It’s not quite the “racist rant” that we’ve seen before – instead, it’s more of a “racist passive-aggressive request”.

But still, it’s not going over well for a Dunkin’ Donuts franchise in Maryland.

During a morning coffee run yesterday, a news producer for Baltimore’s WBAL-TV happened upon a sign posted at the register. “If you hear any of our staff SHOUTING in a language other than ENGLISH,” it reads, customers are asked to call a phone number “with the name of the employee to receive a coupon for a FREE coffee and a pastry”.

The producer posted a photo of the sign online, it went viral, and the internet weighed in while Dunkin’ Donuts went into damage control.

“When did speaking several languages become a reportable offense?” one Twitter user wrote. “When should we expect the ‘Buy One Donut Get One Free…If You’re White’ promotion?” another wondered.

Others questioned what exactly store management was trying to accomplish with the sign that was aimed specifically at shouting in a different language. “Just so I’m clear: SHOUTING IN ENGLISH IS OKAY, RIGHT?” one Twitter user wrote. “But they’re allowed to whisper in another language right?” another wondered.

Still others didn’t see any problem with the sign. “How is it racist if you want your employees to speak English in America?” one Twitter user commented. Others were more pragmatic about it: “Anybody shouting should be reported to upper management regardless of their language.”

And some observers smelled a rat – assuming the photo was faked, or planted there by someone wanting to troll Dunkin’ Donuts.

The phone number on the sign now goes straight to voicemail, with a recorded message saying the mailbox is full. But the WBAL producer managed to get through yesterday, and spoke with a man who identified himself as the former general manager of the store. He admitted putting up the sign in the past, in response to customer complaints.


“Wonder why the General Manager didn’t put his name on that flyer. Probably just shy,” another Twitter user surmised.

Current store management apparently thought it was a good idea to put the sign out again, even though it listed the former boss’ phone number. So the sign may have served as a deterrent to shouting staffers, but it seemed no one was actually going to be able to score any coupon for free coffee and a donut.

The home office got involved and quickly put a stop to the situation. “DD and our franchisees share the goal of creating a welcoming and hospitable environment for all guests,” Dunkin’ Donuts said in a statement. “The franchisee informed us the sign was posted by their general manager based on her own personal judgment to ensure those standards are being met. While her intent was to address a customer service and satisfaction issue, the franchisee determined her approach was inappropriate and confirmed the sign has been removed.”

“Starbucks?” one Twitter user wrote. “How short is your memory?”

Starbucks famously suffered some bad P.R. after a Philadelphia location called the cops on two African-American men for “trespassing” back in April. Some actually defended Starbucks, just as some are defending Dunkin’ Donuts for demanding that its employees speak (or shout) only in English.

The only problem is, that’s kind of illegal. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “rules requiring employees to speak only English in the workplace violate the law unless the employer can show that they are justified by business necessity… An English-only rule should be limited to the circumstances in which it is needed for the employer to operate safely or efficiently.”

One might try to argue that having employees shouting at each other is not conducive to “operating efficiently”. But then it wouldn’t matter in what language they’re doing the shouting.

Because a coupon was offered to customers, this Dunkin’ Donuts case becomes the latest in a line of racist retail incidents involving coupons. Last month, there was the Burger King couponer who threatened to send a cashier “back to Mexico”. And last year, a Sears shopper demanded that Spanish-speaking couponers ahead of her in line be sent “back to their own f***ing country”.

Now that the sign has been removed, don’t go visiting a certain Baltimore Dunkin’ Donuts in the hopes of scoring a coupon. But keep your eyes peeled – the way things are going, it won’t be long before something like this appears again somewhere else.

Image source: @GillianMorley_

One Comment

  1. It is not racist. People throw that word around way too easily anymore. It can be bigoted, hateful, intolerant, but not racist. A language is not a race.

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