It’s happened again. A Starbucks barista labeled a coffee cup in a derogatory way. This time the customer was a policeman in Keifer, Oklahoma. Kiefer Police Chief Johnny O’Mara quickly responded on behalf of his police officer and, as these incidents do, it went viral. It happened on Thanksgiving Day.
A police officer was performing an act of kindness for the police department’s dispatchers on duty during the holiday. He went to Glenpool, just south of Tulsa, and purchased coffee for the dispatchers at a Starbucks. The dispatchers are not as appreciated as much as they should be, Chief O’Mara said and the gesture was to recognize the work that the dispatchers do – especially on a holiday. Public safety personnel works every day, holiday or not.
The barista who waited on him labeled a coffee cup “Pig” instead of his actual name, as they do when you order coffee at Starbucks. Chief O’Mara vented on Facebook, as is understandable. He reminded everyone that this police officer was patrolling the streets of their small town, keeping watch on behalf of its residents, instead of eating Thanksgiving dinner with his family and watching football. “Just pour the coffee, please. Are we at a point where a task as simple as pouring an exceptionally overpriced cup of coffee is so complicated that it cannot be accomplished without “expressing oneself?” The description of Starbucks coffee as “exceptionally overpriced” is noted. He is not alone in that opinion.
Starbucks replied to the Chief’s post with an apology.
Starbucks: This is totally unacceptable and offensive to all law enforcement. We are deeply sorry and have apologized directly to the officer who experienced this. We have launched an internal investigation into this matter and our leaders would like to connect with you directly to apologize to you and the entire department. We invite you to send us a private message so that we may connect you with our leadership.
Chief O’Mara rightly points out that unfortunately, this is just one more disgraceful action taken against police. “It’s another tiny pinprick into the heart of men and women who are asking themselves more often: “Why am I doing this?” Today young people and others old enough to know better show a complete lack of respect for the work done to secure communities across our country. Police departments are no different than any other workgroup – there are good as well as bad but the overwhelming majority of police are on the good side. This officer, for example, was just trying to show acknowledgment to fellow workers on Thanksgiving Day. No good deed goes unpunished, as the expression goes.
It really doesn’t matter what the barista’s opinion of police officers is, though. The barista should have been trained to know how to treat customers in a civil way. Starbucks has a history of problematic staff. In 2018, for example, there was a silly story about a mislabeled coffee cup. There was also the story of two black men improperly treated in a Starbucks in Philadelphia. And now that the social justice warriors in charge of corporate policy have decided to throw open the restrooms to the general public, not just paying customers, foot traffic is down from actual customers. Imagine that.
The Starbucks store offered to replace the cup’s label when the police chief called to register a complaint. That lame offer is an indication that there’s some tone-deafness going on here. Switching out a label doesn’t end bad behavior by someone working with the general public. Chief O’Mara took a pass on that offer. The police chief referenced the fact that Starbucks doesn’t always treat police officers in a respectful way. You may remember the story back in July when a Starbucks in Tempe, Arizona asked five police officers to leave because some customer wasn’t “comfortable” with their presence.
The barista was first suspended, pending the outcome of the investigation. Now the barista has been fired.
Starbucks representative Jory Mendes called the incident “totally unacceptable” and “not representative of the deep appreciation we have of officers who work to keep our communities safe.”
“We are deeply sorry to the law enforcement officer who experienced this,” he told The Post early Friday afternoon, noting that Starbucks had launched an internal investigation and suspended the employee pending its outcome.
Hours later, the company announced in a statement that “the Starbucks partner who wrote this offensive word on a cup … is no longer a partner after this violation of company policy.”
“This language is offensive to all law enforcement,” the statement said, adding that Starbucks had apologized directly to the officer and to O’Mara, the police chief.
Keifer is a small town with a population of 1,685 at the 2010 census. Glenpool, where the coffee was purchased has a population of 10,808 as of 2010. It isn’t unreasonable for such communities to take an employee out of a situation where he/she is likely to have to serve the same aggrieved customer again. Re-training instead of termination probably wasn’t a realistic option.
Chief O’Mara ended his Facebook post with gratitude for those who keep us safe. “Thank you, first responders, for risking it all this Thanksgiving away from your families. If you’re looking for coffee use a place where you pour your own and you’re certain of what’s in it.). Stay safe; go home.” Nicely said. Even in small towns, there are likely other places to patronize than a Starbucks. Shop at a local mom and pop store.