September 30, 2014

Satanic Latte Art? How Should a Business Respond?

lattes

When a Louisiana teacher visited her local Starbucks, she didn’t expect that her coffee drinks would deliver a satanic message. But when she looked down at the two drinks, she allegedly saw just that. One of them depicted a star that appeared to be Lucifer’s pentagram and the other included a 666 made with caramel drizzle.

Megan K. Pinion posted a photo to the coffee chain’s Facebook page with the following comments:

“I just purchased two coffees at your Mall of Louisiana location. This is how my coffee was served to me. I unfortunately can’t give you the young man’s name who served it because I was so appalled that I could not bring myself to look at him. The star is almost okay because it is in your Starbucks logo, the 666, however, was quite offensive. I am in no way judging his beliefs or dis-meriting his beautiful artwork, I am however judging [the barista's] lack of professionalism and respect for others.”

In addition to her post on Facebook, Pinion also filed a formal complaint with Starbucks. The company has since apologized to Pinion, a public school teacher who is of Catholic faith. But it hasn’t commented on whether or not the employee responsible for the artwork would be disciplined.

satanic lattes

Tom Kuhn, a Starbucks spokesman, told The Huffington Post:

“We’re taking the complaint seriously and have sincerely apologized for her experience. . .This obviously is not the type of experience we want to provide any of our customers, and is not representative of the customer service our partners provide to millions of customers every day.”

What should the appropriate response of the business be in this situation? Starbucks apologized. Should they have done more?

A sincere apology is nice, but isn’t always good enough when a customer receives poor service or is offended by an employee.  In this case, Pinion likely wasn’t the only one offended. Countless other Starbucks customers saw the post on Facebook and likely came to their own conclusions about the incident and how the company should have reacted.

Firing or otherwise disciplining the employee responsible for the artwork would be one option. But Starbucks said it is their policy to not publicly discuss such actions, and Pinion wasn’t able to provide the company with the employee’s name.

Another option would be to compensate Pinion in some way for the unsatisfactory service she received. The company has issued gift cards in the past to apologize for service issues at franchise locations.

Image: Facebook

8 Comments ▼

Annie Pilon - Staff Writer


Annie Pilon Annie Pilon is a staff writer for Small Business Trends, covering entrepreneur profiles and feature stories. She is a freelance writer specializing in marketing, social media, and creative topics. When she’s not writing for her various freelance projects or her personal blog Wattlebird, she can be found exploring all that her home state of Michigan has to offer.

8 Reactions

  1. It is not “kosher” to make latte “art” with the “number of the beast” or the Satanic symbol, the Pentagram. I am not a religious person (i.e., i don’t believe in G*d or Satan, as they are fantasy figures), so I wouldn’t care much about the so called symbolic message. But the employee has instructions on how to make the latte art, and I bet that these the above mentioned things are not included in “RTFM”… ;)

  2. I’ll bet that it is not included. I think the employee is having a bad day. But it is not a reason for them to do that to a customer.

    • That’s probably true. I have worked in service jobs like this and definitely had bad days, but I can’t say I ever put any satanic messages in anyone’s food.

  3. Isn’t the star also the Star of David? Turn the other cup the other way round and it’s 999.

    I can see why the customer wouldn’t like the other cup (666) and why it was unprofessional for the employee to do it.

    Whether Starbucks should have done more depends on what they meant by “we’re taking the complaint seriously”.

    • The customer mentioned that the star wasn’t as offensive to her. I think she probably wouldn’t have even thought twice about it if it wasn’t with the other cup. But I agree with you – we don’t actually know what Starbucks has done aside from apologizing. So it’s really hard to say whether the company acted appropriately.

      • As long as Starbucks is/was in communication with the customer who felt offended, and she’s satisfied with their apology (however they choose to do so), I think that’s more important. I personally don’t need to know or hear the details (re: it’s policy of not discussing employee disciplinary action publicly).

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