Starbucks’ corporate office has apologized to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department after two of its deputies who were attempting to place an order Thursday at a Riverside shop were ignored for so long that they left.
What remained unclear Saturday was whether this was a case of bad service at the store at 1303 University Ave. — as a Starbucks spokeswoman said — or whether the employees decided not to serve the uniformed deputies because they were in law enforcement.
Sheriff Chad Bianco, who said he spoke with the deputies, acknowledged in an interview that no employee said anything that suggested they did not want to serve a customer with a badge and a gun. But he has his suspicions.
“Starbucks is minimizing this entire thing by saying this is a customer service issue when we all know the only reason was that they walked in there in uniform. Of course they have to do damage control; they have to say it’s customer service. To me, it offended me,” Bianco said.
The incident marks the third time this year that Starbucks has been accused of disrespecting law enforcement officers. In July, six officers in Tempe, Arizona, said a barista asked them to move away from a customer who had complained that their presence was making him nervous. Starbucks apologized to the officers. In November, a police chief in Oklahoma complained after a Starbucks employee labeled cups for several officers with the word “PIG.” Starbucks again apologized and fired the employee.
Starbucks said in a statement Friday that the involved Riverside employees were suspended while the company investigated.
“There is simply no excuse for how two Riverside deputies were ignored for nearly five minutes at our store on Thursday evening,” Starbucks spokeswoman Sara Autio said. “We are deeply sorry and reached out to apologize directly to them. We take full responsibility for any intentional or unintentional disrespect shown to law enforcement on whom we depend every day to keep our stores and communities safe. No customer, in or out of uniform, should ever have that experience at a Starbucks.”
The deputies had not spoken with Starbucks as of Saturday afternoon, Bianco said.
Two of our deputies were refused service at Starbucks. The anti police culture repeatedly displayed by Starbucks employees must end. https://t.co/XXgjtJ9GcH
— Chad Bianco (@SheriffBianco) December 14, 2019
The deputies entered the store, which opened this year at the corner of University and Iowa avenues, about 11 p.m. Thursday to order about a half-dozen drinks. There were 10-20 people in the store but none in line, Bianco said. The employees did not acknowledge the deputies for at least five minutes. Finally, when one asked if they were going to be served, an employee said “maybe” and several employees chuckled, Bianco said.
The deputies left without protesting and later reported the incident to their supervisor, Bianco said. The incident came to light when another customer and a friend of a deputy posted about it on social media, Bianco said.
“I’m very proud of them because I don’t know if I would be that cordial,” the sheriff said.
The deputies eventually did get their coffee, twice. That same night they went to a different Starbucks and were served, Bianco said.
And on Friday, Bianco picked up the two deputies working the graveyard shift and took them out for coffee. At The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.