As everyone knows, the path to fame and fortune these days is through YouTube. Or TikTok. And as everyone should know, although some clearly don’t, YouTube fame can always come back to bite you in the ass. Especially if you work for a giant corporation.
Abegael Milot, a 21-year-old Starbucks barista in the Detroit area, set up her own channel to serve the world in the way she could best: by showing viewers how to make their own Starbucks drinks at home.
In a video from October in which she demonstrated how to make a caramel macchiato, a chai tea latte, and cold brew, Milot confessed, in the spirit of complete honesty, that she doesn’t actually drink hot Starbucks coffee. “It’s not actually that good,” she said. Pike Place Roast in particular tastes “like ass.”
The video racked up more than 330,000 views. And then, about a month after it was initially posted, Milot was fired from Starbucks. In a follow-up video, she built a gingerbread house and told the story of the firing in excruciating detail. In her telling, her coworkers’ enthusiasm about her YouTube videos reached her supervisor, who subsequently decided to watch them. Red flags were raised. A district manager was summoned. Their big concern, Milot said, was not that she had given away trade secrets but that she had dissed Pike Place Roast. And then the ax came down.
Milot’s YouTube followers gave her love and sympathy, and the story reached BuzzFeed News, which was intrigued enough to cover it. Reporter Tanya Chen interviewed Milot, who recounted her version of events pretty much the same way she had in the video. And then Chen followed up with Starbucks.
“This former partner was separated after she admitted to theft, among other reasons,” Jory Mendes, the senior manager of corporate communications, told BuzzFeed News.
That sure puts an extra wrinkle in the story.
“I don’t know what I— No, not at all,” Milot said when Chen got back to her. “That’s a big difference than from what I was told.”
So what happened? Starbucks has not responded to additional inquiries. Will we ever know? Most of all, can baristas ever talk candidly about Pike Place Roast on their YouTube channels ever again?