Dunkin' Donuts Franchise Owner Apologizes After Somali Family Refused Service

Oct 18, 2018

Hamdia Ahmed
Credit Jason Poulin

The owner of a Dunkin' Donuts in Portland, Maine has apologized to a Somali woman and her family and says he will offer training to his staff after an incident at a drive-thru earlier this week. The woman was refused service and issued a "no trespass notice" for a year.  That notice is now being dropped.

Hamdia Ahmed says she doesn't even drink coffee.  But her mother and her brother do.  And on Monday afternoon when they pulled up to a Dunkin' drive-thru on St. John Street and waited for someone to take their order, Ahmed says she was surprised by what happened next.

"All of a sudden we just hear like - 'Stop yelling.  You're yelling in my ears!'  And we were just like, 'What the hell just happened. What is going on? When were we yelling? We're having a conversation."

Ahmed says it was a family conversation in their native Somali language.  There was no yelling involved.  And when she tried to point that out to the store employee,  Ahmed says the situation escalated.  She says the employee refused to take their order and called for a manager to come to the microphone. 

Ahmed then recorded this heated exchange on her cell phone which she also posted on social media.

Hamdia Ahmed: "You're gonna disrespect me 'cause I, I speak a different language than you?  Is that what it is?" 

Employee: "It has nothing to do with your language. You can leave." 

Hamdia Ahmed: "I was talking to my family."

Employee:  " I don't want to hear it!  I'm done with it.  You can leave, or I will call the cops!" 

Hamdia Ahmed: "Really?!"

Ahmed, who was driving the car, says she told the woman she was pulling ahead and coming into the store to speak to the manager in person.  Ahmed is a model and civil rights activist who attends the University of Southern Maine.  Inside the store, she says an employee called her a "bitch" and after more words were exchanged a manager called the police.

After they arrived and spoke to both parties, Ahmed was given a "no trespass notice" for yelling at employees and creating a disturbance.  She was told she could not return for a year. 

Streaming the event live to her Facebook page, she questioned why she was the one being cited and not the employee who refused to take her order and called her a derogatory name.

"This is America 2018 right here.  Racism and discrimination."

By Wednesday morning, after organizing a protest outside the store, Ahmed says she was called for a meeting with the owner of the franchise who apologized to her and said he would withdraw the trespass notice. He declined to comment, but Dunkin's corporate office issued a written statement.

"Dunkin’ and our franchisees are committed to creating a positive customer service experience for all of our guests," the company said. "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.”

"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," Ahmed says.

Just last month Ahmed complained that she faced religious discrimination at a Portland Starbucks after a barista laughed at her when she inquired about the alcohol content in the vanilla flavoring in her drink.  As a practicing Muslim, Ahmed abstains from alcohol.  At the time, News Center Maine reported that Starbucks apologized and pledged to do a thorough investigation, which Ahmed accepted.