The Chinese might like their coffee strong, but the real question is: do they like their coffee dirty?
A recent report by The Telegraph illuminates where a Starbucks Corp. (NASDAQ:SBUX) cafe in Hong Kong’s financial district gets its water from: a tap in a lavatory, conveniently located next to a urinal. The shop admits to having been brewing its coffee from the faucet, located in a “dingy washroom” in the building’s parking garage since its opening in 2011. Unsurprisingly, upon hearing that their morning pick-me-up came straight from a lavatory’s tap, former Starbucks regulars and clientele have voiced their outrage and disbelief.
One customer wrote on Starbucks Hong Kong Facebook wall, “Totally disappointed! The initial decision by Starbucks to use water from toilet is a clear sign of your company’s vision and the level of disrespect your company has for the health and mind of your customers.”
But Starbucks stands by its actions, contending that it has no choice as there is no direct water supply to the store. In the coffee chain’s defense, the tap water in Hong Kong is reported to be filtered and conforms to World Health Organization standards, according to Time. However, many distrust the water’s sanitation system and were thus incensed upon learning of the company’s potentially risky hygiene practices.
The Starbucks shop has since switched to distilled water, but many customers have already taken their business elsewhere. “I stick to my McCafe and the water is not from a toilet!” another Facebook friend announced on the coffee chain’s wall. Take that, Starbucks.
Update: Starbucks contacted us with this clarification:
“Safety is and always has been Starbucks number one priority and [the] water used for consumption in all Starbucks stores meets or exceeds all health and safety regulations of the markets where we do business. We have always and continue to use water in our Bank of China store which is safe and in strict compliance with local regulatory and World Health Organization standards. While the water used in the Bank of China store is safe, the water source was unacceptable.
We are temporarily using potable (drinking) water from an off-site source in the Bank of China store while we quickly identify another water source at this particular store. We recognize and apologize that Starbucks failed to meet our own high standards and the high expectations of our customers.”
Here is the official apology from Starbucks Asia-Pacific president Jinlong Wang.
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