Starbucks faced its second public outcry in China in less than three months after an incident at one of its stores. According to Reuters, the company described it as a misunderstanding that drew online users’ criticism and official media attention on Feb. 15.
A Weibo user said that a group of police officers was eating outside a Starbucks store in the southwestern city of Chongqing before being told to leave by staff.
Starbucks came under fire after that.
The incident quickly went viral on the Twitter-like platform, and Starbucks was labeled as arrogant in a commentary by the Chinese People’s Daily newspaper.
However, the company answered that their staff had never attempted to file a complaint against police officers or chased them away.
Starbucks has apologized for “inappropriate communications” regarding its store incident in China, claiming that it resulted from a miscommunication. After a state-backed tabloid reported that two of its locations were using expired products, Starbucks conducted inspections and staff training across its nearly 5,400 locations in December.
Aside from the Starbucks incident, some other firms from abroad are also facing the same problem. For example, Bloomberg reported that last month, in response to the allegation of forced labor in Xinjiang, Xinjiang Communist Party spokesperson Xu Guixiang said that foreign companies removing Chinese products while profiting from the country’s market would face public resistance.
Walmart Inc. had allegedly ceased selling Xinjiang items at its members-only Sam’s Club chain in China.
The comments came just weeks after U.S. President Joe Biden approved a law barring businesses from selling goods made in western China due to allegations of forced labor in the region’s predominantly Muslim Uighur minority.
Reuters stated that consumers and the media in China have been stricter in preserving customer rights and monitoring the behavior of large brands, particularly those from abroad.
On Tuesday, the giant faced more online criticism, with a few small businesses announcing on Douyin, China’s version of TikTok, that they would “boycott” Starbucks by prohibiting staff from holding meetings or purchasing drinks at the coffee chain’s locations.
As reported by Bloomberg, Starbucks lowered its international outlook. The coffee chain now expects an increase in sales from 18% to 20%, down from a previous estimate of 27% to 32%.