Barista Who Shattered A Drive-Thru Customer’s Window With A Hammer Says 'Women Are Allowed To Respond In Ways Other Than Crying'

She has no regrets and insists she did nothing wrong, and the police seem to agree.

angry barista and customer tonefotografia / Getty Images / Canva Pro

Customer service is not for the faint of heart, and at this point, we've all witnessed the irate customers who take out their aggression on the people serving them. In recent years, of course, these altercations seem to have become more common and more aggressive than ever—so-called "Karen" meltdowns are a whole internet genre at this point.

One Seattle barista has had enough of this trend and recently took matters into her own hands—literally—in a shocking way. She insisted she did nothing wrong and said even the police agreed.


A barista who shattered a drive-thru customer's window with a hammer says she has no regrets.

Video of the altercation instantly went viral on social media from practically the moment it appeared online. Taken from surveillance footage of the drive-thru at Seattle's Taste of Heaven Espresso, the clip shows a male customer getting out of his car and hurling two giant coffees through the window at the coffee shop's owner, Emma Lee.

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Lee can then be seen reaching through the drive-thru window wielding a hammer, and in a moment that will either shock you or leave you cheering, depending on your sensibilities (personally, I'm the latter), she whacks it full force through the man's windshield, leaving a giant hole in the glass.

After speaking to both local and national media about the incident, Lee has become something of a folk hero to those in customer and food service who are tired of enduring customers' vitriol, as well as others who are tired of witnessing their tirades.

Lee says the incident happened after the customer threatened her life over a pricing dispute.

It's easy to accuse Lee of being the one who truly lost their cool, but the lead-up to the incident tells a different story. She told local media outlets that the altercation started with a dispute over pricing in which the man demanded a refund.

It escalated from there, with several customers intervening to try to talk the irate man down to no avail. But things took a major turn when the man threatened Lee's life over the disagreement.


In the surveillance footage, he can be heard telling Lee, "Nobody’s going to miss you." And that is when Lee said her personal lines were crossed. "Oh, okay, so you have no problem harming me, you’re making that clear,” she told Seattle's KIRO 7.

@yourtango A restaurant hostess got an earful when she referred to a couple as ‘you guys’ #restaurantlife #hostess #rudecustomer #language ♬ original sound - YourTango

"It’s one thing to yell, it’s one thing to get mad, it’s one thing to even be outside of your car and try to threaten me,” Lee went on to say. “But to actually have the action behind it, it changed things for me where I was like ‘oh no.’”

So she got out the hammer she keeps nearby in case she is ever attacked at work, and… well, the rest is internet history. As she put it to KIRO 7, "I personally think that you thought you were going to throw drinks on me and ruin my day. You’re going to pay for a new windshield, and it’s going to ruin your day."


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Lee said her response was totally warranted, given the way things escalated, and the police agreed.

"At what point are we told we’re supposed to just wait for it to get worse?" That's the question Lee posed to KIRO 7 about her response to the man who not only tried to humiliate her but threatened her life.

It speaks, of course, to the position tons of service workers are put in every single day—expected to simply stand there and take it as people act like full-on animals, hurling profane or bigoted invective and threats, often with no repercussions.

@nbcnews "Women are allowed to respond when there is danger in ways other than crying," says the #Seattle barista who shattered a customer's windshield with a #hammer after he threw #coffee ♬ original sound - nbcnews

Lee has had enough, especially as a female business owner. In an interview, she told NBC News, "Women are allowed to respond when there is danger in ways other than crying." And the police firmly agreed, siding with her that her hammer-wielding was a response to an assault on the customer's part. 


"I've now talked to [multiple] officers," she said. "No one has said a single thing to me about what I've done." People all over the internet, especially those who've worked in customer service, have also sided with her.

Ever since the insane tantrums over public mask mandates began in 2020, studies and surveys have shown that attacks on customer service staff, from retail to airline staff and everything in between, have drastically escalated, and it's taking a huge toll on workers' mental health.

We seem to have arrived in a place where unhinged, entitled people feel emboldened to empty out all their life's aggressions in increasingly cruel and dangerous ways on the people serving them if things don't go 100% their way. 


That's not how the world works, and frankly, the fact that all this man got in return for threatening Lee's life was a broken windshield is an extraordinary act of grace and restraint on her part. 

And what's perhaps the most nauseating about this incident is that Lee is lucky she works for herself — most bosses, and certainly any corporate coffee shop, would likely blame HER for the incident and fire her immediately because that's how it goes in America for customer service workers. They are nearly always the ones at fault, no matter the circumstances. 

But the customer is not always right. In fact, they rarely are. And nobody owes it to anyone to not defend themselves simply because their aggressor is "a paying customer."


The bottom line is: Don't threaten people's lives over a cup of coffee if you don't want retribution. 

We learn the golden rule and that actions have consequences in kindergarten. Grow up, get a grip, drink your coffee, and keep it pushing. And if you're a boss, stand up for your employees, for God's sake. Team Hammer Lady, forever and always.

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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice and human interest topics.