As a mother, I will never give up on my child. As a mother of a child who has autism, I will never give up hope.
I look into his eyes and I see all the potential that he has to offer to this beautiful world and I just know that one day the world can see what I see.

Follow my blog as I share my life and my experiences as a person who loves someone with autism.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Starbucks, Make This Right. (UPDATED)

April 2nd is World Autism Awareness Day.

It is a day recognized worldwide with the ‘Light It Up Blue’ campaign by Autism Speaks, where thousands of iconic landmarks, businesses, communities, schools, and homes unite by shining bright blue lights in honor of the millions of individuals and families across the globe that are affected by autism.

So on April 2nd, 2015, a Starbucks partner (employee) in Squamish, British Columbia, Canada, whose child was recently diagnosed with autism, wanted to show her support and celebrate World Autism Awareness Day at her workplace. She decorated the store with blue balloons and blue pompoms to help bring autism awareness to their customers and their community.


Later that day, their location had visitors from Starbucks Canada head office. After the visit, she received a phone call from the District Manager informing her that the Regional Director Operations told her to take down the decorations:

It looks tacky. It wasn’t done properly. Take it down.

Her response:

The blue was for World Autism Awareness Day’s Autism Speaks ‘Light It Up Blue’ campaign and our store wanted to show support for myself and my son who was recently diagnosed with autism, as well as show our support for our community.

District Managers response:

You’re not listening.

Her response:

No. I heard you. I’ll take it down.

How could someone, let alone someone from a company that is “all about community” and “being good neighbors” have the nerve to say that autism awareness is tacky!?

The definition of tacky is ‘showing poor taste and quality.’

Here’s a picture of the decorations she put up. Does this look like ‘showing poor taste and quality’ to you?

I am sorry that the blue balloons and blue pompoms didn’t match your décor, Starbucks, but this was about bringing awareness to autism in your community, in your neighbourhood. Isn’t that what you’re company claims to be all about?

Every store is part of a community, and we take our responsibility to be good neighbors seriously. We want to be invited in wherever we do business. We can be a force for positive action – bringing together our partners, customers, and the community to contribute every day. Now we see that our responsibility – and our potential for good – is even larger. The world is looking to Starbucks to set the new standard, yet again. We will lead.
- excerpt from Starbucks Canada’s Mission Statement

And to say that “it wasn’t done properly”? The reason we ‘Light It Up Blue’ is because it starts the discussion about autism.

The customers have been asking questions [about the blue decorations] and we have been getting great feedback!
- a Starbucks partner (employee)

Well guess what, Starbucks? I guess it was done properly and successfully because the blue decorations did get your customers talking about autism.

Are the blue balloons for autism? This is great! I’ve been teaching children with autism for 12 years.
- Starbucks customer

Why the blue balloons? World Autism Awareness Day? This is wonderful! More people need to know about this!
- Starbucks customer

As a mother who loves someone with autism and as an autism advocate, I was completely disgusted and furious when I heard this from my sister who lives in Squamish.

I wanted to meet this mom and show my support. So I contacted her and she agreed to meet and share her story. I wanted her to know that she wasn’t alone, that this was wrong, and something had to be done. This is exactly why autism awareness is needed.

I really believe that Starbucks owes an apology to all the families, in Squamish, their community, living with autism, to all of the families, in the World, their neighbourhood, living with autism, and especially to their partner (employee) and her child with autism, who spent the remainder of her day at work in silence and sadness because they took away the one day that we get to shine a bright light on autism.

Autism awareness is not “tacky.”

Starbucks, make this right.

Thanks for reading,

Edit: I’d like to add that this store often participates in local and world wide events, fundraisers, and awareness causes, and the partners (employees) have the flexibility to support and decorate the store to promote such campaigns so this wasn’t about permission.

UPDATE (April 23rd, 2015): The District Manager of this location left a comment at the bottom of this blog post denying everything:

Starbucks response to 'Starbucks, Make This Right.'

Wanting to hear his side of the story, and get some questions answered, I took him up on his offer. I sent him an email that same day and posted it as a reply in the comments below as well:

Bubbles Make Him Smile response to Starbucks, Make This Right

When I didn’t hear from him after a couple of days, I sent a follow up email from a different e-mail address incase my original e-mail went to his junk folder. I received an auto-reply response that he was out of the office until X day. So after that day, I followed up again, and got another auto-reply response that he was out of the office until X day again.

As of this update, I have not received a response from him.

UPDATE (April 23rd, 2015): The store is hosting an autism awareness event Friday, April 24th, 2015 from 2pm to 5pm in honour of Autism Awareness month. I’m not sure of all the particulars because they haven’t publicized it very well (no offense), but from my understanding there’s going to a representative from Autism Society of British Columbia to answer any questions people may have and provide information about autism to the community as well as some children’s activities and face painting.

I hope this is Starbucks making this right.

UPDATE (April 24th, 2015): Thank you, Starbucks, for hosting this event and bringing your community together in support of autism awareness!!!!!

I want you to know that it is absolutely beautiful that you were willing to TEACH your community about autism awareness, acceptance, and understanding. How much you LOVE and support your community enough to do this for them and hopefully INSPIRE many more autism awareness events throughout your community. And I personally HOPE this is something you will continue every year.


  1. Hi Tanaya,
    I am Jaime Martins the District Manager referred to in your blog. It is very unfortunate indeed that the Partner felt compelled to take down the décor. I have to say that at no time did I ask (nor did my employer) but did try to discern what we could do to have a more impactful and consistent presentation to better deliver the message of autism awareness. In fact, my employer lauded the intent and efforts of the team. It is also unfortunate that what was shared is entirely inaccurate. I did want to let you know that we are very supportive of community and have been rallying behind local efforts for many years. The store manager and team have been recognized company wide for the work they have done and the engagement they have created in the community with schools, environmental organisations, sporting/arts events etcetera - and her team of partners take great pride in being locally relevant as well as hands on with Squamish specific programs like Community Cares and supporting Hilltop house.
    I am happy to discuss in person with you any questions you might have and, of course, am duly concerned that one persons misrepresentation
    of what happened will set back the stores community efforts in future. My email is and number is 604-313-6376. I look forward to speaking with you at your convenience and answering any questions or concerns you have.

    thanks so much,
    Jaime Martins

    1. Dear Mr. Martins,

      I am the author of the blog post: "Starbucks, Make This Right." and I have read your comment and appreciate you taking the time to help make this right.

      I would like to start by saying that no one is attacking or boycotting Starbucks. I shared this story because it broke my heart. Words do hurt. I am very passionate about my cause, and have been since my son was diagnosed with autism 10 years ago. Every single day is autism awareness day to me and my family and to every family that loves someone with autism, and when this woman's efforts to show her support and shine a light on autism for not only her family, but for her community, gets burned out, it just isn't right.

      I would like to give you the opportunity to share your side of the story of the events that took place that day. I would also like some clarification, if you don't mind, in regards to some of the statements you made in your comment.

      "It is very unfortunate indeed that the partner felt compelled to take down the decor."
      Are you implying that you (nor your employer) did not say: "It looks tacky. It wasn't done properly. Take it down."?

      I understand that you have been put in a position to defend your actions or things that you did or didn't say, but all I want is the truth. The word "tacky" didn't come from thin air, and your partner (employee) would not have taken down the decorations unless she was told to. This was never about permission, as from my understanding, this store often participates in local and world wide events, fundraisers, and awareness causes, and the partners (employees) have flexibility to support and decorate the store to promote such campaigns.

      If you are saying that you did not say that it was "tacky", why do you believe the partner felt compelled to take down the decorations if she wasn't instructed to do so?

      This partner (employee) works for Starbucks and has no reason to fabricate this story and provide "entirely inaccurate" information. It doesn't benefit her at all. She's not suing anyone, nor asking anything of Starbucks. I personally believe she deserves an apology and I believe Starbucks should make this right, but again, that's just me.

      The blue decorations she put up to promote autism awareness is just as impactful as wearing the highly recognized blue puzzle piece pin on your jacket. It is also a "consistent presentation" having blue decorations throughout the store. We're not even talking overbearing, disturbing the customers, or "Today is World Autism Awareness Day" signs taking over your counter space and establishment. While they were very simple and very basic, it did create an impact and the message was made, and your customers appreciated it.

      April 2nd is World Autism Awareness Day and April is Autism Awareness month, more acknowledged in the United States than in Canada, but our provincial government also recognizes and honours it in British Columbia as well. You mentioned that you did try to discern on what the store could do to have a more impactful and consistent presentation to better deliver the message of autism awareness. What would you do? And would you do it? You do have the remaining days of this month to make this right.

      I know that Starbucks values their partners, their neighbourhood, and thier community, and that's why I was disgusted to hear this had happened. I am deeply concerned that one person's words could set back the autism communities efforts in the future.

      I look forward to hearing back from you


      Please be advised that this email will be shared on my blog post and any further conversations we have will also be made public and shared in such manner. Thank you for your time.

  2. Ive worked for Jamie and this sums him up perfectly. I guarantee this came from him as I had many calls of the exact same manor. Also considering I worked 30 minutes away theres no way anyone was recognized company wide as I heard nothing from 2011-2016.


Please feel free to leave a comment about this post.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.