Few attributes are more valuable to a mainstream restaurant brand than having customers who literally crave its food. Starving jackals within pouncing distance of an overweight gazelle show more reserve than a patron who needs a fix of fast-food crack. And if they can’t get it—watch out, as this week’s roundup of nightmares attests.
Customer nightmare of the week: ‘If I’m a terrorist, can I get my coffee?’
Consumers have apparently learned from countless YouTube videos and high-profile media reports that calling 911 because of a botched drive-thru or carryout order is not going to bring police intervention. So when the patron of a Starbucks in Austin, Texas, felt his coffee was taking too long to prepare, he figured the authorities would only come to his aid if he exaggerated the situation. “If I kill someone with bomb, then can you send police?” Ali Qassrawi reportedly asked the emergency-line operator.
His ploy worked, but he ended up with a summons. And no coffee.
Customer nightmare of the week II: ‘Closed? Not for me.’
Taco Bell enjoys a near-cult like adoration from its hardcore fans, some of whom visit the chain more often than many people brush their teeth. They are not about to forego a chalupa or gordita just because the craving hits in the middle of the night. So when a patron in Pittsfield, Mass., found his local unit closed at 1:30 a.m. on a weeknight, he parked in the drive-thru lane and leaned on the horn for what local reports put at a full two minutes.
When the closing crew informed Derrick LaForest the restaurant was closed and wouldn’t reopen until breakfast, he decided to show the spoilers his displeasure. He peeled out of the drive-thru at what authorities pegged at 80 miles an hour—and smashed into a neighboring building. The car was destroyed, the building was damaged, and LaForest was knocked unconscious. He didn’t awake in time for a crunch wrap.
Mystery nightmare of the week: Who’s peeping?
Obsession of another sort might have factored into the nightmare that unfolded for a Moe’s Southwest Grill in Milltown, Del. Authorities have yet to reveal who planted a tiny video camera across from a toilet in the women’s restroom. Nor have they been able to determine how long the device had been there, or when they might be able to resolve either mystery.
In the meantime, Moe’s issued a statement saying guest safety was its highest concern and that the franchisee of the store was cooperating fully with authorities.
Employee nightmare of the week: ‘Eat here and you’ll get sick.’
Picture this: Restaurant employees try to hurt their employer by telling customers the food will make them sick. The establishment fires the staffers for lying and trying to drive away business. But a federal court decides employees have a right to invent a safety risk and spread unfounded rumors, and are entitled to their jobs.
That was the decision handed down this week by the U.S. Court of Appeals in a 6-year-old case involving a Jimmy John’s franchisee whose employees had tried unsuccessfully to unionize. After the staff voted not to join the International Workers of the World in 2010, flyers were posted in and around units run by MikLin Enterprises. The materials warned customers that a Jimmy John’s sandwich could make them ill because the franchisee didn’t provide paid sick leave to its employees. Staffers with contagious diseases had no choice but to report to work so they wouldn’t lose pay, the flyers asserted.
Six employees were fired for participating in the campaign. But Appeals Court Judges Jane Kelly and Kermit Bye agreed with a National Labor Relations Board ruling that exaggerated rhetoric is a common tool in unionization and hence was protected by law. Previous NLRB rulings have determined that even false assertions by employees are protected.