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Starbucks Employee Accuses Customer of Spying for China

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Race Together... or not

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Starbucks Reserve Roastery
Starbucks Reserve Roastery
Courtesy of Starbucks

In a one-star Yelp review, Californian Daniel Lui reported that he was visiting Starbucks's new Reserve Roastery on Capitol Hill on March 11 when an employee accused him and a friend of trying to steal company secrets to pass to China.

Daniel Lui (courtesy of Daniel Lui)

Lui recounted the bizarre exchange on Yelp this way, posted March 26:

"...the man stopped and looked at us [Lui and his friend]. "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."

Once the review was picked up by the blog Angry Asian Man, the story blew up, Lui told The Stranger. He said he’d felt degraded at first, though eventually, "the [Starbucks] customer service rep apologized. I felt honored that they followed up on it. They wanted to get more of a description of the guy who did it and said they’d be fully investigating who that person is. They also said that they’d be putting some sort of gift in my Starbucks Gold account."

But particularly in light of the recently failed #RaceTogether campaign, Liu would like more than latte points: "I'd like to see them follow through in terms of the integrity of their corporate leadership," he told The Stranger. "That's the difficult part—not just changing your image, but the way you practice and think."

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