Starbucks staff's secret note to 'help' woman approached by man sparks heated debate

Starbucks staff's secret note to 'help' woman approached by man sparks heated debate

A concerned barista encouraged a young female customer to signal for help if she felt uncomfortable

Brandy Selim Roberson/Facebook/iStock

If you’re a young woman on your own at night, unsolicited attention from a stranger can be intimidating, to say the least.

Fortunately, there are plenty of good samaritans out there who are quick to step in and offer a helping hand where it’s needed. And, in some cases, where it’s not.

Such an instance occurred at a Starbucks in Texas, where an 18-year-old student was studying by herself when she was approached by a man she didn’t know.

A female barista spotted the encounter and decided to take action – bringing a cup of hot chocolate over to the teenager that “someone forgot to pick up”.

But really it was all a ruse, and written on the drink was a note reading: “Are you okay? Do you want us to intervene? If you do, take the lid off the cup.”

The girl’s mother, Brandy Selim Roberson, shared a photo of the thoughtful message to Facebook in February last year, explaining: “My 18-year-old daughter was at Starbucks, alone, the other night. A man came up to her and started talking to her. A barista handed her ‘an extra hot chocolate someone forgot to pick up’.

“How grateful I am for people who look out for other people!”

A female barista handed a potential lifeline to the young womanBrandy Selim Roberson/Facebook

Brandy then added: “Side note: She felt safe and did not remove the lid, but let them know. She said the whole team was watching over her the rest of the time she was there. Thank you to Starbucks for having a great team.”

Providing further details, Roberson told the New York Post: “The man was very loud and animated,” but her daughter was reassured to see “a row of baristas staring at her — ready to step in.”

“This reaffirms my faith in humanity,” the proud mum stressed. “Maybe just seeing this story, others … if given the opportunity to say something or turn away, they would say something.”

Clearly, the story continues to strike a note with people, because it has gone viral again after being shared on X/Twitter on Monday.

The post has racked up more than 21.6 million views and 240,300 likes in just three days, with thousands of commentators offering their take on the encounter.

Countless users joined Brandy in praising the Starbucks staff, with one gushing: “There still are some great people in the world!”

A second wrote: “As a father of a daughter, I’m glad people are still looking out.”

And a third said: “In today’s society more people should be proactive like this. You just never know what a situation really is. Kudos to the alert Starbuck’s staff. Never be silent and always ask.”

However, others pointed out that the girl had felt “safe” with the stranger, and so they insisted that the intervention was a dramatic overreaction.

“I feel so bad for younger guys that might want to go talk to a random chick,” one lamented.

“I fail to see why a young woman needs to be ‘rescued’ in a situation like this,” wrote another. “It’s a public setting and there are many acceptable reasons why this man could have been talking to her!

“It’s one thing to encourage reasonable precautions, quite another to instil fear and paranoia,” they added.

And a third said despairingly: “Can't approach women in coffee shop (creepy); can't approach women at work (unprofessional); can't approach women at the gym (distracting, creepy); can't approach women at church (no singles); can't approach women in public (with friends) – what are men supposed to do??”

Scores of commentators said the story was a perfect example of why many young men are too scared to strike up conversations with women.

Indeed, a study published by Date Psychology in July found that nearly half of men aged under 25 had never approached a woman in person – with most citing a fear of rejection and/or the potential social consequences.

Meanwhile, a number of X/Twitter users said more context was needed to establish exactly why the note was needed.

One wrote: “All we have to go on is that a man talked to her. They did not state that he threatened or harassed her, which surely they would have clarified if he had.”

To which another replied: “I like to believe they picked up on something sort of fishy, or intense about the man -- perhaps he was in her physical space, or looked a little out of it? We don't know. If it was like that, I think they were helpful.”

Elsewhere, users suggested that the furious response from male commentators proved the baristas had been right to act.

“Men in the quotes giving us great examples of why the employees stepped in,” one said.

“Y’all are not entitled to speak to women simply because you think you can or perceive yourself as no harm.”

Sign up for our free Indy100 weekly newsletter

Have your say in our news democracy. Click the upvote icon at the top of the page to help raise this article through the indy100 rankings

The Conversation (0)