Despite attempts by CEO Kevin Johnson to personally put out the PR fire, #BoycottStarbucks appears to be just gaining momentum.
The ugly situation started with a viral video featuring two black male customers getting arrested in the middle of a store in Philly last Thursday. The reason they were taken into police custody? They used the restroom without buying anything, then sat down. When told they couldn’t use the restroom without purchasing something, the two men said they were meeting a friend, who showed up around the time they were getting handcuffed, less than 15 minutes later. Here’s the viral footage of the incident, taken by another patron of the establishment, author Melissa DePino:
Now the store is being picketed, #BoycottStarbucks is trending, and the employees are being accused of racial profiling, despite the company’s CEO scrambling to make amends and the manager who put in the regrettable call parting ways with the company.
Late Saturday, Johnson issued a formal apology. “The video shot by customers is very hard to watch and the actions in it are not representative of our Starbucks mission and values,” said the CEO. “The basis for the call to the Philadelphia police department was wrong.” The company, he said, was going to thoroughly investigate the situation to make sure nothing else like it would happen again and remained more committed than ever to combating racial profiling.
The apology didn’t go over well. Fortune reports on the situation on the ground in Philly:
Some Philadelphians thought Johnson’s apology was “too little, too latte,” as written on one protest sign, and met outside the Starbucks where the arrests took place to protest. Soon, people around the country and around the world were joining the call to #BoycottStarbucks and for the firing of the manager who called the police.
The Mayor’s Office, the Philadelphia Police, and Starbucks are all conducting separate investigations of the incident.
As the situation continued to spiral out of control, Johnson realized that he would have to ramp up the PR effort, appearing on “Good Morning America” Monday morning to denounce the actions of his employees in even stronger terms.
“I’ll say the circumstances surrounding the incident and the outcome at our store on Thursday were reprehensible,” he said. “So, clearly, there’s an opportunity for us to provide clarity and in addition to that I’d say there’s training, more training that we’re going to do with our store managers, not only around the guidelines but training around unconscious bias.”
Johnson also reached out to the two men to meet in person, which they have reportedly agreed to do. But even that’s not stopping the boycott momentum online. A few examples of some of the #BoycottStarbucks blowback that’s been doing damage to the brand on social media: