A GoFundMe account notched more than $100,000 Wednesday for a San Diego Starbucks employee skewered on social media by a customer who walked out after the employee asked the customer if she had a mask to wear in the store.
Continue Reading Below
"Me and Lenin are flabbergasted," GoFundMe organizer Matt Cowan told FOX Business Wednesday. "I think what this campaign has shown is that there a lot of good people around the world and kindness wins."
The funds started to rapidly roll in last week after the customer, Amber Lynn Gilles, claimed on Facebook that she was refused service by Lenin Gutierrez for not wearing a mask.
"Meet lenen (sic) from Starbucks who refused to serve me cause (sic) I'm not wearing a mask. Next time I will wait for cops and bring a medical exemption," Gilles wrote alongside an image she had taken of Gutierrez.
Gilles did not immediately respond to FOX Business' request for comment.
Cowan revealed that he had initially started the GoFundMe because he wanted to give Gutierrez, then a perfect stranger, some tip money. What he didn't expect was that the funds would surpass his initial goal of $1,000.
"It has always irked me to see people treat anyone in the hospitality industry with rudeness or disrespect when they’re just doing their job," he said.
On June 22, Gutierrez had been working the front cash register at the Starbucks on Genesee Avenue when the customer first approached.
Gutierrez recalled that he had first asked if she had a mask with her, he told his Facebook followers days after the incident. Before he was about to explain the company's policy, Gilles reportedly cut him off saying she didn't need one and cursed at him before leaving, Gutierrez said. She later returned, asked for his name, took his picture and threatened to call corporate, he added.
"We want everyone to feel welcome in our stores," a Starbucks spokesperson told FOX Business. "We respectfully request customers follow social distancing and safety protocols recommended by public health officials, including wearing a facial covering when visiting our stores."
San Diego County currently mandates that all residents two years of age or older wear masks in public settings to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Residents with a health condition that prevents them from wearing a mask are exempt, according to the policy.
However, a spokesperson for San Diego County told FOX 17 that businesses are responsible for enforcing county rules and that anyone with a health problem is advised to avoid public places.
Cowan, who is in regular contact with Gutierrez, said he plans to use the funds for his education. However, he is exploring various charities that he may consider donating too as well.
Gutierrez still plans to keep his job at Starbucks, Cowan said.
An earlier version of this story was updated to include the sum raised on GoFundMe and comments from Matt Cowan.