November 4, 2015 Partner (Employee) Experience

Sign Language Exchange Between Starbucks Barista and Customer Inspires Others

What started with a common greeting from a barista – “Welcome to Starbucks. What can I get started for you today?” – has become a viral moment of connection viewed by nearly 2 million people around the world.

Starbucks customer Rebecca King posted a video of her order at a Starbucks drive-thru in St. Augustine, Florida. The order for a tall Mocha Frappuccino and a tall Salted Caramel Mocha Frappuccino wasn’t unusual, but the way the order was communicated has surprised many viewers. It was all done through American Sign Language.

“I’ve had a passion for sign language since I first saw a teacher use it when I was in preschool, and I’ve studied ASL ever since,” said Katie Wyble, who’s been a Starbucks partner (employee) since May.

Wyble was working last night when a customer who is Deaf drove up to the order screen. At the Starbucks store where Wyble works, the menu board has a two-way camera that allows baristas to see the individual placing an order. The customer is also able to see the partner taking an order. Wyble recognized King, a regular customer, soon after she pulled up and the two communicated the order entirely in sign language.

King shot a short video of the exchange and posted on her Facebook page stating, “Share it away! We can change the world!”

More than 60,000 have shared this video, with dozens of comments about the “awesome customer service.”

Video Credit: Rebecca King 
 

“It warms my heart so much to be able to communicate with those in the Deaf community,” said Wyble, who regularly uses sign language at work and is among those planning a coffee tasting later this month that will include ASL translation.

Such exchanges happen often in Starbucks stores – especially in the St. Augustine store. It’s located near the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind. Established in 1885, FSDB is a fully accredited state public school and outreach center available tuition-free to students from pre-school through grade 12 who are Deaf, hard of hearing or blind.  

In every community where it’s located around the world, Starbucks creates spaces and experiences that are locally relevant and give customers a deeper connection to their communities.

“Our store just opened in August and since then we’ve been able to serve customers who are Deaf in a personal way because four of our partners know ASL and because our drive-thru system makes ordering easy,” said Erin Berkner, the assistant store manager. “People who are Deaf feel comfortable here and that’s our goal for all of our customers.”

Both Erin and Katie say they’re surprised their store is getting so much attention for something that’s “natural” for them.

“It is amazing and great because I think more people need to know about what we’re doing because it moves customer service to a whole new level,” said Wyble. “I hope it helps make more people aware of what they can to do serve others in their communities.”


Starbucks Commitment to Access and Disability Inclusion

For more information on this news release, contact the Starbucks Newsroom