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Starbucks in China receives second blowback after arrogance towards police

FILE PHOTO: A Starbucks logo is pictured on the door of the Green Apron Delivery Service at the Empire State Building in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S. June 1, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Starbucks is facing its second public outcry in China in less than three months, after an incident at one of its outlets that the company described as a “misunderstanding” generated outrage from online users and official media.

The news: On Monday, the firm came under fire after a user on Weibo said that a group of police officers were eating outside a Starbucks store in the southwestern city of Chongqing before being told to leave by staff.

  • The user’s account of the incident rapidly went viral on the Twitter-like platform, prompting the ruling Communist Party’s mouthpiece, People’s Daily, to publish an editorial calling Starbucks “arrogant.”
  • Consumers and the media in China have been more militant in preserving customer rights and monitoring the behaviour of large brands, particularly those from abroad.
  • Starbucks apologised and conducted inspections and staff training across all of its around 5,400 stores in China in December after a state-run tabloid reported that two of its locations were using expired products.

What’s going on: Starbucks apologised for “inappropriate communications” on its Weibo account late Monday, stating the whole event was a mistake.

  • Staff, on the other hand, had never chased away cops or attempted to file complaints against them, according to the report.
  • On Tuesday, it faced more online criticism, with a few small businesses announcing on Douyin, China’s version of TikTok, that they would “boycott” Starbucks by prohibiting staff from holding meetings or purchasing drinks at the coffee chain’s locations.
  • Hu Xijin, a well-known Chinese commentator and former editor-in-chief of the Global Times newspaper, advised his Weibo followers to regard the Starbucks Chongqing event as an accident, noting that Starbucks’ status as a foreign brand should not expose it to further scrutiny.
  • He stated, “China is a country that is open to the world. To label a mistake as arrogance is not conducive to the bigger environment of opening-up.”
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