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September 28, 2010

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BillH

"Xan went through all the steps, asking supervisors, calling managers, and even looking through the employee handbook "

To fire Xan in this case is insane. He was just doing what he thought was right to "protect" his other customers. If anyone is at fault here it is the supervisors and managers he called who didn't give him better guidance.

Is Pike a Bold?

kind of entertaining to read

Hipsterdufus

I dunno it says on my wifi/internet set up in BOLD LARGE letters "DO NOT TOUCH UNLESS AUTHORIZED"

However, did the SM really tell the partner to turn it off?!

A Non eMoose

I agree that Xan was way outta bounds. Even if he asked supervisors, checked some rules, we also have to use a bit of common sense, just as how you pointed out that other innocent paying customers had their work interrupted. At most, if he really felt it was so important to cut off the WiFi, he should have asked a supervisor to do it. At that would only be in the extreme case, it just seems like common sense that you would first go through the typical avenues of seeing how to stop or get rid of any other disruptive customer.

That being said, it IS really odd if he had no write-ups before and immediately got terminated. I can think of several worse things I could do than shutting off the internet for a few minuets and still get no more than a first-and-final, if that.

Al

I'm pro-common sense myself, and I don't think Xan did the wrong thing here. Killing the Wifi for a bit seems like an excellent idea to get weirdos to go away. Nobody died without their precious wifi. And I say that as somebody who comes into SBUX and uses the wifi all the time.

Jim Romenesko

No, Al, the best way "to get the weirdos to go away" is to simply tell them to go away because their porn-surfing in a public place is unacceptable.

Coffee Drinker

From Xan's letter I'm not clear what the supervisors and managers advised him. Did they say, "look at the manual" or "it's okay to do it" or did they say "go ahead and pull the plug"?

Based on Xan's letter and not knowing Xan, the letter doesn't add up for me. Here's a perfect employee, supposedly, who follows policy (evidently, the manual isn't cited or directly quoted, which would make for a much stronger letter and argument) and is fired. Was he indeed told, "you are fired for turning off the WiFi" or is he in an at-will State, where the reason doesn't matter?

How long was the WiFi off? Who turned it back on? How many customers were using the WiFi at the time? Why didn't Xan simply ask those customers to stop looking at porn "because of the children!!" or even call the cops to report indecent exposure?

Like I said, there isn't enough factual info in the letter as stated to understand exactly what Xan did, and how and why he was fired.

Further, just because he hadn't been written up before, doesn't mean he's not a jerk employee, playing the game...though it does seem like Xan's intentions were good. Maybe he has a history with management of complaining about customers, even when things are done "by the book" and this was the final straw.

I wish Xan well, hope he's a great person of deep integrity and honesty and that he finds meaningful work very soon!

Jim Romenesko

HERE IS THE REST OF WHAT XAN GORDON SENT TO ME....

On the morning of Labor Day, Sept 6th, Xan and a group of 20 others came together in support of our fellow union member and Starbucks worker. Canvasing the parking lot, the crew collected a number of signatures and contacts on a petition demanding Xan’s job back before setting their sights on the store in question. Walking in, Xan’s friends occupied the small café. Talking to every customer one on one, they explained why they were there and asked if
people would sign the petition to prove to Starbucks that Xan has the community's backing for what he did and is not alone in demanding his position back. Two hours later and after an overwhelmingly positive response from customers in the café, on the patio, and in the drive through
filled over fifty signatures, the group was confronted by the store manager, Tim Hightower. Hightower explained that it was a black and white issue, and that Xan had violated policy for his own personal gain. When asked by a
customer which policy Xan had violated, the Hightower explained that he "couldn't honestly tell them," and that he "wasn't sure." The petitioners stood their ground as the manager paced the parking lot making phone call after phone call and smoking cigarette after cigarette, indicating to all parties involved that the pressure was on him.

Xan bid a heartfelt farewell to his fellow co-workers and the
group made it clear that they would be back. The other workers smiled and welcomed him back anytime. Unfortunately for his previous employer, Xan is an active member of the IWW Starbucks Workers Union who was known in the community for being intimately familiar with all of Starbucks' policies, as well as local and federal labor laws. It is assumed that his firing came as a result of his association with the famous labor union, not for his actions
related to the Wi-Fi. "If anyone was on the chopping block, it wasn't Xan," said another employee, speaking on condition of anonymity, who turned in his
two-weeks-notice after five years in response to Xan's firing. "These porn-watchers have been a thorn in our foot for a long time now, and corporate knows it. Xan knows more about this company and product than anyone else here. He was always helping us out, coming in on his days
off to repair things and deliver supplies. You don't fire someone like that so easily. Something's up, and we don't like it. The guy needs his job back."

Yesterday, September 26th, Xan and a larger group of supporters from around the community, visited the store, located at 8725 Roswell Road, Atlanta GA 30350, at 2:00pm to draw attention to the fact that not only has Starbucks denied any wrongdoing, but has subsequently begun a campaign around the metro Atlanta area painting Xan Gordon as a "dangerous radical" and a "threat to the safety of everyone in the company and to everything Starbucks stands for - passion, respect, and dignity." The company has said that there is "no evidence" of any problems with pornography at the store, and has fired two employees who had threatened to testify otherwise. The group was met with resistance from the managerial staff, but support from local police and other employees. Some of the initial group of porn-watchers were present and threatened Xan with physical violence, which management turned a blind eye to. The group has assured Starbucks "this is pretty much going to be a weekly thing now. Might as well get used to it." It remains to be seen whether the company will ramp up its smear campaign or will finally be willing to negotiate.

Legendary or I am out of here

I am on the side of Starbucks here. Is this even a real story anyway?

Is Pike a Bold?

In addition to what Jim said, what does Wi Fi and its availability have to do with watching porn? You could easily watch porn via browser cache, already a downloaded clp/movie, or simply even inserting a DVD into your laptop. Just beacause someone turns off your WiFi doesn't mean you're suddently done and are gonna leave the store in a huff. There are plenty of ways to watch porm with pre-loaded content...

it shoyldn't be about messing with equipment and turning off Wi Fi on everyone else. It should be about what our fathers would have done when we misbehaved. Tell them to leave and ask other customers to applaud...

winterene

I think there is more to this than Starbucks will disclose, and I certainly don't trust them to make wise decisions, but I don't see how it can be questioned that Xan acted in appropriately. I would like to see Xan come on here at answer the questions--did he ask the customers to leave? If not, why not? Did he threaten to call the police? If not, why not? Did he call the police? If not, why not?


I would say it is certainly within the right of any business to ask a customer to leave if he plops down and starts watching ponr or opens up a nudie magazine.

To turn off the wi-fi is unacceptable. Many people rely on this wi-fi for legitimate business reasons. What if I had been taking a test as part of a job interview? What if I had been conducting a job interview via Skype? What if I had been engaged in a video conference with a client?

However, I think that Xan should explain why he did what he did, and why he did not take all the other options that were available to him, starting with asking the customers to leave.

James Connolly

I'm not paid enough to play bouncer for Starbucks, and neither are other baristas and shifts. It's also important to note that Xan did ask the porn watchers to leave and they didn't (one guy even threatening him after doing so) UNTIL he shut down the wifi after contacting the Enterprise Help Desk to do it the right way.

Oh, and his being fired for cutting off the wifi is a smokescreen: Xan's been organizing for the union and it got leaked, so his boss scrambled for whatever pretext he could to fire him and settled on this.

Xan Gordon

Jim, I told you the following when I sent you this:

1. I did ask the men to leave. One guy threatened me with physical violence, the others told me that they had the right to be in the store.
2. I told the customers who were using the wi-fi for legitimate reasons what I was going to do. I asked them if it would interrupt anything, I asked if it was okay, they all said to go for it.

I turned the wi-fi back on maybe 10-15 minutes later, after the offending people had left.

The supervisor told me to go ahead and do it.
The employee handbook has a page on "If you want to turn off the wi-fi, here's how" and lists the steps to do so. Otherwise, you can call the Enterprise Help Desk, who will walk you through the steps.

My SM and DM were well aware with the problems with porn and bootlegging at the store.
I had no prior corrective actions, save for a few tardies in early 2009.

Xan Gordon

Regarding police activity, the last thing you want to do as an employee is bring in cops and flashing lights. Terrible for business, and a sure-fire way to get in trouble. I felt like if I could do it without police attention, everyone would be better off.

James Connolly

That is actually Xan. He just asked me to confirm his identity via text.

Coffee Drinker

hmmm. The plot thickens now with the longer letter from Xan. The first one says he was fired for turning off the WiFi. Did his employer actually say that? And as I said earlier, was he told to do this by supervisors/managers--and then those who told him to do so, then took him aside and fired him? That doesn't make sense to me. I don't think we have all the facts.

However, it's great Xan has so much support from others in the community and I continue to wish him well. It seems the letter/s have been edited for this site posting to slant that he was fired over the union--which may indeed be the case. But it may also be he's on a high horse about everything, including Wifi, customers behaving, following the book perfectly, and unions.

Good luck to Xan!

Jim Romenesko

Police are not going to rush to the store with sirens on/lights flashing over this kind of complaint. You should have called police.

Jim Romenesko

I assume that other baristas have had to deal with this problem of customers looking at inappropriate sites while in the store.

HOW DID YOU HANDLE THE PROBLEM?

Melody

Wow that's a really wild story. When you click on the "terms and conditions" of Starbucks free wifi, isn't there something about viewing porn content and that not being permitted?

It seems like an incredibly drastic move to turn off the wifi, BUT he did talk to supervisors, talk to other customers, and first ask the porn-viewing customers to stop. In light of all that, firing him seems like too harsh of a move.

Hindsight is always 20/20. Once Xan has asked to the customers to leave, they're now 'trespassers' and not 'customers' I would think. I would guess the next step would have been to call the police.

I'm not sure I know the right answer here other than to say the terms and conditions of the Starbucks wifi should contemplate this kind of situation, and from what I see above, the firing seems too harsh. I can see getting written up for this maybe.

Dottie

Wouldn't that be considered sexual harassment? I mean, customers are not allowed to make lude comments to partners, so why should they be allowed to watch porn? Xan, as a SM I say file a suit for sexual harassment and Starbucks knowingly allowing it. But next time, call the police and let them deal with the perverts, that's what they are there for.

Sorry you were terminated for something so bogus, Xan. Good luck!

LEGENDARY OR BUST

I am sorry -- I don't believe any of this. But it's fun reading nonetheless

Coffee Drinker

Xan, we cross posted. Thanks for the clarification, it did seem your letters had been edited. It seems you did everything correctly and with good intentions for all. Thank you for speaking out, and may only good come of your actions ; )

winterene

I appreciate that Xan has clarified what happened, but I still disagree with turning off the wi-fi.

Once he asked the customers to leave and they did not comply, Xan was within his rights to call the police.

And when that customer threatened him with physical violence, that was a crime, period. Xan should have called the police, because that customer needed to be arrested and charged with assault. Threatening physical violence is unacceptable. By turning off the wi-fi so the customer would leave, Xan might have inadvertently been allowing the problem to migrate to a different store.

LEGENDARY OR BUST

But anyway, was Xan a barista? Why was he dealing with this instead of his supervisors? What you do in this situation is you don't even ask them to leave -- you ask your supervisor to ask them to leave -- and so it is out of your hands.

Xan's seeming "activism" created this outcome. A good lesson for all.

winterene

Melody, you know you hold a warm place in my heart, but I must disagree with you about this "terms of use" thing. I'm not at Starbucks right now and don't have the terms of use in front of me, but I would be livid if they included anything about what type of *LEGAL* content I was allowed to download. If I am downloading porn to watch later, or in the bathroom, and it is not visible on the screen, AT&T Wi-Fi has no business telling me what I can or cannot download. That is a horribly offensive notion, from the perspective of freedom of expression and civil liberties.

Jim Romenesko

>>> it did seem your letters had been edited.

They are not edited.

me myself and I

Apparently they weren't any job interviews or skype conversations going on, if Xan is right about talking to the other customers before shutting the wifi off. It is a perk, not a right to get wifi. I think it might be slightly annoying if it got turned off on me, but then again, a bunch of people watching porn next to my kids in the cafe is even more annoying.
I definitely don't see it as a reason to get him fired. The unionization thing though... just kidding.

I wouldn't have confronted the porn watchers myself. If they go to a public place in a group to watch porn, this tells me they are out for some trouble. They know what they are doing won't be seen as a kind gesture so why should I get myself in harms way if I can simply stop it by turning off the wifi for a few minutes? Especially IF I would have been threatened by them before.

I used to have a very non violent customer quietly watching some porn once in a while and I didn't feel comfortable confronting him about it. My SM did eventually and he stopped as far as I can tell.

Coffee Drinker

Jim, at 11:25 above you wrote,

"HERE IS THE REST OF WHAT XAN GORDON SENT TO ME...." etc.

Then at 12:23 Xan wrote,
"Jim, I told you the following when I sent you this:" etc.

Doppio Con Karma

Call the police, end of story. And if this has been an ongoing issue I'm shocked it hadn't escalated to police earlier.
When we have issues with customers, we call the police, issues are resolved.

Jim Romenesko

Every Starbucks I frequent has a regular group of police officers who frequent the place, chit-chat with the baristas and -- no doubt -- would help out in a second if there's a problem (even like this).

I suspect this Atlanta store also has cops who have "guardian angels."

I'm sorry, Xan, but I believe that you handled this is a manner designed to provoke trouble.

Coffee Soldier

This is the strangest story I have ever seen on here...as a SM I would have simply informed the porn viewers on the first occasion that this happened that I would appreciate them not viewing porn in the store because it is offesive to some, could be considered sexual harrasment, and harmful to any children in the vicinity. I would warn them once then call my DM and let him know I was calling the police and asking them to deal with the watchers. It isn't very difficult...and I wonder why no one else in the store (or the DM) took any responsibility for gettting rid of these problematic customers and how in the world it ended up in a barista's hands to deal with?

Josh

Mmmk first of all, anyone watching porn in the middle of a Starbucks probably lacks the discretion to actually listen to an employee to tell him to turn it off. I imagine it would take at least a manager or two to talk to them to tell them to get the hell out. This would most likely draw MORE attention to the offending customers and the content of their screens. Secondly, you as a customer make the decision about whether to start 'work' in the store on their free wifi. If it's there, it's there, but if not, you have to realize that it's YOUR responsibility to save your work, not Starbucks' to keep the connection intact. Nowhere in there does it guarantee that your connection will be flawless the entire time. I think cutting the wifi off was the ONLY thing to do, and to fire him for protecting their customers is suicide. Atta boy, Xan.

Russell Goldstein

I want to voice my support of Mr. Gordon. I would also like to say that had I been in the unit manager's position I would not have moved to fire Xan. It seems that he followed the procedure correctly and ultimately moved to protect the customers (among them younger children) in the store. I imagine parents are more thankful for that than inaction, physical violence, or police involvement.

As someone who has all too much experience with corporate politics, it seems that Mr. Gordon's union membership was very likely the reason he was fired for such a minor (and seemingly necessary) disruption. I respect that some companies oppose unions, but undermining their influence by firing employees for petty reasons is frankly despicable.

Xan's quality as an employee was obvious to anyone who was ever served by him. I have personally seen and experienced the excellent level of service he gives to his customers. He also happens to know most of the menu by memory. I have seen customers who refuse to have their drinks made by anybody but him. He was extremely well-liked by the store's team. I've never seen such a dedicated barista.

The fact that its being addressed on this blog, to me, is proof that there's some guilt floating around the company which demands Xan be debunked. I don't think Starbucks has a leg to stand on, personally.

Waltie

Somebody asked the most obvious question: Why was a barista handling this situation? If a supervisor was present and allowed this to happen, that person should have been fired. Xan simply should've been written up for handling the situation poorly and doing a stupid thing.

Threatened with violence by a customer who is loudly watching porn in the store? Call the police. If you can't make that kind of determination on your own, you need to remove yourself from taking charge of any kind of situation like this. That was the wrong move, plain and simple.

But I already had my doubts about this person for describing himself as the store's "defacto equipment technician and tinkerer." Don't work on the machines. Let the tech people do that. I've worked with people like that (who think they can fix the brewers or espresso machines) and the only end up making things worse, and then the entire store gets yelled at because some dumb bariasta almost broke the machine because they took off a panel that says "Do not remove."

I've worked at this company for years and I know for a fact that there have been some union members who got fired for bogus reasons simply because they were in the union. I know this. However, that doesn't meant that every union member who gets fired shouldn't have been. Some of them deserved it.

Waltie

"AT&T Wi-Fi has no business telling me what I can or cannot download."

Are you joking? You're at a coffee shop using a network provided by AT&T. Of course they can tell you what you can and can't do on their network. That is exactly their business. Now, I can't remember what is in the terms of service agreement you have to sign to use the network, nor do I know if porn sites are accessible because I've never tried to view one at a friggin' Starbucks (and, if I ever did, I would sit in the corner, with my screen out of view and my volume off!), but I wouldn't be annoyed if they didn't allow me to do that on their network in a coffee shop.

tall guy

This sound completely fabricated. Smoke and mirrors.

I am a store manager and I have had this problem (porn in store).

Management/Supervisor partners are the ones who need to take action here. You & another partner (who serves as a witness to the conversation) go over & politely ask the customers to stop doing what they are doing because they accepted the TERMS & CONDITIONS of the free Starbucks WIFI. If they refuse you ask them to leave. If they threaten you or refuse to leave you call the police - without telling the customer as this can escalate the situation.

It really is that simple.

Xan Gordon

Let me go through a few things and clear up some misconceptions.

I was NOT intentionally trying to cause trouble. If anything, I was trying to avoid it - thus being why I didn't call the police.

Yes, I am/was a barista, not a shift supervisor. The shift at the time had just transferred in and wasn't willing to handle things herself, but I felt like someone had to do something.

Regarding equipment maintenance, there was a good bit of stuff that needed to be fixed in our store that I had either my SM or DM's blessing to fix - doors coming off hinges, holes in walls, clogged steam wands, broken coffee urns, etc. The equipment technicians never seemed to have a problem with it.

Xan Gordon

"Management/Supervisor partners are the ones who need to take action here. You & another partner (who serves as a witness to the conversation) go over & politely ask the customers to stop doing what they are doing because they accepted the TERMS & CONDITIONS of the free Starbucks WIFI. If they refuse you ask them to leave. If they threaten you or refuse to leave you call the police - without telling the customer as this can escalate the situation."

So, as a store manager, would you rather have a police visit, or just inconvenience the people who were watching porn? It seems like a police visit is bad publicity.

Just because your beloved Starbucks did something to an employee, doesn't mean it's all fabricated - I can assure you none of it is, and I wouldn't make any of this up for fear of it being used against me in a legal situation.

Rae Whitlock

If Starbucks and/or AT&T wanted people not to surf porn using their wifi service, they would take measures to filter it. Since they don't, one must assume that they don't care.

Coffee Soldier

I would prefer the police visit and get the porno watchers out with a warning that they are now considered unwelcome at my store if they return the police will come back and take them away for trespassing...I'm sure 99% of my customers would be very happy not to have to be exposed to them again. Like someone above posted if the watchers were strange enough to act this inappropriatly in public police intervention is probaly a best bet when you don;t know who you are dealing with! It is completely ridiculous that anyone would feel it is ok to watch porn in the store...we don't even let girl scouts come in to sell cookies but this store let this porn viewing go on for who knows how long? It seems like a huge misunderstanding and I hope that the SM and DM who were suposedly aware of this have action taken against them...I'm wondering why the partners who had to deal with this on an ongoing basis did not call the standard of business conduct line and ask for help if they were not receiving support from within their 4 walls? From the above posts it seems that this was an ongoing issue. If the barista went around the store and asked the wifi users who were surfing the web if it was o.k. for him to shut off the wifi for a bit until the culprits were gone and they all agreed why and how did he ever even end up being fired? I thought the porn watchers left? So what did they then call the SM or the SSC and state their wifi access had been shut down due to them watching porn? It seems for such an easy situation to fix this has sure spiraled out of control.

Xan Gordon

"I hope that the SM and DM who were suposedly aware of this have action taken against them..."
They didn't. They've denied that these guys exist. I was in there on Sunday getting petition signatures, a few of them were still there.

"I thought the porn watchers left? So what did they then call the SM or the SSC and state their wifi access had been shut down due to them watching porn? It seems for such an easy situation to fix this has sure spiraled out of control."
The shift who was on duty was asked by the Store Manager what had happened that day. She told him. I walked in and got fired.

Again, folks, these letters AREN'T edited, so please don't jump on the webmaster for editing them. I told him in follow-up emails that I had asked the men to leave, as well as on my official written statements.

Coffee Drinker

The more I read here the more I think Xan was fired for competence ; )

I have worked with people like Xan who were smart, motivated, nice, knew how to fix things, resourceful, the person others counted on.

Just remember Xan, "way closes, way opens." I foresee awesome opportunities for you.

winterene

> It seems like a police visit is bad
> publicity.

Xan, I'm suspicious of Starbucks' judgement and inclined to accept that you were not fired fairly.

I think many people will support you on this.

However, I think you need to own up and accept that you made a poor decision by not calling the police. You might have been well-intentioned, and you might have been trying to avoid trouble, but even well-intentioned people make mistakes.

A lot of harm is allowed to continue to happen because people don't call the police. And I say this as a person who HATES the police and would like to see many of them (LEGALLY, ON ORDER OF THE GOVERNOR) SHOT IN THE BACK OF HEAD. I (no arrests, no criminal record) have been harassed over and over by police, and I certainly don't want them anywhere near me. However, as a taxpayer they work for you, and it is their job to deal with scumbags who would surf porn in public and then threaten you physically. You don't know that this guy might not be violent and might not go somewhere and threaten somebody else. He needs a serious talking-to from the police.

There are many sides to this story, but I don't think you are going to be able to justify your decision not to call the police.

ex sbux manager

So because your shift wouldn't do anything you felt compelled to do it? In the end that is called insubordination. Finally, I'm sure there is more to this story than is being told. The reason being if they just fired me for no reason, no paperwork, no previous corrective actions, I'd be getting a lawyer and filing a lawsuit instead of hiding behind an union and protesting.

Xan Gordon

Winter: In retrospect, it was a poor decision to not call the police. I'll absolutely say that it's probably what I should have done - but I certainly don't think that I did the wrong thing in handling things how I did. There's a difference between not choosing the best option and choosing the worst option. Did I choose the best by turning off the wi-fi? No. Did I choose the worst by doing absolutely nothing? Also no.

Ex-manager: That's because part of your training is that unions are evil. I've seen the manual, I know what they tell you people. No, my shift said she didn't want to get involved and didn't know what to do, and I feel like I did what had to be done for the sake of our customers. Also, protesting and unionizing aren't mutually exclusive to having an attorney. For all you know, I could have an attorney and be gathering testimony and facts for a suit. Just maybe. ;)

Xan Gordon

furthermore, ex-manager, if it was your store, what would you have done? Would you have talked to me about it? Would you have written me up? Or would you have fired me, knowing my disciplinary history had been spotless?

yerbamate

Right on, Xan.

ex sbux manager

I wouldn't be so stupid to fire someone without any paperwork, and give no reason. I can see a bonehead manager doing that, however it seems like your district manager, RDO, all have not given you a reason why you were fired. So either the SM, DM, and RDO are all boneheads, or there is actually some paperwork. I've dealt closely with partner resources before. Typically SM, DM, and RDOs are all very maticulate when it comes to giving paperwork/up to termination and usually once it reaches the DM level, partner resources is then directly involved. The reason why all the management is so meticulous about their paperwork is exactly for this reason..and anyone who's been in management will know that when it comes to terminating someone...C-Y-A and you do it so that it would never become into this kind of situation. Now if I were to believe you Xan, I'd have to go with the thinking that your SM, DM, RDO and partner resources manager are boneheads who have no clue how to deal with terminating people properly. And I'm sorry, it is very difficult to believe that your SM DM RDO and partner resources are fine with you being terminated with no reason and paperwork.

Hipsterdufus

xan...in all of my training at Sbux have I every been told unions are evil, or to avoid them. NEVER>

ex sbux manager

And yes, I have fired several baristas and shift supervisors in the past. You know what the first question my DM asks me when I discussed manpower with him?

"Do you have paperwork?"
and
"Make sure you have paperwork."


Finally, I've wondered why you haven't been open about the higherups. Who is your SM? Who is your DM? Who is your RDO? Do you know who the partner resources manager is in your region? you should at LEAST be able to point out your DM and RDO. It's interesting to see if other people know your DM and RDO and can testify for them or to their idiocracy.

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