[Update: The Director of Corporate Communications for Starbucks has responded to this story with a prepared statement.]
Starbucks store manager]
30 year-old Northeast Portland resident Fabian Mills used to manage the Starbucks store on 102nd and Halsey near the Gateway Transit Center.
Back in August he rode his bike to a district meeting and got a surprising reaction from his new district manager, Frances Ericson. Here’s how it went down according to Mills:
“She pulled me aside and said she would prefer that I drove to the meeting. She asked me if I even had a car and then said it was inappropriate to ride my bike. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing but she actually said she would prefer if I drove a car and that it was unprofessional to ride a bike to work.”
Four days after this conversation took place Ericson transferred Mills to a new store in Troutdale at 257th and Stark. Mills was unhappy with the decision because the transfer would add 16 miles to his daily bike commute.
When Mills expressed his disappointment with the move, Ericson allegedly said, “you should just get over riding your bike.”
“I would prefer if you drove a car, it’s unprofessional to ride a bike to work.”
–alleged comments of Starbucks District Manager Frances Ericson
According to Mills, Ericson claims she moved him because of his poor job performance but Mills doesn’t buy that reasoning because in his 2 1/2 years with the company, he never once had a bad performance review and profits were up at his store.
Mills filed a formal complaint with the human resources and business ethics departments, but he’s not convinced the issue was ever taken very seriously. Mills doesn’t feel the company was tough enough on his former manager and he’s worried that she’ll continue to discourage bike use,
“Right now she manages eight stores, soon she could manage 110 stores…will her views continue as she moves up?”
Mills won’t be around to find out. He found the official response to his complaint so lackluster that he decided to resign and has since moved on (he now works for Bank of America).
I was surprised someone so high up at Starbucks would make these comments, especially given that one of Starbucks’ own guiding principles is to, “Contribute positively to our communities and our environment.”
I decided to contact Ericson about her alleged remarks. She said it is against company policy to speak to any media directly and she referred me to a marketing person. I eventually ended up with an email from regional director Michelle Cain. Citing privacy concerns, she refused to address any of my questions about Fabian Mills.
If Ericson did indeed say these things, this is a very unfortunate situation. Managers in influential positions (especially in large companies) should encourage bicycle use among their employees, not discourage it. Over 6,000 Portlanders from 550 companies took part in the BTA’s recent Bike Commute Challenge. Starbucks did not participate.