Bad manners? Manner Coffee in hot water over staff assaulting customers

Recently Shanghai-based Chinese coffee chain Manner Coffee has made several Hot Search list appearances on Weibo, China’s Twitter equivalent. However, unless you’re a believer of P.T. Barnum’s “There’s no such thing as bad publicity”, it does look like a crisis for the trendy coffee joint and frequent luxury collaborator.

On 17 June, an altercation took place in a Manner location which was reported online. A staff member can be heard having a meltdown at a customer and yells “You can complain all you want!” while throwing coffee grounds at said customer. What preceded and followed the incident is unknown. Manner responded on 20 June saying that headquarters had just learned about the incident the night before but the staff member had already been sacked.

Later, another video went viral. It depicts another incident at a different branch on the very same day. A male barista can be seen making coffee while a customer complains that the coffee has taken too long and she has a flight to catch. The barista, who is the sole staff member present, offers to cancel the order but the customer demands his name and starts to film him. He grabs her phone and threatens to call the police if she keeps filming but later returns the phone to her. He gradually loses his restraint as the altercation gets heated and he starts hurling insults. When the customer asks him to come out of the booth if he has “balls”, he does so and physically assaults her.

The Weibo topic “A Manner male staff member in Shanghai beats up a female customer” (#上海manner一男店员殴打女顾客#) went straight to the top of the Hot Search list with 270 million views, while 2 other topics landed on the no. 2 spot. However, the discourse surrounding the incidents quickly became focused on the stress and welfare of Manner employees. Some pointed out that many smaller Manner stores only have one staff member present at any given time, making coffee and taking payment. Exploitation from the company quickly became a heated topic online. Some also point out that the high workload might be a result of Manner’s quick expansion, opening 180 branches in 90 days in late 2023. Many netizens, who do not condone violence, but can relate to the workers because they too feel on the edge of snapping at times with the high-stress work culture.


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