Earlier this week, a 20-year-old woman and her family were threatened with police action and told to vacate a drive-thru Dunkin' Donuts after she spoke to her family in their native language. Hamdia Ahmed, a student and activist whose family are originally from Somalia, visited the popular fast food chain on Monday, October 15th, only to be met with racist threats.
The incident happened in Portland, Maine, while the family were waiting to make their order via the intercom.
"All of a sudden we just hear like, 'Stop yelling. You’re yelling in my ears!'" Ahmed told Maine Public Radio. "And we were just like, 'What the hell just happened? What is going on? When were we yelling? We’re having a conversation.'"
Ahmed and her family were simply confirming their order to one another in Somali, their native language, and there was no shouting or yelling involved. When the student relayed this information to the Dunkin' employee, however, she was met with even more abuse.
"You’re gonna disrespect me ’cause I, I speak a different language than you?" Ahmed said to the cashier in a video that she later posted to Twitter. "Is that what it is?"
The Dunkin' employee then suggested that, "It has nothing to do with language," but Ahmed knew what was going on.
"Yeah, it does," she said. "I was talking to my family."
"I don’t want to hear it!" the employee retorted. "I’m done with it. You can leave, or I will call the cops!"
Of course, there was absolutely no reason to take such drastic action against someone simply having a conversation with their family, so Ahmed said she was coming into the store to speak to the manager about the issue.
Unfortunately, they also reacted badly.
Once she was inside the establishment, Ahmed was called a "b***h" by a different employee, and the store followed through on their threat to call the cops. The police showed up and, after speaking to both the student and the Dunkin' workers, gave Ahmed a year-long no trespass notice - effectively banning her from visiting the store.
The reason the cops gave for punishing Ahmed was that she yelled at employees and created a disturbance.
In response to this, Ahmed organised a protest outside the store two days later. The franchise owner got word of this, and eventually reached out to the young woman to apologise.
"Dunkin’ and our franchisees are committed to creating a positive customer service experience for all of our guests," the company said in a statement issued to Maine Public Radio. "The franchisee who owns and operates the store has confirmed he has met with the guest, sincerely apologized to her for the poor experience and is working on providing additional customer service training to his store crew."
Ahmed said she was grateful for the company’s response, but says that the issue should never have arisen in the first place.
"It should have never happened and I don’t think anyone should experience this ever again, but I also think that they’re trying to fix things and I appreciate that," she said.