Starbucks Employee Scalded After Patron Throws Free Cup Of Hot Water

SAN DIEGO (CBS) — A Southland man who scalded a Starbucks employee after throwing the free cup of hot water she had given him is behind bars on Friday.

Dennis Christopher Lee, 58, entered the Starbucks in downtown San Diego shortly after 5:30 a.m. on Thursday and asked the victim for a cup of hot water, which the business provides free of charge, according to San Diego police.

After the clerk — a woman in her mid-20s — complied with Lee’s request, he began taking items from a nearby condiment table, SDPD Officer Frank Cali said.

Lee became upset after the clerk approached him and asked him not to use the condiments, telling him they were for paying customers only.

The suspect then allegedly flung the hot water at the woman, who was taken to a hospital for treatment of possible second-degree burns to her neck and chest.

Lee was arrested on suspicion of battery and booked into county jail.

He was being held on $8,000 bail. An arraignment hearing is set for Monday.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

  • DAX

    If I was a Relative of this woman I would be waiting for this dirtbag when he gets out of jail.

    • SockRayBlue

      Perhaps sooner after the bail hearing……………..No problem if he can’t make it to his own court appearance…right?

      • Jeezus

        $8000 dollars are you kidding me!!!! i didn’t even read the rest of this story after i read that bail amount……that sounds ridiculous. This perp shouldn’t be let off so easy. I guess it’s just cheaper and more effective to put him pack out there than house him for so many days, since it’ll cost more to do so likely. I may have read he’s a bumb with no income which could make sense. Put him back out there along with the street justice anyways.

        Some will say, find a way to give a man a free cup of hot water and condiments if he’s homeless. Others will agree, but say, there are ways, and this isn’t one of them. He overstepped his place. he was given a freebie from a business, and then in turn got greedy and evil. People always want more than what’s needed and then get angry when they’re not babied. I’m sure there’s more a reason why this person’s on the street that has to do with their own self more than their surroundings or upbringing. jealousy doesn’t allow you to advance past or through what you’re jealous of in the first place.

    • stwebb

      Hey John, I hate these racial titles…but as an “African American”, I think YOU are an idiot!

  • Everyday Guy

    I would say half of Starbucks patrons come in angry, impatient, and in the mood to belittle the baristas.

    • robert

      Everyday Guy… you are right. There are so few people (I believe) that really care to know anything about the people that are serving them. I was in Starbucks for 5 years… and it was the belittling that drove me out of such a great job and such a fun environment. Thank you for saying what you did. The majority, of starbucks employees are extremely well educated. They are musicians, theologians, and hardworking parents. Most of the customers I have dealt with… come in bitter, angry and running late. We do our best ALWAYS to get them in, and out as quickly as possible…

      • Ri-Coke-Can-Read

        @Rico: Theologians can be atheists, and vice versa. I, myself, am an atheist and a theologian. It just means that you’ve studied other faiths/religions and the impact they’ve had on culture and history. In fact, most of the atheists I know are theologians, now that I think about it.

      • Rico

        Theologians? How do you know THIS? Do any atheists or agnostics ever make their angry way into Starbucks?

      • Josue

        Seems an odd thing for you to get your shorts in a knot over, BTW, being a theologian is not necessicarily contingent upon faith. Get over your own hangups sir (or madam).

      • stwebb

        @ Rico

        Can’t you read? EG said he worked there for 5 years! Perhaps you know little or nothing of your coworkers, but EG did! And I’m sure tons of hateful people make their way into Starbucks daily (you’re probably not the only one)!!!

      • Dusty King

        Right on robert!!! I’ve been in the restaurant business over 25 yrs. and some people are just mean, especially here. Everyone is trying to make it in another field and if they have “made it”, they’re miserable. It’s strange. You guys have the hard job, dealing with people, that’s why I never did.

        Hang tough.

  • ekg

    Idiot. I hope he has to pay all her medical bills and pain and suffering and gets jail time.

    • Paul

      Obviously this guy doesn’t have any money to do either or he wouldn’t be asking for ‘free hot water with sugar’

      • Marla

        Wrong, he is probably just cheap, Im a waitress and some of our customers…order cold water with ice, lemon wedge (sugar is on the table) = lemonaid, smaller bill, and next to nothing on the tip.

      • Jeff

        Excellent reasoning to not hold him accountable.

    • JM in San Diego CA

      He has no money. What do you not understand about his pouring Starbucks’ condiments into the hot water. The guy is a bum. He is not “homeless.”
      He isn’t “a distressed citizen.” He isn’t “disadvantaged.”
      He is a bum. Get it right, get it good and get it now. Thank you.

    • Tom Halleck

      U think this PoS has any $ when he’d begging free hot water??
      Just let him get out of jail then immerse him TOTALLY i n scalding water, see how he likes it.

      • icecream

        Boil him in oil !

    • stwebb

      I hope while incarcerated Big Bubba gives him a nice big tip (and more)!!!

  • Yes Sir

    Now, he’s in hot water.

    • ekg


  • Alex

    Starbucks and McDonalds should have a NO BUM policy

    • stwebb

      Only problem there is they can’t discriminate, you know these bums often go to McDonalds and buy hamburgers! But even Starbucks is barely in my budget these days! I think they should rethink their free hot water policy, because obviously some bums (not all) are lunatics!

  • LA's the place

    Mark Twain once said:

    If you pick up a starving dog and feed him he will not bite you; THAT is the principal difference between a dog and a man

    • Netninja

      nicely said

    • OZZY

      pick up a starving dog ? Why would anyone pick up a starving dog Literally ?
      Don’t bite the hand that feeds you

      • Marla

        LA’s Place, Obtuse is too hard for old Ozz to understand, He understands, Stupid, Idiot, Moron, Deuchebag..Im sure Ozz has heard them all.

        @ Ozzy, ease up on the meth and maybe the headbanging buddy!

      • bunky

        Ozzy you must be obtuse.

      • Karen

        Ozzy – She DID NOT FEED him. She gave him hot water and asked him to leave the condiments alone. While he had no right to throw hot water at her, if he was left alone, this would not have happened. I don’t know the answer to this. I hope that Starbucks employees ask security to handle this type of situation.

  • Coffe drinker

    MY God!!!! Unbelievable….First of all, why is the employeed even care if a customer take a few condiments ? It’s not her business,she doesn’t pay for it
    Starbucks is full of $$$$$, next time don’t bother the customer. Still don’t Condone his actions with a hot cup of water

    Old saying, “the customer is always right”

    • Wondering

      MK – yeah, blame the employee doing her job. That’s what’s wrong with society – no one being held accountable for their actions and others thinking they are entitled to whatever they want. This man was stealing, taking what didn’t belong to him without permission. Had he asked like he did for the water that would have been the end of it. Where are our morals? He was wrong on all accounts – period.

      • Another coffee drinker

        @ Coffee Drinker,

        As the article stated, it is the policy of the store to provide the free hot water. It was not the employee’s offhand decision to either give the man the hot water, nor to tell him that condiments are for paying customers. She would have been remiss for not doing her job had she neglected to remind him of the policy. It doesn’t matter if the man usually buys gallons of coffee every other day, on that occasion, he was pilfering free condiments, probably trying to concoct his own hot drink out of the mumerous free flavorings and sweeteners available FOR PAYING CUSTOMERS at Starbucks.

    • RJ

      Your a idiot. I would never hire you to work for me. But I’m pretty sure you don’t have a job with that attitude. I mean really why does she care. Because it is her job to care and make the company profitable. Also he was not a paying customer. He got what they offer for free everything else was for paying customers. To which he was not. So really he was stealing. Then he commited battery a jailable offence. I hope he gets some time in lock up to think about it. Also I’m sure if it was your kid he did this too you would be singing a differant tune.

      • MK

        and RJ you’re and idiot for not getting my point. Someones pain and suffering is not worth a few sugar packets. Cmon now are you kidding me? What if this guy had a knife? You should not approach crazy bums. It’s not like he was stealing starbucks mugs or other things they sell there.

      • Roger

        People understand your point, don’t project your lack of intelligence onto others.

        The problem is the attacker, not the victim.

      • Corkster

        Starbucks needs to stop giving away cups of hot water, or anything else for that matter, since that is what precipitated this event. The freak who flung the hot water at the barista was neither a patron nor a customer, since he had purchased nothing. He was a freeloader who assaulted an employee. It’s very simple.

      • David

        MK, if you think that ” condiments ” at Starbucks means only a few sugar packets, you’ve clearly never been there. There are multiple flavored syrups, coco powder, multiple flavored creamers, etc. In other words, what this guy did is what a lot of deadbeats to when they go to Starbucks, they go in and get their free cup of hot water and then go over and make a hot chocolate or other hot flavored beverage. That’s called stealing, and if you think an employee doing their job and following company policy then you are what’s wrong with society today.

      • loser

        I’d like to direct some of these bums to your house/hovel. You seem to have a real philanthropic bent. I’ll let them know you won’t mind.

      • Michael

        Let’s go the other way MK…the bums who got set on fire and beaten by some teenagers a while back had it coming for laying on a sidewalk?

      • MK

        She works at STARBUCKS making coffee. Not for the President of the United States. Maybe she shouldn’t take her job so seriously for a few condiments. Was that really worth her suffering for 2nd degree burns? I don’t think so and I’m sure the owner would think the same.

      • Jason

        How much do you make an hour? You clearly aren’t in management or own a business!

      • Tom Halleck

        I guess she didn’t know that was her choice… scalding wate or telling that bum to leave the stuff alone.
        Maybe if she HAD known she could have gotten a Glock and poined it at this creep and gave him a choice; throw water and take a bullet or get the bleep out.

      • Michael

        So whatever anyone does to her because they don’t like what she is doing in the course of her work, it’s her fault? MK you are an ignorant ass and a coward.

    • SockRayBlue

      Justifying the actions of the free loader?

    • Incitatus

      Coffe drinker, STFU! Idiot, the man is not a customer. He is a begging bum.

      She told the hobo the condiments are for their “paying customer” which probably she was instructed by her management to do so.

      What a communist imbecile.

    • Anita

      You have the same attitude this looney customer had. Thats the problem. This entitlement attitude.

    • Jperiod Arwood

      I agree. Just give him the hot water and let him make a nasty coco.

      I bet she learned to shut the f(#$k up hahaha

    • no free lunch

      This fellow was clearly not a customer so the old saying doesn’t apply. And it is obviously ridiculous to think that any business has to give away free food. You start that and every other guy (like this one) shows up wanting the same free deal, and then you’re serving them not your actual customers. But I totally get that you (“Coffee drinker”) think that a business “full of $$$$$” can be tapped by anybody for free anything. After all, you’re a Democrat! That’s what you guys all think.

    • Stan Kinder

      Wow, you’re exactly the sort of loser they’re trying to keep out of the store. She is a representative of the business and has every right and obligation to enforce store policy.

    • Alex in NJ

      Dude are you serious! What is wrong with you. Poor girl had scalding water thrown in her face and will possibly be scarred for life. You have the nerve to call her a snotty Starbucks employee? Seriously man you are truly a d!&*k. IDK if you have some problem with Starbucks as a company or something but how you do not realize the guy who threw the water in this scenario is the dirtbag then you need to get your head checked.

    • JM in San Diego CA

      I am delighted to see “Coffee Drinker,” whether spelled correctly or not, getting his own personal scalding here in this Comments section.

      There are too many bums and obviously far too many people enabling, encouraging and/or tolerating them. If Starbucks (whom I visit occasionally but not regularly) has a touchy-feely policy about giving out hot water, it ought to only include people who can demonstrate ownership of a teabag or similar item. That’s not too much to ask.

    • Ian Durner

      @ coffee drinker – if i ever see you i am going to punch you in the face

      • puro pedo

        @coffee drinker

        Hey come to my house and cut some flowers and I’ll shove my c0ck in your a$$!!!!

      • Keep Honkin I'm Reloading


    • leroy brown

      what part of “FREE” did you not understand? if you are getting a free cup of water you are a moch, not a customer.

    • Customer Service

      Actually, the customer is usually never right. They like to pretend they’re right, but attacking an employee for doing his or her job is NEVER going to be right. Abusing a person verbally or physically when they can’t defend themselves with out losing their source of income is also never going to be right. You’re a moron for even thinking such a stupid thing, and please learn how to spell the word “coffee” before trying to act intelligent.

      • Coffee Drinker

        Customer Service :

        Obviously, you know nothing about customer service…always let the customer be right, by making the customer happy, you get a returned customer back in your establishment not to mention, he’ll tell others and generate profits. Respect a paying customer cause they make up for your check every two weeks. I wouldn’t be surprised if the employee get’s reprimanded or fired ?

        Do you really believe Starbucks wants this kind of publicity or drama? NO!!! They want happy paying customers returning. Too much competition out there over a few sugar condiments (Coffee Bean, McDonalds, Carl’s Jr, and Jack n Box) remember sell coffee too. Word to the wise….

      • Coffee drinker

        talk about spelling Mr Customer Service, with out is one word –> without
        I guess this explains why you’re in customer service

        Obviously it was a typo in coffe instead coffee, nice try idiot ….

      • Conan The Republican

        Its “instead OF” Einstein.

    • David

      It is YOU who is unbelievable. Clearly the company policy is NO CONDIMENTS FOR NON-PAYING CUSTOMERS. That makes it absolutely her business to tell the guy she had just given free hot water to that’s where the charity ends. Oh, and that ” old saying ” has done nothing but create a bunch of self entitled idiots like the guy who scalded this poor girl…and YOU as well.

    • Edfromca

      Perhaps she is doing her job. Your answer reminds me of the usps tv commercial”what do I care ,it’s not my money”. Let me guess, you have no clue about what happens to the employees of bankrupt companies

    • mojavewolf

      Where do you live? I’d like to stock up on groceries. You can afford it, too. Compared with someone, you’re full of $$$$$

    • Jason

      I take it you’re not in management – otherwise your attitude and your spelling would be better. Just because a company earns profits does not entitle you to them.

      It is her business if she’s an employee. They pay her to run the business. Get a job and stop acting like such a leech!!!

    • CoffeeDrinkerIsAMoron

      coffe driner, you sir are an idiot. People like you have driven this country straight into the ground. Step back and look at the situation…who gives a $#!+ how much money Starbucks makes? They employ thousands of Americans, and they do it by having a good business model, part of which includes saving condiments and extras for people who actually spend some money in their business.

      Seriously…you need to evaluate your point of view, man. People like you are twisted in the head!

    • Tired

      Because these low life animals make “hot chocolate” and take every last once of those condiments, daily. Try the Starbucks in Eureka Ca. almost never has coco powder.

    • Give me a break

      You’re a jerk. She has a job to do. She already provided free water and a cup, both of which cost money. The rest of the stuff isn’t free nor was this man a customer. He was a leech. People like him result in businesses not even offering free water to people – which they don’t have to do for a non-paying person.

      • Everyday Guy

        For you jerkies that don’t get it; it is the baristas business to stop a thief. If more people take something for nothing, the price for everyone goes up. I’m not surprised the ignorant leftists on this board don’t get it. They don’t know how a capitalist system works as it isn’t taught in schools.

        Imagine this was your coffee house. Are you going to permit people to walk off with free stuff? I don’t think so.

      • Coffee Drinker

        She already provided Free water and a cup ??? Since when did it become her Store or she became the owner? By the way, it’s not her money!!! Starbucks makes tons of $$$$ to provide a few packets of sugar and HOW does she or YOU know he is not a frequent Starbucks customer on her off days and purchases coffee, pastries, etc…

        What the Hell is a 20 yr snotty part time employee possibly sticking her nose and telling an older patron what to do ? She should be tending to customers needs, by either making or pouring coffee and getting frustrated waiting customers out the door faster

      • Robert

        If you are that “frustrated waiting customer” that you are making a reference about… I wouldn’t want to help you either. You have some nerve.

      • Conan The Republican

        Do the world a favor, and SHOOT yourself today, okay? Thank you.

      • Paul

        Here in Arizona it’s illegal for a business not to give water free of charge to someone who asks. It doesn’t have to be Dasani or something, but one small cup is required by law.

      • noneoff

        If I’m not mistaken, the State of California had a law on the books that if some one asked for some water, you had to give it to them. This was back in the gold rush days, but I believe that it was never removed officially from the books. Whether it still applies today, and if it applies to hot water I do not know.

      • MK

        I think she should of minded her own business and that guy would have been gone with a few sugar packets and none of this would have happened. With everything going on today who knows what kind of crazy people are out there.

    • Mary L.

      No, the customer is NOT always right. Sometimes the customer is wrong, rude and needs to be shown the door. As a business, you have the RIGHT to REFUSE service to people…have seen this used a few times in my life…only when realy necessary. Also, if someone comes in where I work and start stealing things, I’ll stop them. What’s the diff if it’s Starbucks or Macy’s, etc. Stealing is stealing. So, if you have a lot of money it’s ok to steal from you? Where do you work? Oh, you’re probably on welfare and foodstamps.

      • April

        Excuse me…..I am on food stamps (hopefully not for much longer — only because at this point I am desperate), and I think what this guy did was completely wrong. Even when I was homeless, I would NEVER have even gone in and asked for hot water. If he wants free coffee or condiments, he can go to the soup kitchen!!!

    • silly2

      I agree, let the man have some sugar & cream or ketchup or whatever. Starbucks is an overpriced coffee shop that I am boycotting because of their actions on 9/11. I’m sure they can afford a packet of splenda! So why is the clerk putting herself in the position of condiment police?

      • April

        If he wants free coffee or condiments, he needs to go to the soup kitchen and stay out of Starbucks!!! The soup kitchen probably has better coffee, anyhow

  • Harry G

    I have a winter home in Downtown Diego. Last January during my vacation down there I was walking back to my townhouse from that Starbucks around six in the evening when I was accosted by a bum asking for money. He must of saw me come out of Starbucks. I had spent most of my money there so I gave him what I had left which was about a dollar in loose change. instead of thanking me he cursed me saying I was cheap and walked away. I wonder if it was the same bum or a different bum since I see many in Downtown Diego. It’s so dangerous down there now that I don’t go out after dark anymore.

    • Thad Gurkin

      Well, it sounds like you are a bit cheap

      • whateva

        Thad, I’m sure you would have given him a crisp $20, right?

      • Mary L.

        Hey, he said he only had a little loose change left. I think he was being nice…the bum obviously didn’t appreciate it. I stopped helping these people years ago after I helped…helped…helped and STILL saw the same people, day after day, not wanting any REAL help; they want YOUR $ so they can use theirs on alcohol, drugs, motel rooms to do their drugs in, etc. I KNOW THIS IS TRUE.

    • Michael

      People giving bums money causes the problem of unruly beggars.

  • James

    I used to go to the Starbucks on Hollywood and Western, and I swear, those employees have to be one part barista and two parts social worker. They have to deal with the homeless and mentally ill folks who come up from the Red Line stop across the street, and they have to deal with more crazies from the halfway house (just up Western). They ought to be earning $20 an hour to deal with the customers they get at that location. Sit there for an hour or two any afternoon and I’m pretty sure you’ll agree with me.

    • Stan Kinder

      I really wish we’d go back to the times when there was no tolerance for bums. There are lots of tourist areas that are going to hell because nobody has the balls put an end to this nonsense.

      • Robert Williams

        Don’t feed the animals!

  • Jazz

    To those who say that the clerk should have minded her own. Guess What? It was her business. The cup cost money and so does all of the condiments on the counter. If the store doesn’t make a profit she loses her job.

    You are the same people who complain if the condiment display is not stocked. Every wonder why it isn’t stocked???

    • Coffed Drinker

      Jazz : Every wonder why it isn’t stocked??? cuz they hire these lazy 20 yrs
      kids with attitude ,talk to their friends on cell phones, frustrating customers by not getting the order right, instead tending to the condiment display and filling it up as thier suppose to do…It’s the employee JOB !!!! Do you job and shut your pie hole…

      • Jason

        She was doing her job – she was trying to tell a non-paying customer that they aren’t entitled to use the condiments. I don’t go steal packets of sugar at Starbucks because I’m too lazy to go to the store, and this idiot should have just left when asked not to take condiments with his unpaid water.

      • Paul

        I know a lot of good places where people just come in and steal all the sugars, straws, etc etc.

      • Tired

        Dude you need to cut back, the coffee, or ?? is effecting you.

    • Karen

      Jazz – I’m a regular NICE customer of Starbucks who takes my drip coffee black – so I say that the bum can have the condiments allocated to me.

      • barista_msn

        You’re an enabler. Thanks for exacerbating the problem.

  • Zapata

    F*CKEN CRAZY GRINGOS. Always doing something Stupid!!

    • Paul

      I dunno.. seems like the burning people being hanged from bridges in Mexico tops this one pretty well.

  • geeM

    It’s hard to defend a crazy freeloader, and some of the comments above.

    • Coffee drinker

      GeeM ??? How do you know he’s not a frequent starbucks customer ?? Don’t you come into an establishment and use their restroom without purchasing anything ?

      • Roger

        Why are you defending someone that acted completely and utterly irrationally?

        “How do you know….” Well how do YOU know. You seem keen to play the “what if” game rather than addressing this man’s horrible behavior.

      • stwebb

        Ladies! Settle down! You’re both right! And I do occasionally make a pit stop or two on long road trips!

  • leroy brown

    whats with all the stupid comments about a “customer”? if you go in to any place of business to get something for free or ask for something free. or if you are only there for something free…. you are not a custokmer! get it?

  • javaman101

    “Downtown Diego”? Yoy have a winter home? Are you for real? Shut the front door, moron!

  • Putz

    If I met MK I would tell the puts to give me all the money they have. He/she is so in fear of offending anyone, the putz would hand it over and then cry.

  • Aboli

    Try this. Buy something or get out of the store you BUM. Its Private Property.
    Different in New York I guess.

  • Hank Warren

    Out-of-control crime, yet another violation of our rights. Add it to the list of gov’t violations of our rights:
    They violate the 1st Amendment by placing protesters in cages, banning books like “America Deceived II” and censoring the internet.
    They violate the 2nd Amendment by confiscating guns.
    They violate the 4th and 5th Amendment by molesting airline passengers.
    They violate the entire Constitution by starting undeclared wars for foreign countries.
    Impeach Obama, vote for Ron Paul.
    (Last link of Banned Book):

    • Robert Williams

      Hell, vote anyone besides obama!

      • Mark

        That’s exactly my sentiment “Anyone but obam 2012”

  • Bob

    To all the bung holes saying the “Customer is always right”…..don’t you have to actually PURCHASE something to be a CUSTOMER? He was not paying for anything, so he was not a customer. I do not see how anyone in their right mind can defend his actions or belittle the employee for doing her job. To call her a “snot nose” when you do not even know her speaks about your level of intelligence.

  • IG Farben

    Where’s the picture of this guy?

  • MrFair

    I think some people are missing the point here. What he did could have disfigured this woman for life. He’s a thug, plain and simple. He had no right to do what he did and deserves some jail time.

    • ExSophus

      Could have also BLINDED her permanently.

  • J

    What if it was a mom and pop coffee shop and their kid serving hot water? Then the bum is wrong? But since it was a Starbucks, he was in the right? Morons.

  • The Peoples Paradise

    As an outsider who has visited LA, Diego, and SFO several times, I am always amazed at the state of CA. What do you Californians expect will happen when you do nothing but raise taxes, refuse to prosecute criminals, and refuse to control your southern border. If that’s how you want to live, don’ be surprised that you’re all broke, and your streets are deadly war zones. The last time I was in LA I couldn’t believe it, might as well be Mexico city. I actually prefer Mexico city, its 100 times cheaper and the people are much nicer! You made your bed, now lie in it. And whatever you do, don’t expect the rest of us Americans to keep bailing you out as your businesses leave and your municipalities go bankrupt. I think CA should secede from the union. you could be free to allow La Rasa to incorporate you back into Mexico! A peoples paradise! Free lunch for all! oh wait…they may not work if we don’t give you more money:)

    • Karen

      Wow. I wish you would write to our Mayor, City Council and County Executives and tell them this. I’ll let you know that many hard working taxpayers in this city agree with you. I wish I could leave but I’ve worked in the entertainment business too long and don’t feel like starting over in another industry.

  • JM in San Diego CA

    If that bum doesn’t get beaten within an inch of his life for this, then there’s no God.

  • Hervie

    Don’t feed the animals. They bite.

  • Ben

    Good for him. About time today’s “men” grew a pair.

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