaffed. The company has been addressing customer service and in-store support issues, but the employees say it has not been enough.
A report last month from Business Insider listed seven specific complaints from employees, including one calling Starbucks “a cult that pays $9 per hour.” Another barista complained about staffing shortages:
Nothing gets cleaned. Nothing gets stocked. We’re getting screamed at by customers for not being fast enough, so we try to go fast, and we mess up the money, or we mess up the drinks, and then we get yelled at for messing up the money and messing up the drinks. It’s all incredibly tiresome. Just one more person on the floor in the afternoons and evenings would be incredible.
Would a happier workforce lead to fewer of the kind of episodes that Kayla Hart had? It certainly couldn’t hurt Starbucks to try.