Jollibee’s Highlands Coffee under fire for discriminating the disabled

22-Feb-2020 Intellasia | VIR | 6:02 AM Print This Post

After an incident where a man with disabilities was mistaken for a lottery seller and was asked to leave a Highlands storea unit of Jollibee Foods Corporation, netisens are calling for better awareness about the discrimination against the differently-abled. This is not the first time Jollibee affiliates face public backlash for discrimination.

A Facebook user named Le Van Truong shared on his wall the unpleasant situation at a Highlands cafe in HCM City, which he found shocking, mortifying, and humilating.

“As I entered the coffee shop, a security staff mistook me for a lottery seller. I refused, saying I had an appointment with my friends here. To make matters worse, a staff then came over and told me that Highlands did not allow lottery sellers on the premises. It was very upsetting to be humiliated like that and I asked to speak to the manager but the staff refused outright, which was completely unprofessional,” Truong wrote.

Some of Truong’s acquaintances advised him not to make his experience public, but he refused to bite the bullet.

“While the Vietnamese government is putting a great deal of effort into minimising the gap between people living with disabilities and those who are not, the ill-mannered staff at Highlands only adds fuel to the fire. Their action said it all: the disabled are just like lottery sellers, they are not allowed into Highlands for a cup of coffee. Put yourself in my shoes was I supposed to just sit and take it in silence?” asked Truong.

His previous Facebook post was made invisible to the public, but Truong also added more details.

According to him, Highlands sent an email to him to apologise in the afternoon of February 17, 2020.

“Highlands insulted me publicly, with its staff specifically excluding me, a person with disabilities, from receiving service. I don’t think an email apology will cut it. Highlands’ representative explained that the fault was of a misguided staff member, but the security staff and the waitress were both the same it could be a glaring fault in Highlands’ industry-wide training programme.”

There was an arranged meeting between Truong and Highlands Coffee representatives at Highlands store, 370 Tan Son Nhi Street, Tan Phu District, HCM City on February 18, with the Disability and Development Organisation (DRD) intervening to resolve the conflict.

Truong added, “Highlands Coffee agreed to publicly apologise, but they have to wait for the board of directors’ opinion, so I’ve extended the deadline to Thursday, February 20.”

A public apology would seem nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction to control damage already done. However, if Highlands cannot make the gesture, its commitments that such an incident will never happen again will carry little to no credibility.

It is noted that Highlands Coffee is majority-owned by Jollibee Foods Corporation the Filipino food and beverage giant.

Last year, Jollibee spent $350 million on acquiring Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. After the announcement, Jollibee’s shares fell by 8 per cent, the single largest drop in two years.

In 2017, Jollibee Food Corporation had publicly apologised to a member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community named Bunny Cadag who complained of alleged discrimination at one of its branches.

In a statement, Jollibee “sincerely apologised” to Bunny Cadag, promising that it was an “isolated incident”.


Category: Business, Vietnam

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