While ordering drinks in a Philadelphia Starbucks, a Muslim man in Islamic dress repeated his name to the barista. However, once he received his order, he was soon fuming over the alleged Islamophobic insult the employee wrote on his cup.
While ordering drinks at a Philadelphia Starbucks, 40-year-old Niquel Johnson gave the female barista his Islamic first name “Aziz,” which he says he has used “countless times” over the last 25 years at the same establishment. However, when his order was up, he noticed that the employee called out his drink type, not his name as they often do. When he looked at the receipt stuck on the side of his cup, he then realized why they hadn’t said his name aloud.
According to NBC News, Johnson, who was dressed in a traditional Islamic robe, couldn’t believe his eyes when he read “ISIS” in the spot where the customer’s name would typically be. It was then that the devout Muslim patron believes he was the victim of an Islamophobic attack.
“Abdul Aziz is the name I normally go by; it means servant of the Almighty,” said Johnson, 40, who lives in Philadelphia. “But I shortened it for them. ‘Aziz’ alone means mighty. I was shocked at first, and then angry because I felt as though we were discriminated against.”
After the incident, Johnson contacted the media, which gladly gave him all the coverage he could want. During multiple interviews, Johnson accused the female barista of purposefully misspelling his name, attributing to her the career-ruining sin of discrimination. He added that he doesn’t believe the racial bias training that the company forced its employees to complete was effective and that the incident was a clear indicator of racism.
“I was shocked and angry. I felt it was discrimination,” Johnson told The Washington Post.
Hoping for some sort of compensation, Johnson submitted a formal complaint to the corporation instead of confronting the employee who he believes discriminated against him. Less than an hour after filing the complaint, he received an email from customer service that expressed deep concern and promised to contact him within the next couple of days.
Two days later, a Starbucks district manager called Johnson and explained that he thought the issue had already been resolved, informing him that someone from the company spoke to his niece about the incident and was assured that it was no longer an issue. However, Johnson says that no one spoke to his family members and that the case was not resolved in a satisfactory manner.
Since Johnson went to reporters, Starbucks has struggled to quell the media firestorm. The company released a statement explaining that an internal investigation concluded that the female employee legitimately misheard Johnson’s name and is sincerely sorry for her actions.
“After investigating, we don’t believe this was a case of discrimination or profiling,” Starbucks spokesman Reggie Borges said in a statement. “The customer approached and provided the name Aziz. The barista mistakenly spelled it incorrectly.”
Still, Johnson insists that the female employee is racist and intended to discriminate against him. He has made it known that he will not settle for an apology but is pursuing some other form of compensation.
“No, this can’t be resolved by a simple apology at this point. I feel as though I was discriminated against, and there’s no apology that can simply be an apology at this point,” Johnson said.
The incident will likely end with the female employee either losing her job or being forced to complete another course in bias training. As it has in previous incidents, the employee will undoubtedly be treated as guilty without proof, as she is not high enough in the victimhood hierarchy to redeem herself.