The poster by the American coffee company shows a man with dark skin surrounded by arrows pointing at a mobile phone, a laptop, a rucksack and a wallet.
The text on the poster reads: “Be on your guard against unusual behaviour from a stranger. Don’t let pickpockets spoil your moment of relaxation at Starbucks. Keep an eye on your belongings.”
A customer in a Paris branch of the store took offence when he saw the poster and alerted anti-racist group, SOS Racisme. The group demanded the withdrawal of the poster, saying it “targeted a minority” and attributed “delinquent behaviour” to them, reported newspaper Ouest-France.
Starbucks rushed to insist the man on the poster was supposed to represent a customer, not the thief. A similar poster shows a white woman instead of the man.
“The posters have been misunderstood,” said a spokesperson. “People thought it was a pickpocket but the drawings represented clients.”
Starbucks, which employs 1,000 people in France, has withdrawn the posters from its stores.