A Starbucks barista has been suspended after mocking a customer with a stammer by writing 'RRR...ichard' on his cup.
Richard Procter said he was left humiliated by the incident, after he struggled to tell the employee his name due to his speech impediment while buying a coffee in Ashford. The businessman complained to Starbucks, which has a policy of writing customers' names on cups so they get the correct orders, via the company's Facebook page.
"The treatment I received from one of [Starbucks's] staff this morning was extremely offensive and humiliating," he wrote. "Would this be acceptable to a person with more obvious disabilities? I highly doubt it.
"Yes I have a speech impediment, and have been subjected to many jokes over the years, of which most I can handle, however there are many people that struggle to cope in public and this could be extremely upsetting for them. This is not unique but for some reason some of society think it's acceptable behaviour.
"The only difference in this instance is that I was handed the proof instead of having to listen to the comment."
Mr Procter, 42, who runs an IT company in Kent, bought the coffee at a Starbucks branch in Ashford International railway station on January 13.
Last night disability charities condemned the barista's behaviour and urged Mr Procter to take legal action against the firm.
Norbert Lieckfeldt, chief executive of the British Stammering Association, said the speech impediment was a physical and neurological disability, covered by equality laws. "This is just another example of the ridicule and thoughtlessness that people who stammer face every day and which makes living your life with a stammer so hard," he added. "One is left wondering what kind of service others, for example people with cerebral palsy, can expect from Starbucks?
"BSA is working hard to educate service providers, employers and others to ensure this kind of discrimination becomes a thing of the past."
Sue Bott, of Disability Rights UK, added: "I'm shocked. This treatment is clearly in breach of the Equality Act 2010 as it is direct discrimination. If the individual concerned wishes to pursue a legal case we would be happy to put them in contact with a suitable lawyer." A spokesman for Starbucks said the firm had been in touch with Mr Procter to apologise.
"We were disappointed to hear of this customer's experience," he said. "The actions of the partner involved were unacceptable and they have been suspended pending further disciplinary action. We aim to provide a warm and welcoming environment for all of our customers, and plan to provide additional awareness training for our store partners in future."
Mr Procter, from Rye, East Sussex, said he developed his stammer aged five and has learned to live with it.
"You get jokes about it through childhood, adolescence and at work and you become thick skinned to it," he added. "It's one thing to have people say things to you but then doing it and handing it back in my face on a cup is something else."
He said he didn't want to sue Starbucks, but hoped that by speaking out he could educate others.