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Starbucks gets in hot water again

The company apologized to Tempe, Ariz., police after a barista asked six officers to leave one of its stores on July 4.
Photograph by Jonathan Maze

Starbucks is in hot water again.

The coffee chain apologized to the Tempe, Ariz., Police Department on Sunday, two days after the Tempe Officers Association revealed that a barista asked six officers to leave on July 4.

“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),” said Rossann Williams, president of U.S. retail for the Seattle-based coffee giant, in a letter to the Tempe police posted on Starbucks’ website.

“Instead, they were made to feel unwelcome and disrespected, which is completely unacceptable.”

Williams said she would be in Tempe on Sunday night to meet with the department “to address concerns or questions.”

She said that the event “is never the experience your officers or any customers should have,” and noted the company is “taking the necessary steps to ensure this doesn’t happen again in the future.”

In a statement posted to its Twitter account Friday, which featured a “Dump Starbucks” logo and the hashtag #ZeroRespect, the Tempe Officers Association said that six officers were asked to leave on July 4 by a barista who said a customer “did not feel safe” with them around.

The officers, according to the tweet string, had been having coffee before their shift that day.

The incident is the latest controversy for the chain, which has periodically found itself at the center of protests or boycotts over the treatment of customers for various reasons.

The company closed all of its locations in May of last year so it could provide racial bias training to its workers after a pair of African-American men were arrested for allegedly trespassing at a Philadelphia location.

That incident also led the company to change its bathroom policy.

Both of the incidents demonstrate how a single decision by a single barista can impact an entire company in the age of social media.

In this case, the incident led some people to call for a boycott of Starbucks, though Rob Ferraro, president of the Tempe Officers Association, told “Fox & Friends” on Sunday that he was not calling for a boycott and not asking that the employee be fired.

He also called Starbucks’ apology “sincere.”

Incidentally, Williams’ apology noted that Starbucks has had a relationship with the Tempe Police Department: The company hosted the department’s “Coffee with a Cop” events in its stores in the city.

“At Starbucks, we have deep appreciation for your department and the officers who serve the Tempe community,” Williams said. “Our partners rely on your service and welcome your presence, which keep our stores and the community a safe and welcome place.”

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