June 3, 2019 / 7:49 PM / 15 days ago

Racism allegations lead U.S. smoothie chain to require staff training

(Note: Paragraph 8 contains a racial slur that may be offensive to readers.)

By Peter Szekely

(Reuters) - Smoothie King, a U.S. chain of shops specializing in blended fruit and vegetable drinks, said on Monday that it was temporarily shutting two of its North Carolina stores after workers used racial slurs on receipts to describe customers.

The Dallas-based franchise company said two employees who wrote offensive descriptions on the receipts of an African-American and an Asian customer had lost their jobs. The dismissed employees worked at separate stores in Charlotte.

“We have zero tolerance for any action where a guest is disrespected and we have taken immediate and decisive action,” Smoothie King Franchises Inc said in an emailed statement.

The company said it was closing the two stores where the incidents occurred “until the franchisees and their respective teams complete further training on our standards and to ensure that nothing like this occurs again.”

The events are the latest example of a major U.S. retailer in recent months requiring employees to undergo training in response to racist incidents at its stores.

Smoothie King said it was still investigating the incidents, and that franchisees and workers at all of its more than 1,000 stores, which are mostly in the U.S. South and Southeast, will get more training about “inclusivity policies and best practices.”

The incidents came to light on Sunday, when a customer responded to a Smoothie promotion on Twitter that said “Cheers to $5 Friday,” with a picture of a store receipt and a comment that said, “Do I have to be called the n-word for the discount?”

The pictured receipt for a “Hulk Strawberry” drink showed that the order was for “nigger - To Go.”

Another Twitter user described the second incident where an Asian man was labeled as “Jackie Chan,” the Hong Kong-born actor and martial arts expert.

LVMH’s Sephora beauty chain said on Sunday that it will close all its U.S. stores, distribution centers and corporate offices for one hour on Wednesday to conduct diversity training for employees, following a racial incident involving Grammy-nominated singer SZA, who is black.

A year ago, Starbucks closed 8,000 stores across the United States for anti-bias training after a Philadelphia cafe manager’s call to police resulted in the arrests of two black men who were waiting for a friend.

Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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