Angry Orchard Responds to Allegations of Racial Profiling, Ruining Guests' Proposal

The cider company says it's "extremely embarrassed" for interrupting a wedding proposal to accuse a Black woman of stealing from the gift shop.
July 25, 2019, 9:04pm
angry orchard apples cider booth

The Boston Beer Company—which brews and sells Samuel Adams beer, Twisted Tea, and Angry Orchard hard cider—is currently looking for a Cidery Ambassador to run the day-to-day operations at its Angry Orchard Innovation Cider House in Walden, New York. "We brew the best beer," its online job application says. "We hire the best people."

That first sentence is debatable, but not as debatable as the second one. If the company really did hire "the best people," it wouldn't have had to replace its security firm; it wouldn't have just fired one of its managers; and it wouldn't have allegedly ruined a New York couple's marriage proposal.

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Last weekend, Cathie-Marie Hamlet, her boyfriend, and six of their friends drove from Manhattan to Walden to spend the afternoon at Angry Orchard. When they got into the car, she had no idea that he had a ring in his pocket and had planned to propose to her later that day. She also had no idea that an Angry Orchard security guard was about to ruin that occasion.

In a Facebook post, Hamlet said that things went wrong almost immediately after the group arrived at the orchard. "My boyfriend walked me out to an empty table on the lawn, and before we could sit down, a young lady from security approached us and said to him, 'I’m sorry sir, but I have to check you [sic] back pocket. I was told that you stole a T-shirt from from the gift store,'" she wrote. "My boyfriend then emptied all of his pockets, while still trying to keep the ring box hidden from my sight. She then walked away, and my boyfriend and I sat down at the table and he began his proposal speech."

While Hamlet's boyfriend was literally in the middle of asking her to marry him, that same security worker came back to their group and told Hamlet that she had to open her purse so it, too, could be searched for this possibly imaginary T-shirt. "I emptied my entire bag in front of her, and since this was the SECOND time she had walked over, I said, 'I know you’re just doing your job, but I can’t help but wonder if this is because we’re Black. We’re the only Black people here at your establishment,'" Hamlet wrote. "Of course, she said that that wasn’t the case."

Then, things got even worse. After Hamlet somehow kept her composure long enough to tell her now-fiancé that, yes, she'd marry him, the rest of their friends started to cheer and immediately came over for hugs and celebrations. That's when the security guard and several of her coworkers went back to the group to search everyone else's bags, too. "Of course my friends told them none of us stole a T-shirt from their establishment, at which point they started getting aggressive and saying that not only them, but also patrons saw my boyfriend steal the shirt and/or transfer it to me to put in my bag!!" she said. "Another woman in security yelled to one of the male security, 'Call the police! I saw you steal it.'"

Hamlet—who is a New York City pediatrician—said that she told the security team to watch the footage from their cameras to verify that no one had stolen anything from the gift shop. That's about when Hamlet and her friends decided to leave, since their afternoon was already in tatters. Instead of celebrating her proposal (and her boyfriend's 40th birthday), she said they left that upstate orchard in tears. And naturally, the security team followed them all the way to the parking lot.

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"Angry Orchard if you don’t want Black People buying your product or frequenting your establishment, then maybe put a sign on the door so that we know we are not welcome," she wrote. "I love hard cider, but Angry Orchard will never touch these lips again."

In a statement obtained by People, Angry Orchard apologized for ruining the couple's once-in-a-lifetime moment. “We reached out and spoke directly with the guest involved to express our sincerest apology and offered to make it right. We badly mishandled the situation and our team overreacted," the company said. "We’re extremely embarrassed this happened and have taken the immediate steps to remove the manager who was on-duty from her role and replace members of the security team." (In a tweet, Angry Orchard clarified that the security team had been replaced by "the outside firm that we work with" and the manager was no longer employed by the orchard.)

It also said that it would be training its employees about "security awareness and unconscious bias," and that it was treating Sunday's events as "a valuable learning experience for our staff." (VICE has reached out to the Boston Beer Company for additional comment but has not yet received a response.)

Not all Twitter users were fond of the phrasing within the apology.


Update: Angry Orchard provided the following comment to VICE regarding the incident:

“With regard to the staff involved, the outside security firm that we work with immediately replaced the team so there is a new team on-site, and the manager that was on-duty is no longer employed by Angry Orchard.

We’ve been in direct contact with the guest involved since Monday. I first reached out over the phone on Monday and extended our sincerest apology, and she has spoken with our CEO on several occasions since then. We also responded directly to her social posts on her channels and then shared public apologies with our Twitter and Facebook communities online.

All of our coworkers and hospitality partners will be going through security awareness and unconscious bias training to prevent something like this from happening in the future. I don’t have additional details to share at this time.”