English: Starbucks’ headquarters building in Seattle. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Last Monday, 21-year-old barista Coulson Loptmann was fired from a Seattle Starbucks for eating a sandwich that had been thrown away.
The coffee giant gets rid of food that has expired by donating what they can and tossing the perishable items. Loptmann, who couldn’t get enough hours to pay his bills and survives partly on his food stamps, explains, “I hadn’t eaten all day and I was on a seven-hour shift.” A coworker had marked some sandwiches out of stock, and he figured no one would mind if he grabbed one of the plastic-wrapped sausage sandwiches out of the trash can.
Starbucks did mind. According to Loptmann, his manager sat him down a week later and told him she’d found out about the sandwich and contacted HR, “and they consider it stealing, and it’s against policy. So I’m sorry, but I have to terminate you.”
Starbucks spokesman Zack Hutson confirmed that “it is a violation of our policy to consume marked-out products.” But he says it’s not considered stealing—it’s for the employees’ own good. “We do not want our partners to consume potentially spoiled products and get sick.”
Loptmann insists that his manager cited stealing, not his own health and safety, as the reason for termination. “I understand completely they don’t want someone to mark something out just to eat it,” says Loptmann. “I didn’t mark it out, someone else did.” Of his manager, he says, “It’s not her fault… She knows what it’s like. But she can’t do anything… These were the policies put in place by people who actually have power.”
Loptmann was hired in 2012 as a close-to-full-time employee, but after a couple of months, his hours started disappearing. Soon he was working between 23 and 32 hours a week, for $9.94 an hour plus about $30 a week in tips, with a schedule he calls “extremely variable.” Even if he was scheduled, he could be sent home if the store got slow.
Loptmann had to get food stamps to make ends meet, and scraping up enough for lunch every day was still hard. “It sounds ridiculous, but having bread and mustard and mayonnaise and some kind of meat and lettuce—it doesn’t sound expensive, but that adds up… There were some days where I lived off of Starbucks food.” He got a 30% discount and a couple of free coffees a day.
The day of the sandwich incident, his coworker was marking sandwiches out of stock and throwing them away. “She said, ‘What a waste, huh?’” remembers Loptmann. “And she tossed it in the garbage. I figured, it’s in plastic, it’s fine. So I reached in and grabbed it.”
Via The Stranger.