Starbucks issued a public apology on Sunday after a group of police officers was asked by an employee to leave one of the company’s Arizona stores following a customer complaint.
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The six Tempe police officers were standing in the store after paying for their drinks and because a customer “did not feel safe” due to the police presence, were asked by a barista to “move out of the customer’s line of sight” or leave, the Tempe Officers Association said on Twitter. The officers left the store, it said.
“This treatment of public safety workers could not be more disheartening. While the barista was polite, making such a request at all was offensive,” the police association added. “We know this is not a national policy at Starbucks Corporate and we look forward to working collaboratively with them on this important dialogue.
A backlash against the Seattle-based company on social media grew – the #dumpstarbucks and #BoycottStarbucks hashtags were both trending – as the news spread.
In its apology, Starbucks called the incident “completely unacceptable” and said the company has a “deep appreciation” for the officers serving in Tempe.
“When those officers entered the store and a customer raised a concern over their presence, they should have been welcomed and treated with dignity and the utmost respect by our partners (employees). Instead, they were made to feel unwelcome and disrespected,” Rossann Williams, Starbucks’ executive vice president, said in a statement on Sunday.
Williams added that the company is “taking the necessary steps” to make sure a similar incident doesn’t happen again, and that she would be in the Arizona city Sunday evening to meet with any members of the police association to address questions or concerns.
Starbucks also came under intense scrutiny last year after two black men, who waited for a friend at a Philadelphia store, were arrested for trespassing after a manager called the police because they did not make a purchase. The company apologized and reached a financial settlement with the men, and closed 8,000 locations for half a day to hold “racial bias training” for employees.