- A Starbucks employee said she quit after her boss asked her to reschedule putting her sick dog down.
- Auralee Smith worked at Starbucks for over two years before quitting, calling the culture “callous.”
- Her beloved rescue dog, Gandy, was her “best friend” until she got cancer and needed to be put down.
A 21-year-old college student quit her job as a Starbucks barista after her manager asked her to reschedule an appointment to put down her dog so that she wouldn’t miss work.
Auralee Smith said her family’s rescue dog, Gandy, was her “best friend.” The family adopted Gandy when she was around eight years old, and Gandy was “really scared and stuff when we got her,” Smith told Insider.
“My family helped her come out of her shell,” Smith said. “It was like she just was finally happy to not be in a stressful, horrible situation.”
The family joked that Gandy was a “cat-dog” because of how much she loved napping in the sun. Smith, who teaches piano lessons in New Jersey, said Gandy would “sing along” when she played piano.
“I would play a note, and she’d try to match it with howling,” Smith said. “It was really, really sweet. She loved that.”
It was devastating when Gandy’s family discovered she had cancer, and the vet recommended against operating due to Gandy’s old age. While dealing with the pain of choosing to put Gandy down, Smith said the last thing she expected was for her Starbucks manager to be “literally asking me to change the day I put her to sleep” when Smith said she asked to get her shift covered.
“I’m sorry to do this but I’m trying to find coverage for my Sunday shift. I have to put my dog down on Saturday night and I will be an absolute mess. She’s my best friend,” Smith said in a text to her boss in February, adding “I’m going to text some people and see if they can help out.”
“I’m really gonna need you to find coverage,” Smith’s manager responded. “I understand it’s a tough situation but you have plenty of notice so it’s not going to be approved if you don’t come in. Is there a way you could do it on a night where you don’t work the next day?”
After over two years working for Starbucks, Smith said that text message was the last straw.
“I read that last sentence, and I audibly was like, ‘Oh. What on earth? How?’ How was that the decision of what to say to me?” Smith said. “That was such a harsh response to me, just asking me if I could change the day I put her to sleep.”
In response to her manager, Smith texted: “I’ll do my best to find coverage. I’m sorry this is inconvenient but it’s the family dog and she’s very sick and it’s what my family has decided to do. I can’t reschedule when I put my dog down for Starbucks. This is also me putting in my two weeks officially. 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.”
While it was upsetting, Smith said she wasn’t entirely surprised by her manager’s response and didn’t place all the blame on her. It was Starbucks as a company, she said, that cultivated an environment where employees were overworked and underappreciated. It has become a common refrain among the coffee-chain’s employees, many of whom have unionized.
“To me, this is just the mentality that Starbucks promotes behind the scenes,” Smith said. “It just kept getting worse over my time at Starbucks that the mentality that leads to somebody asking me to change the day I put my dog to sleep. I already felt like I was getting burnt out and stuff. Then, when I just saw that, that was it.”
A spokesperson for Starbucks said the text messages posted by Smith do not show the full picture. In text messages shared with Insider, Smith’s manager expressed sympathy for her situation but maintained that Smith needed to find coverage for her shift. The spokesperson added that the company offers personal and sick leave, though in this case, Smith did not ask for it, and her manager did not offer it.
“The health and well-being of our partners is and continues to be our top priority. In this instance, we were able to support this partner in getting her work covered at that time,” a Starbucks spokesperson said in a statement.
The spokesperson also called into question Smith’s recounting of the incident and shared Smith’s resignation letter — submitted weeks after the text exchange — in which Smith thanked her manager “for the opportunity to work in this position” and said she “learned a great deal.”
Smith said she’s received overwhelming support after posting screenshots of the exchange on Twitter and Reddit after she had time to grieve Gandy, but she remains frustrated by how the company tried to promote a big-happy-family atmosphere while employees worked in tense conditions where customers wanted to get their coffee quickly and get out.
“As they’ve gotten more toxic and callous in that way, they also are still – they meaning the company – are still sticking so hard to this idea that they’re trying to be a little family-owned coffee shop or something and not the McDonald’s of coffee shops,” Smith said. “It’s not a little mom-and-pop store, and they expect you to act like it is while everything is short-staffed and toxic and callous.”