A Starbucks barista said he was fired from his store after he made a joking TikTok about customers who don’t read the labels on their coffee.
Jairo Calderon, a 19-year-old who worked at a Starbucks store in Carmel, California, said he didn’t expect his TikTok to go viral, gaining some 23 million views. He also didn’t expect that he would be fired for it.
In the video, Calderon said he has two coffees ready “for Zoe,” who he told Insider was his friend posing as a customer for the skit. Zoe asked, “Um, which one’s oat milk?” to which Calderon replied, “Yeah, so if you open your fucking eyes” while pointing to the printed label on the coffee.
Calderon said he didn’t think he had done anything wrong until his district manager sat him down about a week and a half later and asked him to take the video down.
“She told me everything that I did wrong in the video, and how that makes the company look bad,” Calderon said. “And I said, ‘I’m not going to take it down, because it’s everywhere, and it’s too late for me to do that. It won’t change anything.’ So even if it’s not posted or published on my end, people can still get it from other platforms, from other accounts.”
Calderon said he was told swearing on the shop floor is not permitted, and neither is wearing a hoodie under the Starbucks apron.
“I just thought it was okay because I had seen the TikToks all over my ‘For You‘ page of baristas making funny videos or making drinks,” Calderon said. “I know you’re not supposed to have your phone out when you’re handling food. I didn’t do that. I also wasn’t holding the phone. I was off the clock, so I was wearing a hoodie.”
By the end of October, Calderon, who had worked for the company since August 2021, was fired from his Starbucks store in Carmel, according to termination documents seen by Insider. He is permitted to seek employment at other Starbucks locations, though he said he likely wouldn’t work for the company again.
“I honestly didn’t think that I was doing anything wrong. I guess I just didn’t know the rules very well. It was a skit. The person recording was my friend,” Calderon said. “So it wasn’t me directly being rude to an actual customer, but it was brought to my attention that cursing on the floor paints a really bad picture for Starbucks.”
In a comment to Insider, a Starbucks spokesperson cited the company’s policy that everyone must treat “others with respect and dignity, free of bias and discrimination.”
“We have deep respect for every partner employee at our company, but at the same time, there is an expectation that partners create a respectful, safe and welcoming environment while wearing the green apron,” the spokesperson said. “Behaviors that make anyone feel unwelcome or unsafe have no place on our store premises.”
Calderon said he probably shouldn’t have cursed in his video, but he still felt the company overreacted in terminating him from his store. The Starbucks spokesperson told Insider that Calderon was on the clock while he made the video, which Calderon disputed, saying he “very much wasn’t.” A timestamp on the TikTok video appeared to corroborate Calderon’s claim; Starbucks did not respond to additional requests for comment.
“I think I did something that I shouldn’t have done, and I also think that corporate did overreact because it’s just a TikTok video, it’s a skit. It’s not an actual customer. There’s hundreds of other videos out there that are the same or similar,” Calderon said, pointing to other videos by current or former baristas for the company.
“I’m just surprised how this video got their attention when they have more serious problems going on in the workplace at other Starbucks locations,” Calderon added, referring to unionization efforts across the country. Hundreds of Starbucks workers walked off the job last week in protest of “short staffing and the company’s failure to bargain with union stores,” Business Insider previously reported.
In future videos about being a barista, Calderon said he would incorporate “a little more professionalism” and “maybe no cursing” to protect the store’s reputation, but he does believe he can find a job at a more relaxed and open-minded cafe.
“This video got so many views and likes,” Calderon said. “I think a smaller business would appreciate that, unlike Starbucks.”