Starbucks worker suspended over alleged ‘monkey’ label on drink

Published: Nov. 26, 2022 at 10:45 PM HST
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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJLA) - A Starbucks employee from Maryland has been suspended after the word “monkey” was reportedly printed as the name on a Black customer’s drink label.

Customer Monique Pugh believes the Nov. 19 incident was racially motivated. She says she was the only Black woman at the Starbucks store in Maryland’s Annapolis Mall when an employee reportedly entered “monkey” where her name should have been.

“If you didn’t hear my name, you should have said, ‘Excuse me, can you repeat yourself?’ Not once did she do that. She labeled me what she wanted to label me,” Pugh said.

Monique Pugh, a Black woman, says a Starbucks employee entered the word "monkey" on her drink...
Monique Pugh, a Black woman, says a Starbucks employee entered the word "monkey" on her drink label where her name should have been. She believes the incident was racially motivated.(Source: Monique Pugh, WJLA via CNN)

Impeccable Brands, the company that operates that Starbucks store involved in the incident, says that the “label was made in error.” Nonetheless, in a letter to Pugh, they apologized and said the employee involved has been suspended, pending further investigation.

The company also wrote that with additional training, they will work to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

Pugh says she feels the apology and letter were “bogus.”

“To say you’re taking the necessary steps to make sure that word isn’t put on any more customers’ drinks, it’s like, ‘What were you doing before?’” she said. “And the fact that they keep saying it was an honest mistake. So, now, it’s an honest mistake and a labeling error?”

A Starbucks spokesperson made sure to differentiate between a Starbucks-operated store and a licensed store, such as the one at Annapolis Mall, but Pugh says there should not be a difference in how customers are treated.

“It’s triggering because it’s basically like, ‘OK, this occurred in our store, but we’re wiping our hands clean.’ Maybe [Starbucks] corporate does need to get involved,” she said.