Woman slams Starbucks barista over coronavirus mask rule. Then he gets $30K in tips

An irate Starbucks customer wrote on Facebook that she was refused service for not wearing a mask. Support poured in for the barista she was trying to smear.

Get the latest from TODAY

Sign up for our newsletter
SUBSCRIBE
/ Source: NBC News
By Elisha Fieldstadt

A Starbucks customer's post on Facebook venting about being refused service because she wasn't wearing a mask ended up garnering massive support and nearly $30,000 for the barista she was trying to smear.

Amber Lynn Gilles posted a picture of the Starbucks barista Monday with the caption: "Meet lenen from Starbucks who refused to serve me cause I’m not wearing a mask. Next time I will wait for cops and bring a medical exemption."

Negative comments started rolling in immediately. Some were patient, explaining to Gilles that Starbucks employees are simply following protocol, while some were less kind. Gilles fueled commenters by responding to some of them. "Masks are stupid and so are the people wearing them," she wrote in one such post.

As of Friday, Gilles' complaint had been commented on 133,000 times and shared nearly 50,000 times. Many were asking how they could send tips to the barista, whose name is Lenin Gutierrez.

So Matt Cowan, who said he doesn't know either Gilles or Gutierrez, started a GoFundMe to send virtual tips to the young barista. By Friday morning, it had raised over $30,000.

Gutierrez expressed his gratitude on both the GoFundMe page and his own personal Facebook page.

"I just wanted to say thank you for all the love and support and what everyone is doing is an honor to see all this happen, but I just wanted to remind everyone to be kind to one another, and to love each other and always remember to wear a mask," he said on a video posted on the GoFundMe.

In a Facebook video, he added that he planned to use the money to pursue his dream of teaching dance to young people, in hopes that the art would change their lives the way it changed his.

He also detailed his account of the incident with Gilles Monday.

"I was helping customers through, and this lady came up, she had no face mask. I asked her 'do you have a face mask?' And she told me 'no.' She said, 'I don’t need one.' And I was going to show her the paper that we’ve been providing saying that we require face masks but we can still help, but before we can say anything she flips me off she says, 'no, I don’t need one,' and she starts cursing up a storm."

He said Gilles called the other customers "sheep" before storming out. Then she came back to snap the picture of him, saying she was going to report him to corporate and cursing more.

Starbucks did not immediately respond to emailed requests for comment.

San Diego County requires people to wear face masks in public settings.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain" because "the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity—for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing—even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms."

But Gilles, who has three children and considers herself an anti-vaxxer, said she doesn't believe face masks are effective, NBC San Diego reported.

“It starts with coffee, but it ends with digital certificates and forced vaccinations,” she told the outlet.

Gilles added that she has been receiving threats since her post. She did not respond to a request for additional comment Friday.

Cowan, who started the viral GoFundMe, told NBC News that he launched the page so that his friends could donate to Gutierrez, whom he found on Facebook.

He said he set the original goal at $1,000 and thought that was a "reach," adding that he was "overjoyed" when the donations reached $100 for a person he has come to admire.

"Since I started the GoFundMe, Lenin and I have spoken every day," Cowan said. We "have spoken over video chat about everything going on. He’s genuinely one of the most humble people I’ve ever met and is so kind and caring."