Saturday, September 22, 2007

Columnist gets Starbucks Manager fired

Last month, someone wrote on a Starbucks chalkboard a picture of a man with a large Afro saying "I lubs me some Breakfast blend", and a columnist for a major newspaper in Oregon (where this Starbucks was) wrote a column complaining about this, complete with the name of the person who managed the store. Starbucks reacted by firing the manager, who'd been with the company nine years. This was certainly a callous decision on the part of Starbucks, to terminate an employee for, at worst, using poor judgment. We're way too politically correct and thin-skinned, and really need to lighten up. It's a crying shame when people lose their jobs because of shit like this.

But for me, the worst part of this story is how it arose in the first place. This columnist, S. Renee Mitchell, was sent a photo by a friend of hers, and went hunting through the various Starbucks' in the area. Upon finding the one where it happened, she spoke to a few employees, and then grilled the manager, Hillary Barnes, on whether this was the right thing to do. This was fine, Mitchell certainly had a right to confront something that she felt was offensive. But, then writing about it, complete with explicit details of where it happened and who did it, and having it published, that wasn't cool. An employee at Starbucks isn't going to be able to defend him-or-herself from an attack in a major newspaper. Barnes wasn't going to be able to handle being Sharptoned, she doesn't have a huge nest-egg like Don Imus.

So sure enough, the manager was fired. But I'm not done. A month or so later, Mitchell wrote another story on Barnes. She visited Barnes' home, Barnes made coffee for her (if I'd just gotten someone fired from their job, I wouldn't drink their coffee). In the story that resulted, while showing sympathy for Hillary Barnes and stating that she should have a job, Mitchell takes no responsibility for having her fired in the first place. She calls on other people in the Portland area to help Hillary Barnes find work. But the only person who has the responsibility to help Barnes find a job, the person who should be devoting all her free time to this task, is S. Renee Mitchell. She made a mess out of Barnes' life, she should be the one cleaning it up.

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