Daniel Liu was visiting a Seattle Starbucks roastery on a business trip when a Starbucks executive approached him and said:
“I wanna let you know that 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.”
Liu, born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, was stunned, not knowing what to think.
The executive returned:
“You can even get some source beans, but you know what you can’t get in China? Our training.”
The executive laughed and walked away.
“I think that I was really shocked and taken aback. We didn’t know what to think. We were dumbfounded.”
After the incident, Daniel Liu made an official complaint to Starbucks, wrote a Yelp review detailing the ‘“conversation” and eventually received an apology from the coffee giant.
Starbucks also registered $50.00 onto Liu’s coffee card, but neither the apology or the two weeks’ worth of coffee explained why the executive approached and spoke to Liu in the manner that he did.
Until that same executive called up Liu — with an explanation.
“He actually ‘fessed up to really thinking that we were from China and wanting to steal secrets.” Liu said.
Allegedly, a group of Chinese businessmen had previously inquired about copying Starbucks overseas and were turned away. The executive mistakenly believed Liu had returned as their spy.
However, Daniel Liu is not a spy from China. He doesn’t even work in the coffee industry; Liu works for a Christian organization focused on ministering to college campuses.
Turns out Liu was simply at the roastery to buy coffee.
The exec apologized, and Daniel accepted. The duo even scheduled a “coffee date” in Seattle allowing them to get together and talk about race and reconciliation; the obvious irony, of course, is this incident occurring just weeks before Starbucks’ launch of their tendentious campaign to better race relations.
Perhaps this incident was the catalyst?