We never expected the original message to reach AS many people as it did, and I was overwhelmed at the outpour of support and love. In addition to the public comments, Missy and I both received a few hundred personal emails and messages of people's gratitude and personal stories. I tried to write back to every one I received, because everyone's personal experience with homophobia and/or bullying is just as important. Because of the public attention this received, we CAN make this about more than one person. We can help many people; we can make a statement.
So, here's a call for action. If you too are outraged by the situation and you want to both send a message and make a difference... read on. Missy has written a personal letter and account with what happened since and I am going to post it here, but at the bottom of the page, I'll write the specific details of our plea for help.
Thanks again to everyone who cared enough to read, forward, comment on, and help bring this situation to light.
Thank you. In the past few weeks I have been absolutely shocked by the response my open letter to Starbucks received. At the time I wrote what I thought was a simple customer service letter, a letter that had too many characters to fit into email field on Starbuck’s customer service website, so Dana had the idea to put it up on her blog, that way we could also share it with our friends to share OUR shock at the fact that this sort of thing still happens in this day and age in America, and it happens in an environment that prides itself on being a tolerant work place. If it can happen there it can happen anywhere. That was the intention of the blog, at the time the ONLY place I posted a link was on my facebook wall to share with my friends. While it was not my original intention to post the letter to a blog, I liked that we did, because to me, I felt like that would make it harder for Starbucks to sweep the situation under the rug. To me, if it was public record it might force their hand to take action.
What happened next was unexpected. Thirty Four of our (Dana’s and my) friends reposted this link. That was the start of the seed thirty four people, were so outraged by what they read that they reposted and they asked others to, and so on and so on until it just exploded. Thirty four people, some gay, mostly straight... all of them outraged by the lack of basic human decency they read about. The bigotry. They all sent the same message, “This is unacceptable. We are better than this.” The out pouring of love an support for Jeffrey and the LGBT community was a beautiful thing to experience. For every negative comment there were five or six more offering support or their own similar story. I was touched that what I wrote resonated with so many people. That it sparked so many people to take action.
However I’m sad to say it did not cause everyone to take action.
I am writing this to say that we were lied to. Every single one of us.
The initial reaction from Starbucks was a form letter, which of course was disappointing. Which is what I feared and was a reason why I was pleased with our decision to put the letter on the blog. To me that proved that it was not me that captured Starbucks attention, it was the diligence of all of you who posted it, and encouraged others to do the same. Within hours Starbucks responded to me directly via twitter, a few hours after that I got a phone call from Brad at their corporate offices to take my statement. I was promised they were taking the matter very seriously. I was promised that they would do a complete and thorough investigation and I was promised that I would be kept informed. They asked me, what I wanted out of this and I told them,
“I just want you to make this right. Whatever that means. Make it right. Handle the situation. I don’t want blood, I don’t want these women’s jobs. Make it right. At the very least, if this young man did feel persecuted do not let a black mark follow him on his employment record.”
They promised me that they would do whatever it took. They told me that they were writing a blog that linked to our letter directly to show how seriously they were taking it.
I took them at their word, that they were horrified by the situation. That they were going to look into it and that they were better than the way those women represented them. The conversation ended with them thanking me for bringing this event to their attention.
At that point I took to my twitter, my facebook wall and the Starbucks facebook wall to basically say, “I am the woman who wrote the corporate letter to Starbucks. I have spoken to a representative and they have promised me they are investigating and taking this matter very seriously. We now have to step back and give them a chance to right this wrong and have faith that they will do it.”
At that point, I stopped reposting the link. I offered them the respect and the space to do what was right. I had three goals at that point.
1. Capture Starbucks attention and have them take action.
2. Find Jeffrey in the hopes that he would see the outpouring of love and support there was for him.
3. Raise awareness that this sort of thing does happen.
Within hours of speaking to Starbucks, I got a phone call from Jeffrey. A friend of his forwarded him the blog. I will not reveal the details of our conversation because I do not want to affect the outcome of any further legal action he might take, but I will say, there was so much information made available to me that I of course didn’t know when I wrote the blog. Information, that I felt, since Starbucks also had it, would make them take swift and serious action. I was confidant the situation would be resolved.
So I stepped back. I only completed interviews that I agreed to take before speaking to Jeffrey and Starbucks. In every interview I praised Starbucks response in handling the situation. They addressed it publicly with strongly worded sentiments. They promised swift action. They praised themselves on being a diverse workspace and they would do anything to protect that reputation.
“Protect that REPUTATION.”
I can now say, two weeks later, I was wrong.
I was lied to and as a result you were lied to as well.
For all of their strongly worded blog posts and tweets DO NOT match their actions.
Rather than completing a thorough investigation they spoke to the women responsible and came to the conclusion that, while they do not deny that the situation took place, I must have misunderstood what I thought I heard.
These are the undeniable facts that can not be spun no matter how hard Starbucks tries... I as a casual customer walked into that Starbucks location, that is 60 miles from my home for the first time and I left knowing:
*They did have an employee named Jeffrey (Warren).
*I did witness him being pushed out of his job, he was bullied humiliated and reduced to tears in the middle of the shop floor. *I left knowing Jeffrey’s sexual orientation, something that should never be brought into and has ZERO bearing on job performance.
Those are the facts.
I was also, not the only one who witnessed the event. My wife caught the tail end of the “rant” when Jeffrey was in the bathroom. She heard the same comments I heard. There was no misunderstanding the situation.
Starbucks rather than doing a through investigation took action to sweep it under the rug and hoped that people forgot or would lose interest. They were confidant that people would take them on their strongly worded email and the situation would die there.
I ask you, how complete could their investigation have been without ever speaking to Jeffrey? Without asking the “victim” for their statement. Instead their investigation involved asking the women involved, who of course were all trying to protect their jobs.
I don’t know what the outcome of their investigation was. I know what their public response has been and I know that as of the last time I spoke to Jeffrey (just a few days ago) they had STILL not yet contacted him. Nor, had they responded to his lawyer.
They DID NOT take proper action.
Their investigation into the matter was not thorough and it certainly was not fair.
Their goal was not to “right a wrong” but to cover their bottom line and protect their “reputation”.
Starbucks, actions speak louder than words.
I have had so many regrets about the way I handled this. I was too naive. I took them at their word. I stopped reposting the letter. I stopped taking interviews after Jeffrey surfaced unless asked to by Jeffrey because I felt like, at this point it was “His story.” For the record I would also like to say that I personally did not contact a single media outlet. Every single interview I gave was from people who contacted me. To all the people who say this was a ploy to generate attention for the blog.... Shame on you. Shame on you for being so cynical to think that it is out of the realm of possibility to take a stand for a person without the benefit of personal gain. That is what is wrong with the world today. A lack of empathy.
Dana and I have denied more interviews than we have granted.
We have not made a dime from this ordeal.
This was not even my blog!
This whole incident put our entire family under a microscope and turned our lives into a pressure cooker. This was not “fun” for anyone. Part of my inaction in previous weeks was waiting for it to “blow over” -
I can’t sit by and wait anymore.
I gave Starbucks a respectable amount of time to handle this and take action and they have not. They after two weeks had still not contacted Jeffrey. Their lack of action, to me is sending a really dangerous message. That this kind of bullying is acceptable. That if you have deep enough pockets supporting you, you can get away with abusing someone.
I stand by my original statement that Starbucks as a corporation was not responsible for the incident, however, their lack of real action now makes them responsible.
I can’t sleep at night, or look my daughter in the face if I have a chance to make this right and I don’t. I am desperate to find the silver lining in all of this and I realized if I want something to positive to come out of this, I have to take matters into my own hand because Starbucks had the chance and did nothing to make this right.
So we called The Trevor Project.
I spoke with a representative from their office and expressed my desire to make Lemonade out of these lemons. To do something, anything, to make this right. To take all of this attention, and take the outrage that people felt reading the blog and to channel it into something positive. To make a change. To allow us, the people outraged by this event to really make a difference. To send the message that this is unacceptable and if Starbucks won’t make it right than our hands are not tied. We can still do something. The Trevor Project representative told me he had been following the story, and was pleased that we reached out to them.
On our blog we will be posting a link to the Trevor Project where you can make a donation on behalf of Jeffrey and all of the “Jeffreys” out there in the world.
We are not asking for much. We just ask that rather than give the four dollars you would normally spend a morning on a cup of Starbucks you donate that money to the Trevor Project, where it will go to help LGBT youths at risk, because of the type of bullying I witnessed Jeffrey experience. If you want to donate more, that of course, would be amazing. The more money we can raise for this cause the louder the message we send not just to Starbucks but to the world.
This type of behavior is unacceptable.
We will not let this happen.
We will not tolerate bullying or homophobia.
Please take the time and donate something. If everyone who read that blog post and was moved by it donates even $1, hundreds of thousands of dollars would have been funneled into that charity and would be doing some real good in the world. I know that is a ridiculous expectation to have, but even a fraction of that money can make a REAL difference in the world we live in.
Please donate, please forward this link and encourage your friends to donate.
Let’s as a group, send the message that it does in fact, “Get Better.”
You just have to work really hard and work together to make sure that it does.
Thank you for your time and consideration,
So, here's our call for action. If even for one day, please SKIP your cup of Starbucks coffee and take that money and donate to the Trevor Project.
If you are not familiar with them, The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services for LGBTQ youth. Every day, The Trevor Project saves young lives through its free and confidential lifeline, in-school workshops, educational materials, online resources and advocacy. To make a donation online, visit www.thetrevorproject.org/
Or even simpler, to donate quickly and simply, using your mobile phone, text: TREVOR to 85944 to donate $5.00 to The Trevor Project. Right now, you can spend your coffee money on making a REAL difference without even having to get up and find your credit card.
I've donated my $5 (today) with a simple text.
If you'd like to, leave a comment and let us know that you've donated. Let's show Starbucks that we are upset at their inaction, and let's show Jeffrey and everyone LIKE him who has ever been bullied, that we won't tolerate it any more. It may not just "get better", unless we MAKE it better. And this is a start.
(You can comment here, even anonymously if you'd like, and let's see how much money we can raise for the cause.)
And if you can't donate (or choose not to), that's OK too. Please help us out by forwarding this link to everyone you know who may care. We made millions of people aware of the problem, let's now make sure we all hear of the solution.
Thank You. Seriously, Thank You.
To keep up with updates you can follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/dana_rubyfruit and please "like" our blog fan page on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lil-Family-Blog/139186336101600