When Amber Lynn Gilles expressed her indignation over a Starbucks worker's suggestion that she follow the company and county's public health mandate by wearing a face mask, she likely had no idea how profitable it would prove — for the barista she blasted.
Gilles is the latest social media participant to be dubbed a "Karen," a name now used to reference white women acting entitled in public. The San Diego resident on Monday posted a photo of Lenin Gutierrez on Facebook, saying the young barista "refused to serve me cause I'm not wearing a mask. Next time I will wait for cops and bring a medical exemption."
The self-described activist and yoga instructor did not respond to a request for comment, but made clear in multiple posts that she rejects medical data and science showing masks curb the spread of the coronavirus.
As of Monday, 5,935 Californians had died of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, according to John Hopkins University, and San Diego has required residents to wear masks in public since May 1.
The widely shared and commented-upon post promoted many expressions of support for Gutierrez, including from those who wrote they'd like to give him a tip, prompting a sympathetic stranger, Matt Cowan, to start a virtual tip jar for the worker on GoFundMe. The donation page entitled "Tips for Lenin Standing Up To A San Diego Karen" had raised more than $95,000 for Gutierrez by Monday evening.
"Everybody is rallying around somebody for doing what they're supposed to do and trying to protect everyone else. It just goes to show you there are a lot of good people out there and that outweighs the bad," Cowan told a San Diego news outlet.
Gutierrez, an aspiring dancer, posted a Facebook video expressing gratitude for the donations, and relaying his surprise that an incident that lasted just a few minutes could result in something "so big."
He described being assigned the front register and asking Gilles if she had a face mask, leading her to curse and storm out, only to return moments later to snap a photo of Gutierrez, ask his name and threaten to phone Starbucks corporate headquarters before leaving again.
"We respectfully request customers follow social distancing and safety protocols recommended by public health officials, including wearing a facial covering when visiting our stores," a Starbucks spokesperson stated in an email.