Updated 11/30/22 at 10:31 a.m: A Starbucks spokesperson reached out to The Root to share that the company contacted Pugh to directly apologize for what she experienced. In addition, Starbucks offered her the opportunity to sit down and talk with their licensee about their plan moving forward. It includes a thorough investigation of the incident and extensive employee training (which will cover cultural and racial sensitivities). The spokesperson went onto explain that they are taking steps to ensure incidents like these don’t happen again and that Starbucks has a zero-tolerance stance to any customer feeling unwelcome.
In Maryland, a Starbucks employee was suspended for allegedly writing “monkey” instead of a Black woman’s actual name on her drink. The incident, which took place on November 19, happened to Monique Pugh at Annapolis Mall. She believes that racism was the catalyst for the slur.
Pugh told WLBT her thoughts on what happened. “If you didn’t hear my name, you should have said, ‘Excuse me, can you repeat yourself?’ Not once did she do that. She labeled me what she wanted to label me,” Pugh said.
The company that runs the Starbucks store involved in the episode, Impeccable Brands, stated the “label was made in error.” However, they wrote a letter to Pugh in which they apologized. Impeccable Brands also shared that the employee accused has been suspended and an investigation will take place.
In addition, the company confirmed that training will take place so something like this doesn’t happen again. But Pugh believes these claims are “bogus.” She further stated:
“To say you’re taking the necessary steps to make sure that word isn’t put on any more customers’ drinks, it’s like, ‘What were you doing before?’ And the fact that they keep saying it was an honest mistake. So, now, it’s an honest mistake and a labeling error?”
A spokesperson for Starbucks clarified that there are Starbucks-operated stores and licensed stores (the Annapolis store is a licensed store). However, Pugh said that should be irrelevant.
“It’s triggering because it’s basically like, ‘OK, this occurred in our store, but we’re wiping our hands clean.’ Maybe [Starbucks] corporate does need to get involved,” she remarked.
This isn’t the first time Starbucks was accused of racism. Last year, a Starbucks in California received backlash for asking a Black customer to wait outside for his order. In 2020, they banned their employees from wearing Black Lives Matter attire but quickly reversed their decision.
In 2018, there was a national outcry for justice after two men were arrested in a Philadelphia Starbucks for merely sitting quietly inside the establishment.
The disrespect just goes on and on.