Melissa Wathan’s experience with fellow staff members in The Hub Coffee Roasters was filled with racism and bullying.
She only started her new job as a coffee barista just last October in 2020. However, things haven’t been going smoothly for Melissa. The ex-barista had to halt her current job as it became way too much for her to handle.
The Malaysian-Indian home-brewer made her accusation known to the public after posting a lengthy statement on Instagram on 3rd March, detailing the traumatising experience that forced her to stop working at the Hub’s Damansara Heights outlet.
Melissa wrote how “it’s been a week” and that her trauma still lingers in her mind until now. She “never understood how verbal abuse and racism” can affect people until it happened to her. The ex-barista mentioned how she is often the one who understands and has to put up with how other people treat her. But she feels unheard as she is a human being with emotions as well. The home-brewer expressed, “I’m sorry that the colour of my skin or my previous work experiences were not good enough to qualify to work for the industry”.
The ex-barista also wrote, “I would never want anyone else to feel like they never belonged in this coffee industry. It shouldn’t be like this. Is it really like this? because I thought it was supposed to be better”.
Melissa started working at The Hub Coffee Roaster in October 2020 after meeting up with owner Nicholas Tay. She felt honoured when talking to Nicholas as she was provided with service and comfort during the early stages of working.
Nicholas hired Melissa as a barista since he was short on staff. He reassured Melissa that everything will be okay if she demonstrates a positive attitude during work. She agreed and started training at the outlet and mentioned how the baristas there were friendly and helpful. Melissa stated she had a great time working with them.
In early February 2021, Melissa was requested to assist at the outlet at Damansara Heights. Despite being anxious, she expressed, “I was nervous yet excited because it was a dream to work there”. But it didn’t go according to how she expected it to be.
Melissa already felt disliked at her workplace during her first day of work. Joey, a barista working at the outlet told Melissa that she wasn’t needed there. The former also informed Nicholas about this.
Furthermore, Joey also told Melissa that they could manage the entire outlet without her assistance. She gave no attention to these comments and continued working. Melissa stated that she only worked twice a week at the Damansara outlet, but the situation got worse. The ex-barista stated, “As weeks passed, I became more and more of a victim of verbal abuse”. She became completely devastated when she was asked to work 4 days a week at the outlet.
Melissa told the owners if there was a better option since the baristas didn’t want her there. In response, they said that they will look into this matter. Melissa then continued working while hoping the girls were confronted about their rude behaviour. She also hopes that things will be better from there onwards. But that’s not the case at all.
Melissa mentioned how Joey berated her by calling her “brainless, worthless, and f**king lazy all in the name of training”. Apparently, Joey and her colleagues are known to be very direct and sarcastic towards trainees. She even told Melissa that she lacks passion for coffee.
Joey even told her that she isn’t qualified to work in a specialty industry and that Melissa belongs in a restaurant chain instead. Moreover, the barista also stated that Melissa’s presence was useless. The latter expressed, “I felt so humiliated and degraded”.
Melissa reached her breaking point when a regular customer asked if the opposite outlet were owned by Indians. Joey answered, “mana adalah, Indians useless”. The rude barista then turned to Melissa and said she didn’t mean her. The latter stated how she felt so offended and degraded. In addition, Melissa would be continuously yelled at throughout the whole day. She then became demotivated, silent, and unable to say a single word.
Melissa then came to the conclusion that her time at The Hub Coffee Roasters has to end. She then texted the wife of the owner telling her she wanted to quit. During the phone conversation, Melissa felt like she wasn’t important enough as the owners kept justifying Joey and her friend’s behaviour towards her. Both those girls were needed there as they are able to keep the outlet in check. The owners requested Melissa to take the next day off and that they will talk to her when she continues working in the OUG outlet.
The day after that, Melissa got a text stating that they’ve accepted her resignation. They said it was a better choice since she wasn’t happy being there. Nicholas’s wife stated they were “better off as coffee friends” rather than being colleagues instead.
Melissa expressed, “I’m never the kind of person that shares about problems I face but I never in my life felt so humiliated and bullied for wanting to learn. They failed to provide me the reassurance and comfort I needed as an employee. I’m still so affected by the bullying and racism”.
She looked up to The Hub Coffee Roasters but ended up being disappointed by the company. Melissa also stated that the baristas who harassed her are still working in the outlet while she had to resign. She mentioned, “I left this ‘specialty coffee industry’ because I felt like an outsider. I felt like I never belonged to begin with”.
Following the accusations, The Hub Coffee Roasters’ released a statement on the company’s Instagram page regarding Melissa’s experience working at the Damansara outlet.
At first, the company said that they agreed that the staff was rude and disrespectful. Moreover, they thanked Melissa for her time with the company. However, they denied the allegations of the staff being racist since their company cares only about talent. Unfortunately, nothing will be done about the rude staff. The Instagram post has since been deleted.
Nicholas then posted his “unequivocal, unconditional, and unreserved apology” to Melissa on The Hub Coffee Roasters’ Instagram page. Fortunately, he has fired Joey who was racially insulting the ex-barista. At first, Nicholas was hesitant to deal with the incident before deciding to fire her.
He stated, “It took me 2 full days of thinking, to be able to put myself fully in her shoes. I was brought up in a very different environment than Melissa’s, and as such, I realised that my understanding of her feelings might have been different. In the past 2 days, I took it upon myself to talk to my friends of other races, in order to fully understand their predicaments, to better empathise . This is a very humbling process, and I must say, I have learned more about the pain and sufferings endured by different people, than the kind of suffering I have undergone myself”.
Nicholas mentioned how he’s against racism, including those from his own community. He insisted that a non-discriminatory policy should be implemented upon expanding his business. Nicholas knew he wanted Melissa to work at his company because of how passionate she is about coffee. He made an awful mistake of not providing help for Melissa when she started working. Additionally, he admits his mistake and will owe up to it someday.
Nicholas also stated that he shoved away all his work and responsibility in order to understand more about this incident. He finally realised that some things have to be dealt with, such as Joey’s rude and discriminatory behaviour. Nicholas then fired Joey and hoped that she also changes her attitude. The fired barista mentioned that she will try to change her ways as well.
Nicholas begged for Melissa’s forgiveness and to give them another chance. They want to prove to her that they can change. He ensures that this apology is truthful and sincere. For now, Nicholas hopes he can meet up with her to talk about this and make amends with Melissa.
Malaysians need to stop looking down on people or judging them based on their skin colour and background. I hope this whole incident is a lesson for people to be more respectful towards those who are different from them. Please say no to racism and bullying!