Oh hell no. Did this really happen? During a recent visit to a new premium Starbucks location in Seattle, one Asian American customer says he got the "acrid taste" of racism with his coffee when he was "lectured" by a corporate employee who jokingly suggested he was trying to copy company secrets to use in China.
On a recent visit to Seattle, Yelp user Daniel L. visited the Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room, which is described as intended to be a "Willy Wonka experience" for coffee connoisseurs and amateurs alike. Daniel says the coffee was awesome, and he was ready to give it a 5-star review, but then...
Daniel says he and a friend started chatting with a "corporate guy" from Starbucks who pegged them as people in the coffee business, then advised them, "if you want steal our stuff for your store in China, go ahead, we're fine with that." Later, he followed that up with an unsolicited mini-lecture about good, old-fashioned American training, which cannot be copied. "That's something we'll never give to you." Whaaaaaat.
Here's an excerpt from Daniel's Yelp review:
On the morning of March 11, me and my friend decided to check out this place (as i described above, we were extremely impressed). There was a corporate meeting going on in the meeting room, and they came out. This corporate guy started giving people a tour. He came to our counter and started describing the philosophy behind the place and the way they brew coffee... And my friend and I got genuinely interested in this conversation happening right in front of us and were learning some unique things about the way they built the place and the siphon coffee process...
...but the man stopped and looked at us. "You're part of the business, right? The coffee business, right?"
My friend and I looked at each other confused. Before we could answer him, he cut us short and said, "Look- you are completely free to copy all of the stuff we have here and the equipment we have in China. We're an open book. If you want to steal our stuff for your store in China, go ahead, we're fine with that."
He smiled, hoping to get a laugh from us... not that funny (me and my friend are both Asian... but definitely not in the coffee business).
We decided to let it slide, so gave him a short chuckle and ignored him.
That was bad enough. We could have just shrugged it off- i've met tons of ignorant people before. BUT THEN, 15 minutes later, he creeps up behind both of us and put his hands on our shoulders (hella creepy). He then proceeded to paternalistically lecture us (who he thought were chinese spies trying to steal secrets... I guess we just smack of yellow peril), "Look. You can take all of our equipment. You can copy everything we have. You can even steal our beans and our suppliers. But let me tell you what you CAN'T get if you copy us in China- our training. Just remember that, you won't get our training in China, and that's something we'll never give to you."
He then walked away laughing at himself and his racist joke/threat.
Daniel, reputable Yelp reviewer, says he's sent his review to Starbucks. Read the rest of it here.
What the hell? Is corporate Starbucks worried that spies are stealing coffee secrets to use in China?
It sounds unbelievable, and we're going on Daniel's word, but I don't see why he'd make this up. It's also a bit hard to imagine anyone representing Starbucks, on a corporate level, would say something so idiotic. Then again, I've been running this blog long enough to know that anything is possible.