National coffee chain Gloria Jean’s will reportedly be advocating anti-racism message in stores across the country following a customer interaction in its Cairns store that went viral.
Mashable reports African worker Josie Ajak was working in the Cairns store last Saturday when a customer refused to be served by her due to her being dark-skinned. A friend of Ajak’s witnessed the interaction, and posted about it on Facebook.
“Josie is one of the most kind and friendly people you could meet but irrespective of her character, she did not deserve to be excluded like this,” Ajak’s friend Jade Arevalo posted.
“What makes it worse is that this nasty lady who asked for another staff member travels in a wheelchair and could quite possibly understand a life made difficult by others assuming less of her.”
After the incident, the store’s management took action, posting messages of support on social media and putting up posters and balloons in store.
“As many of you may know a situation with one of our treasured employees, Josie, has gone viral with thousands of likes and shares across Facebook. This was a display of racism from a customer towards an employee,” the store stated in a Facebook post.
“The employees on shift were very young and shocked however refused to serve this customer, showing their maturity and zero tolerance for racism.”
The hashtags “buy a coffee from Josie” and “no time for racism” were included in the posts, and Ajak told SmartCompany the incident has begun to go global.
“My manager told me just yesterday that the ‘no time for racism’ hashtag is going global, and apparently other Gloria Jean’s in Australia will be advocating against racism in their stores,” Ajak said.
Gloria Jean’s Cairns workers switched up their usual uniform for black t-shirts, with the “No time for racism” hashtag printed on the front. Ajak believes that other Australian stores will be getting similar shirts.
The store has put up posters and balloons in support of Ajak, also allowing customers to leave messages of support for Josie in store when she is not working.
Ajak told SmartCompany that she was not planning on speaking out about the incident, but was happy that her friend chose to make the Facebook post.
“I generally like to keep my life on the down-low, but I’m glad that she made the post because it’s now such a big movement,” she says.
Ajak, who is currently studying education full time at university, said she was not expecting the store’s actions and support.
“On Tuesday the managers rang me and told me they had a “surprise”, and I was a little apprehensive. But the support from customers has been massive, I’ve had people run in on the way to catch a train just to show their support,” Ajak says.
General manager at WattsNext HR Ben Watts told SmartCompany these sorts of situations are important for businesses to show their values and beliefs.
“I think this business has done a fantastic job here and really stood up for its workers and what it believes in, and we don’t see enough of it,” Watts says.
“It’s all about getting your business’ values and mission right, and backing customers like this is a good way to back your values.”
Watts says support of workers doesn’t always have to be shown publically, like Gloria Jean’s has in this case, saying it should be “happening every day internally”.
“In this case it’s doubled up as publicity, but it’s a stance that’s very important to make and it sets a good example for businesses everywhere,” Watts says.
Ajak says she would like to be involved with Gloria Jean’s wider anti-racism movement, but claims she’s “not the best speaker”.
SmartCompany contacted Gloria Jean’s management for further details on a formal “No time for racism” campaign.
“Gloria Jean’s Coffees has no time for racism. As one of the world’s leading coffee brands, we serve millions of guests every year, and we value each and every one for their diversity and for the unique role they play in our community,” a spokesperson said.
“We are proud to welcome guests from all walks of life, and to stand behind Josie and the team from Gloria Jean’s Coffees Cairns Central.”