Starbucks is investigating after a customer at a La Cañada Flintridge store said he received two coffee cups with the word “Beaner” – a derogatory term for Mexicans – printed on them instead of his name this week.
“We have apologized to the customer directly and are working to make things right,” an emailed statement from the Seattle-based chain’s corporate office said in part. “We are conducting a full investigation into this incident to understand how this happened and to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”
The customer, a Latino immigrant known as Pedro, confirmed to the Daily News Thursday that Starbucks spoke with him and asked for forgiveness.
“It’s not good what they did, but they have spoken with me,” he said in Spanish, declining further comment.
Tuesday’s incident comes as Starbucks plans to close more than 8,000 of its company-owned stores across the country on May 29 to conduct “racial-bias” training in an effort to prevent discrimination at its stories.
That decision was made after two African American men were arrested in April for sitting at a Starbucks in Philadelphia without ordering something. The men, who were waiting for someone to arrive, settled with the coffee-shop chain earlier this month for an undisclosed sum and an offer of a free college education.
Jesse Poor said he was offended when he saw his co-worker’s Starbucks coffee cups with the word “Beaner” printed on them.
Poor, who works at a La Cañada Flintridge restaurant, said Pedro arrived at work Tuesday afternoon looking down. He relayed that he had ordered two coffee drinks that day at the shop on Foothill Boulevard and both had the derogatory term on them.
“It’s not cool for someone to do that to somebody because of the way he looks,” Poor said.
But Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Gary Harman indicated the incident may not have been an intentional slur. Employees of the Starbucks in La Cañada Flintridge told authorities that the barista believed a Latino customer had identified himself as “Beaner,” and thus placed the term on his coffee cup Tuesday.
The next day, Wednesday, May 16, someone used shoe polish to write “BNR??” on the same Starbucks building at 475 Foothill Blvd., Harman said, adding that the incidents were too coincidental not to be related.
Meanwhile, a Sheriff’s Department deputy took a report from the Starbucks store to document the incident, Harman said.
“It doesn’t appear to us – at first look – that there was any intent,” he said.
It was not immediately clear, however, how the name Pedro could have been mistaken for the word “beaner.”
Harman noted that the barista herself is reportedly Latina. The barista, after taking the order, entered the name into the computer. The name came out on a receipt that was placed on the cup.
Harman said the graffiti written on the Starbuck’s store window was easily wiped off.
Deputies took a vandalism report to document the incident. It was unlikely to go much farther, he added, because they have no leads on who might have tagged the coffeehouse.
Poor, infuriated by the use of the derogatory term, said he took to Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat to post images of the cups, decrying Starbucks as #racist. Other coworkers publicized the incident on Facebook.
“Anything racial like that, I would not that let that slide…it’s disrespectful,” Poor said.
Manuel Pastor, a professor of sociology at USC, said the word beaner is historically a “very derogatory term” that refers to Mexicans eating a lot of beans.
While it is not as bad as some racial and ethnic slurs, it is “edging toward (the slur) wetback,” which generally refers to Mexican immigrants, particularly those living in the U.S. without authorization, he said.
Young people should be aware that beaner is a derogatory and negative term, he added.
“Even if a person said it, you might not want to put it on a cup because…you don’t want to repeat someone else’s slur, ” Pastor said.
Shaun Harper, a professor and executive director of the USC Race and Equity Center argued that the training Starbucks has planned will not be enough.
“Racism and racist views cannot be unlearned in one afternoon,” Harper said. “There has to be prolonged professional learning around racial issues for Starbucks employees across the country.”
Implicit bias is like smog that people breathe their entire lives without realizing it, he added. And it has “toxic effects” on the way people view, think of and interact with people from racial groups that are different from our own.
There’s also internalized racism, which is when people of color have been taught racially derogatory things about themselves and internalize those messages, Harper said.
“For me, the larger concern is less about what this employee called Pedro but more about how common these occurances are,” Harper said.
“They happen in Starbucks and coffee shops and places all the time where racially offensive things are printed on receipts to identify customers. This is not a new thing.”
For Sarah Krausse, who also works with Pedro at the nearby restaurant, it was “really upsetting” to see the term beaner on her coworker’s coffee cups.
“How do racial slurs accidentally end up on cups?” she asked.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.