A Seattle Starbucks fired one of their baristas last week after he ate a sandwich that had been thrown away in the garbage. Coulson Loptmann, 21, had been surviving off of a combination of his modest hourly wages and food stamps. Loptmann had worked at the downtown coffee shop for more than a year.
“I hadn’t eaten all day and I was on a seven-hour shift,” he said.
The plastic-wrapped sausage sandwich that Loptmann grabbed out of the bin had just been marked as out of stock by a co-worker.
"She said, 'What a waste, huh?'” Loptmann said. "She tossed it in the garbage. I figured, it's in plastic, it's fine. So I reached in and grabbed it."
Loptmann figured no one would have a problem with him eating food that was being thrown away anyway, but he was wrong. According to Loptmann, his manager told him she had found out about the sandwich and contacted Human Resources.
“They consider it stealing, and it’s against policy,” she said. “So I’m sorry, but I have to terminate you.”
Starbucks spokesman Zack Hutson confirmed that “it is a violation of our policy to consume marked-out products." He said the policy is not to prevent stealing — it is to protect the health of employees, The Stranger reported. “We do not want our partners to consume potentially spoiled products and get sick.”
Although he could not discuss specifics, Hutson said someone could be fired for repeatedly violating company policy.
“In general, a partner would not be separated for a single, minor infraction like violating this policy," Hutson said. "However, a partner could be separated for an infraction like this if it was the culmination of broader, ongoing performance issues.”
Even though he worked in the food-service industry, Loptmann said it was tough getting enough to eat after his hours were gradually reduced.
“It sounds ridiculous, but having bread and mustard and mayonnaise and some kind of meat and lettuce — it doesn’t sound expensive, but that adds up … There were some days where I lived off of Starbucks food.”