- A Starbucks employee said she quit after her boss asked her to reschedule to drop off her sick dog.
- Auralee Smith worked at Starbucks for more than two years before quitting, calling the culture “recreational.”
- Her beloved rescue dog, Gandy, was her “best friend” until she became ill with cancer and had to be put down.
A 21-year-old student quit her job as a Starbucks barista after her manager asked her to reschedule an appointment to put her dog down to avoid losing her job.
Auralee Smith said her family’s rescue dog, Gandy, was her “best friend.” The family adopted Gaddy when she was about eight years old, and Gaddy was “very scared and a lot when we got her,” Smith told Insider.
“My family helped her come out of her shell,” Smith said. “It was like she was finally happy that she wasn’t in a stressful, horrible situation.”
The family joked that Gandhi was a “cat-dog” because of how much she liked to sleep in the sun. Smith, who teaches piano lessons in New Jersey, said Gandhi would “sing along” when she played the piano.
“I would play a note and she would try to match it with the scream,” Smith said. “It was really sweet. She loved that.”
It was devastating when Gandhi’s family found out he had cancer and the vet recommended against surgery due to Gandhi’s age. While dealing with the pain of choosing to let Gandhi down, Smith said the last thing she expected was her manager at Starbucks “literally asking me to change the day I put her to bed” when Smith said she asked to be covered her shift. .
“I’m sorry to do this, but I’m trying to find coverage for my Sunday shift. I have to put my dog down Saturday night and I’m going to be a total mess. She’s my best friend,” Smith said in a text message to her boss. in February, adding, “I’m going to message some people and see if they can help.”
“I’m really going to need you to find cover,” Smith’s manager replied. “I understand it’s a difficult situation, but you have plenty of notice, so it’s not going to be approved if you don’t come. Is there a way to do it overnight when you’re not working the next day?”
After more than two years working for Starbucks, Smith said the text message was the final straw.
“I read that last sentence, and I was like, ‘Oh. What the heck; How?” How was this decision what to tell me?” said Smith. “That was such a harsh response to me, she just asked me if I could change the day I put her to bed.”
Responding to her manager, Smith wrote: “I will do everything I can to find coverage. I’m sorry it’s inconvenient but he’s the family dog and he’s very sick and that’s what my family has decided to do. I can’t reschedule when I leave my dog down for Starbucks. This officially wraps up my two weeks. I’ve worked for this company for 2.5 years and I appreciate what it’s done for me, but I’m ready to move on.”
—lailette (@lai_lette) July 31, 2022
While it was upsetting, Smith said she wasn’t completely surprised by her manager’s response and wasn’t putting all the blame on her. It was Starbucks as a company, he said, that cultivated an environment where workers were overworked and undervalued. It has become a common refrain between employees of the coffee chainmany of whom have trade unionists.
“To me, that’s just the mindset that drives Starbucks behind the scenes,” Smith said. “It just kept getting worse over my time at Starbucks that the mindset that leads someone to ask me to change the day I put my dog to sleep. I already felt like I had burned other things. Then when I just saw it, that was it.”
A Starbucks spokesman said the text messages released by Smith don’t tell the full picture. In text messages shared with Insider, Smith’s manager expressed sympathy for her situation, but argued that Smith needed to find cover for her shift.
“The health and well-being of our associates is and continues to be our top priority. In this case, we were able to support this associate to cover her job at that time,” a Starbucks spokesperson said in a statement.
Smith said she received overwhelming support after posting screenshots of the exchange on Twitter and Reddit after having time to mourn Gandy, but remains frustrated with how the company tried to promote a big family atmosphere while employees worked in tense conditions where customers wanted to get their coffee quickly and get out.
“As they’ve become more toxic and hardened in that way, they’re still — they mean the company — they’re still holding on so hard to this idea that they’re trying to be a little family cafe or something like that and not the McDonald’s of coffee shops,” said Smith. “It’s not a little mom and pop shop and they expect you to act like they are when everything is poor and toxic and cruel.”