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Starbucks app fail leads to manager's epic YouTube meltdown

A New York customer says she was struggling with her mobile app. This seemed to lead to the Starbucks manager completely losing it. Of course it's now on YouTube.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


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She's not happy. She's really not happy. Ruby Chen/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

I go to Starbucks early and confess that it's occasionally a troubling experience.

Ahead of me might be someone who's desperate to be modern and pay with their Starbucks app. They wave it at the scanner. It doesn't work. They wave it again. It still doesn't work. Then they poke at their phone. They wave it again. Finally a beep.

My regular baristas, Kurshina and Marie, have patience coursing through their veins. I, however, mutter through gritted gums: "Wouldn't it have been easier to pay cash?"

It seems that such a scenario might have played a part in one of the more spectacular customer service angerfests of the year. This one was at a Starbucks in Queens, NY.

As reported by Grub Street, New York Magazine's food and restaurant blog, Ruby Chen went into the Elmhurst Starbucks to buy a Frappuccino with a cookie straw. Cookie straws are a big thing at Starbucks. I tried one once. It got wet.

Still, the tale goes that the Starbucks manager called Chen's name and she didn't hear. Chen was having trouble with her Starbucks app and, well, the friction began to froth.

It may be that the manager was already having a bad day. Which is surprising in such a genteel place as Queens. She expressed her displeasure, however, with a verve that reminded one of Mike Tyson biting Evander Holyfield's ear.

She apparently wasn't happy that Chen was allegedly holding up her line, presumably because of having not heard her name and her app fumbling.

Unfortunately (for the manager) and fortunately (for lovers of drama), the scenario was captured by a bystander and placed in the window to the world known as YouTube. It was posted there by Chen herself, among others.

The manager appears to be a woman of a certain level of compromise. She offered Chen the choice of either giving her the straw or leaving with the straw and never being allowed into that Starbucks again.

The argument continued and the video doesn't reveal its conclusion. However, Grub Street says that the manager finally called the police.

I contacted Starbucks and a spokeswoman told me: "This customer's experience is not reflective of the service our partners (employees) provide to customers every day. As soon as we learned about this, our partner was immediately suspended and now no longer works for Starbucks. Our leadership team is reaching out to the customer to apologize and make this right."

Just as police officers get filmed and sometimes exposed, so do baristas. Our public behavior is now available for not merely scrutiny, but mass publication and judgment..

And sometimes, we all have bad days.