SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — Starbucks has apologized to a man after one of its executives accused him of trying to steal trade secrets and take them to China.
Bay Area native Daniel Lui was at a Seattle Starbucks roastery on a business trip, when he said the company executive came up to him.
“I wanted to let you know we’re very open with all our technology and all of our equipment, and if you want to take any of it to China you’re totally free to do that,” Lui said the exec told him.
Minutes later, the man came back.
“[He added], ‘You can even get same-sourced beans, but you know what you can’t get in China? Our training,'” Lui said, laughing as he recalled the surprising conversation.
“I think that I was really shocked and taken aback,” Lui told KPIX 5. “We didn’t know what to think. We were dumbfounded.”
Lui complained to Starbucks, and detailed the comments in a Yelp review. This happened just before the coffee giant launched its controversial #RaceTogether campaign, to improve race relations.
First, Starbucks apologized and added $50 to his coffee card. On Thursday night, Lui said he received a phone call from the executive himself.
“He actually ‘fessed up to really thinking that we were from China and wanting to steal secrets,” Lui said.
Apparently, the Starbucks executive thought Lui was with a group who had asked about copying the chain overseas. In fact, he isn’t even in the coffee business, Lui works with Christian ministries on college campuses.
Lui accepted the apology. “I want to let you know that was still hurtful, it still really made me really uncomfortable, but I want to extend forgiveness to you and grace,” he said.
He also accepted the executive’s invitation to return to Seattle and talk about race and reconciliation.