CREDIT: Courtesy of Ava Lins
Ava Lins, a 19-year-old clerk at 7-11, started making small talk with a homeless man who came into the store last Thursday night. He told her that the homeless shelter was full and he didn’t know where he was going to sleep. She told him to take a small cup of coffee, which costs about $1.
As the homeless man left, he was confronted by the owner of the 7-11, Romany Youseff, who demanded to know if he had paid for the coffee. Lins lied to protect the man and told Yosef he had paid. The next day she admitted to Youseff that she gave him the coffee for free.
Shortly thereafter, she was fired.
In an interview with ThinkProgress, Lins revealed that she felt compelled to help the man because she herself had recently been homeless. Her mother kicked her out of her house at 18 and for six months she lived out of her car or on friends’ couches. She tried to get a job, but had little success because she wasn’t able to wash her clothes.
Eventually she moved in with her boyfriend and found a job at an auto dealership. But her job was eliminated in a restructuring. That’s when she found her position at 7-11 in Salem, Massachusetts. It paid $8.25 an hour.
Lins says that after she admitted to Youseff that she had given the homeless man the coffee, he made her pay for it, which she did. The homeless man returned the next day and asked for another coffee and Youseff made Lins pay for that one too.
The following day, according to Lins, Youseff had a coworker call her and tell her she’d be taken off the schedule and not to bother coming in anymore.
But Youseff ‘s story started to change when he was confronted by local media. He told WCVB Boston on Monday that “he was strongly considering firing Lins, saying he couldn’t allow employees to steal from the store.” Later in the day, as local media attention increased, he said, “I told her it’s OK. Everyone forget it. It’s OK.” He later told another station the coffee incident didn’t happen at all.
Lins — who said Youseff never actually contacted her — has had enough. She believes that Yosef targeted her because she requested Sundays off, something that she is entitled to do under Massachusetts law, and that Youseff used the incident with the homeless man as a pretext.
Lins told ThinkProgress that she has received several job offers since her story became public and had an interview scheduled Tuesday afternoon. She planned on stopping by the 7-11 and telling Youseff she wasn’t interested in working for him anymore.