A 21-year-old YouTuber and former Starbucks barista claimed she was fired by the company two weeks ago for saying its Pike Place roast tastes "like ass," among other disparaging things, in one of her videos.
The situation, however, became more muddled when a spokesperson for Starbucks told BuzzFeed News one of the primary reasons for her firing was "theft" — and her admission to it.
Abegael Milot, who's from the metro Detroit area, maintains to BuzzFeed News that she was told during the exit conversation with a Starbucks district manager that she was being fired for the remark about the Pike Place roast. "That’s a big difference than from what I was told," she said of Starbucks's response.
Whether you think their coffee tastes "like ass" or not...here's what we know so far:
On Dec. 7, Milot announced on her YouTube channel that she was fired from Starbucks in a vlog aptly titled "i got fired from starbucks because of my channel."
"My manager ended up watching these lovely videos of mine," she said. "I had to explain to them why I said the things I did in my videos. One of the biggest issues is that I said 'Pike tastes like ass'...and they were so pressed about that statement."
The "like ass" remark was made in a video Milot posted in late October in which she shows viewers how to make popular Starbucks drinks at home. At one point, she advises people to make their own hot coffee at home and says, "If you want me to be honest…Pike roast is ass. It’s not good."
In a phone conversation with BuzzFeed News, Milot recounted a similar series of events when she was fired. She came into work one day about two weeks ago; she met with a district manager and was asked to speak to a communications person from the Starbucks headquarters.
"They quoted my videos and said, 'Why did you say this?' I told them I was joking around and that's how I communicate. I made it clear to them I was joking around. That was my sense of humor. And they were just not having it," said Milot.
She said she never "intended" for the video to become so popular. But the video naturally gained traction and has since been viewed over 329,000 times.
Milot said she was told "It’s not a good look for the company from someone with a bigger influence." She said she concurred and accepted the punishment of having her employment terminated.
"I was like 'OK, yeah, that’s not good,'" she said. "I felt like [if it were] black and white, it [would be] fair, 'cause they wouldn’t want someone working for them and wanting influence online and bad-mouthing the company. But I didn’t think— I have a dry sense of humor, so I never thought it was bad-mouthing."
She added, "It’s one of those things where I think it’s valid to have an opinion as an employee of the company."
When Milot shared the news with her followers on YouTube, she said, she was pleasantly surprised to see so many people supporting her, especially since she felt "panicked" for suddenly losing her job.
Commenters wrote that while it's a bad look to speak disparagingly about the company you work for and its product, they felt terminating her employment was "dramatic" and unjust.
"They could have [written] you up or just talked to you about it," one person said.
When reached, Jory Mendes, the senior manager of corporate communications at Starbucks, told BuzzFeed News in an official statement that Milot was terminated because of "theft, among other reasons."
"This former partner was separated after she admitted to theft, among other reasons," Mendes said. BuzzFeed News has followed up to ask Mendes and the company to further explain the circumstances around the admission of "theft" and these "other reasons," but they did not respond.
When BuzzFeed News reached back out to the YouTuber, Milot denied it.
"I don’t know what I— No, not at all," she said in response to the accusation that she stole from the store. "That’s a big difference than from what I was told."
Milot speculated that perhaps it had something to do with comments she made in an older video about making other various Starbucks drinks at home, in which she does say that she got a cup of marshmallow syrup from work.
"Shhhh, you didn't hear that," she jokes with viewers in the video titled "How to Make a Starbucks Smores Frappuccino at Home: by a Barista" in May.
Milot said, "I’m thinking back to one specific moment in one of my videos where I had syrup that was only served at Starbucks. In the video, I joked around and said 'I got this from work,' but they assumed I didn’t get it [legally]."
However, Milot told BuzzFeed News that she had obtained the cup of syrup properly — she had asked for a cup of it on the side with a complimentary drink order.
"As an employee I am able to get free drinks, and I got syrup on the side. I don’t know if that’s what they’re referring to," she said. "They only brought up my statements about how I joked about the job and stuff."
Milot said she felt very "anxious" after being fired, even if she did understand the initial reasoning — or the one she maintains was communicated to her. But she now sees it as a blessing in disguise because she's recently been hired at a local family-owned store in town.
"They’re more personable people; they expressed they don’t even care if I bring my camera in and make a video in store," she said of her new employers. "They support the creative thing. It was a breath of fresh air."
She said of being fired: "In a way I’m kinda grateful it all happened."