PORTLAND (NEWS CENTER Maine) --
A Portland activist says she experienced religious discrimination at a city Starbucks and is hoping dialogue about the incident can prevent future similar situations.
On Friday, Hamdia Ahmed said she was placing an order at the Starbucks on the corner of Middle and Exchange streets in Portland.
While placing her order Ahmed, who is Muslim, said she asked the employee helping her to check the alcohol content of vanilla flavoring that might be in her order.
Many Muslims, like Ahmed, abstain from alcohol.
Ahmed says instead of getting the information she asked for, the barista serving her laughed and rolled her eyes, a reaction that came as a shock because she says this has never happened before.
“Other people have treated me with respect,” said Ahmed. “They always change their gloves if I'm ordering a sandwich if they touch a pork product. They try to accommodate me, they try to be helpful and I appreciate them. But I've never had a situation like this, where someone refused to help me or read an ingredient for me that I can't physically see.”
Ahmed says this was her first time in a Starbucks since an incident earlier this year at a Philadelphia Starbucks where two black men were arrested.
That prompted apologies from the company’s CEO, numerous company policy changes and a nationwide store shutdown for bias training.
Ahmed told us she boycotted Starbucks before the changes happened, which made what she told us occurred Friday even more frustrating and left her with a feeling nothing had improved.
To express her frustration to Starbucks, she took video a video of her barista with a phone as she informed the employee she would be reaching out to Starbucks management to complain.
Ahmed did that and says Starbucks responded, apologizing for what happened.
She showed NEWS CENTER Maine a direct message from the’ Starbucks Help’ Twitter account and told us the company connected her to a local store manager who apologized and spoke with Ahmed.
NEWS CENTER Maine also reached out to Starbucks independently and confirmed the coffee chain will be investigating the incident this coming week.
Starbucks spokeswoman, Sanja Gould, sent NEWS CENTER Maine this written response about what the company is doing now:
“We truly appreciated Ms. Ahmed bringing her experience to our attention. We have expressed our sincere apologies and will do a full investigation. In those instances where a partner does not behave in a manner reflective of our mission and values, we address it immediately.”
Ahmed told us the coffee company’s response was “adequate” but she will keep sharing her story to try to prompt a larger dialogue about how to end discrimination.