Hey, it happens: An order is botched, a restaurant runs out of soup, an establishment assumes a lemon slice would be a welcomed enhancement to plain drinking water. What also happens, seemingly more often than in the past, is a customer’s overreaction. Are guns, lawyers and threats really necessary?
These patrons thought so.
Customer nightmare #1: Coming up lemons
How far do restaurants have to stretch for customers with peculiar needs? The internet is buzzing this week about how an arbitration panel in Canada reportedly answered that question after a formal complaint was filed by an obsessive-compulsive patron with a germ phobia.
The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, an official arbitration body, directed a steakhouse to pay $12,000 to a customer who feared contamination from a slice of lemon that was added to his water glass. The patron attested that he’d asked the place to hold off on the garnish because of his obsessive-compulsive disorder. The restaurant flubbed the request and found itself cutting a very large check.
The situation should prompt more of a gulp by U.S. restaurants than a fear of similar lawsuits under the Americans with Disabilities Act. But experts cite it as an example of how militant customers are becoming in their demand for accommodation.
Neither the restaurant nor the patron were identified in the flurry of postings this week. Nor were they revealed on the Tribunal’s website.
Customer nightmare #2: ‘No bones about it’
A customer was so outraged about getting the wrong order from a wings joint in Wilmington, N.C., that she went to her car, got a gun and marched back to the counter to show the staff of Fu Wangz that she wasn’t about to be disappointed. Dammit, she’d wanted boneless wings! And the wings she was given clearly had bones in them.
The 24-year-old woman used the gun as a club rather than firing it, smashing up a tip jar. That might explain why she didn’t flee after authorities were summoned. They arrested Clarissa Gagum in the parking lot, gun in hand, apparently surprised she was in trouble.
Gagum explained to the local paper that she had good reason to be outraged. The flashpoint wasn’t the messed-up order but the bad service that came with it; the place refused to refund her money for the order, and that, she said, is just not right.
Customer nightmare #3: ‘Out of soup? I’ll see you in court’
An attorney in Arlington, Texas, expressed similar surprise about how poorly his threat against a local restaurant was received in the court of public opinion. All he’d done was inform Our Place Restaurant that he’d sue the place if it didn’t pay him $252.25 for failing to provide the soup that came with his lunch special. The place had run out, and it didn’t offer a reimbursement or a substitute.
Dwain Downing explained in a letter to the restaurant that promising soup and not providing it was a breach of contract and a deceptive business practice. He wanted $2.25 in compensation for the soup, plus $250 to cover his legal fees, or what he was paying himself for writing the letter.
Our Place posted the letter on social media instead of writing the check.
Downing blasted that move as further rudeness, and said he was being threatened himself by cyberbullies.
But he told a local paper that he decided this week to drop the matter rather than proceed with a lawsuit.
Customer nightmare #4: Meat makes patrons see red
Zealots who cringe at the thought of animals being slaughtered have threatened the proprietors of a highly regarded vegan restaurant in Los Angeles for failing to keep the faith. The husband-and-wife team behind Café Gratitude were discovered not only to be eating meat, but also raising animals for food on their farm.
That was too much of a betrayal for fans, leading to public damnation, a boycott and even death threats against Matthew and Terces Engelhart, reports The Hollywood Reporter.
“Leave the animals alone,” Grizelda Thockmorton posted on Café Gratitude’s Facebook page. “They don't want to die any more than you do. There is no spiritual justification for murder.”
The flashpoint was the discovery of a 14-month-old blog post where Terces Engelhart revealed that she and her husband had started eating meat again. It was also discovered that they harvested eggs from the chickens and milk from the cows that lived on the couple’s farms.
Some of the cattle had even been slaughtered, with the meat going into the freezers of the Engelharts and their friends.
The Engelharts defend their choices as personal matters. Outraged patrons have painted it as intolerable hypocrisy.
Some of the more senior members of the team smile at the junior staff who are excited to uncover an interesting trend in “eatertainment” or the latest single-ingredient concept. We try not to be condescending when we suggest they do some research by looking at past issues of Restaurant Business or old Technomic top chain reports before calling it the next big thing.