Ignorance Is Bliss!
She wouldn’t explain why she wouldn’t serve him. Baker couldn't understand. He didn’t stand in line for 45-minutes to be treated like this. And he certainly wasn’t used to people disobeying his command or looking down on him like this - no one should be!
It was clear she had no idea who he was or what he did for people like her every day of his life. He wanted to see the look on her face when she found out who he really was.
It was a much-needed day off for Alexandria, VA man, Karl Baker. After working a string of 12-hour shifts, he was more than ready to sit back and relax.
He had his day all planned out. He was going to sleep in, eat out, enjoy the outdoors and finish the day relaxing in front of the tv with a drink in his hand. But things weren’t about to go as planned.
Baker woke up to his dog jumping on his bed, the sun shining on his face, and it was already midday. He got dressed, poured himself a cup of coffee, and thought about where he could go to enjoy a decent brunch.
Decided, he hopped in his car and headed toward a diner he’d never been to before on the outskirts of town. It was a decision he’d later regret.
Standing In Line
They looked at him with complete disdain. It had been a long minute since Baker faced such blatant disrespect. His line of work usually kept him from being treated like this, but no one here knew who he was.
Baker entered the diner and joined the line. His hunger grew as he read the menu on the wall, as did the minutes as he stood in line.
He had long narrowed his pick down to two dishes. Baker was great in many ways but one thing he was always known for was being a fussy eater.
He was picky, to say the least, so when he decided on a restaurant, he had high hopes that his research would pay off. He was confident that they’d be worth the 45-minute wait of standing in line. But oh, how wrong he was!
Getting Hungry, Losing Patience
Although it was an unusually long time to wait to place an order, Baker was a patient man. But soon, his claim on that trait was about to be pushed beyond its limit.
By the time Baker finally arrived at the till, he was absolutely famished and excited to order. But what unfolded next would send his head spinning.
Baker politely greeted the cashier who greeted him back with a look that resembled impatience or annoyance. She was chewing gum and looked like she was obviously not having a good day.
Nonetheless, he continued to smile as he ordered his food. Baker liked to cheer people up when he could, he understood that life wasn’t always rainbows and apple drops. And it certainly wasn’t for this worker.
Baker ordered and was surprised to hear her say that his order wasn’t possible today. He was disappointed but he still had other options. He moved to his second option, which again, wasn’t available.
Confused, he looked up at the menu and ordered the only other dish in the diner that he wanted. She rolled her eyes and repeated her earlier reply.
False Advertising And Rude Workers
Now, Baker was annoyed. He just spent a whole lot of time queuing for food that was outlined in chalk under today’s specials. If he knew these dishes weren’t available, he wouldn't have waited.
And her relentless bad attitude wasn’t helping things. Still, he held back his frustration and asked if they had anything else that wasn’t outlined in the menu.
She rolled her eyes again and looked blankly at him as if to telepathically say that the question he had just asked was dumb. Now, her attitude along with their false advertising became too much. He had to say something.
But before he could open his mouth, it was as though she read his mind. “Listen, mister, if you’re not going to order, you need to leave.” she snarled.
Speaking To The Manager
“That’s it!”, Baker thought. He stayed put and calmly said, “Can I speak to your manager?”. Without a word, she steps to the side and yells to the back kitchen. She returns her blank gaze to Baker and a woman comes out in response to her call.
She looks at Baker and then to the line behind him, “What’s the problem here sir, you’re holding up the people behind you”.
Now, Baker can see where the worker has got her attitude from. He knows this isn’t going to be pleasant.
He overlooked the insulting insinuation that he was the cause of these ridiculous lines, and explained to her what happened and how management should fix the problem he sees in her establishment. Her response made his blood boil.
Then, unbelievably, a female cook came out to the register to tell the manager, “You better pull me off the line, because I’m not serving him,” gesturing toward Baker.
Surely, this was unacceptable behavior from her staff? Baker waited for the manager to take action, but she began to laugh. Baker kept his cool and calmly advised them to treat their customers better, or there would be repercussions.
Just as Baker predicted, she didn’t take kindly to his advice. “I understand that things didn’t go your way today sir, but that’s life. Now, if you could kindly remove yourself from my establishment. I don’t serve men like you”, she sneered.
“Men like me?!”, Baker replied incredulously. What did she mean ‘men like him’?
Baker had enough. He wasn’t playing Mr.Nice guy any longer. Speaking with more authority, he reiterated his purpose in speaking with her and reassured her that he was speaking up for her own good.
Now, he demanded she elaborate on what she meant by “men like him”. But what she did next would settle any doubt in his mind about a retaliation.
She was cold-faced and defiant. “I don’t need to explain what I meant to anyone. Get on out now before you cause a scene”, she snapped.
Baker was seeing red. He wasn’t used to people disobeying his command like this. And he certainly wasn’t used to people looking down on him - no one should be!
It was clear she had no idea who he was or what authority he had at his fingertips. He often thought walking around without his uniform was a good way to see what people were really like. And this proved it.
It was clear to Baker that she wasn’t going to talk with him like an adult. He felt completely disrespected and ridiculed as onlookers began to take notice.
He looked around at all the eyes and ears paying attention to him. His face flushed red as he realized almost everyone in the diner was looking at him.
He didn’t recognize anyone there but he wondered if any of the customers recognized him. If they did, they probably wouldn’t have thought any diner would have the nerve to treat him like this.
Leaving With A Plan
With nothing further to say, Baker left the diner. He was upset, angry, and mortified by their behavior, behavior that he just couldn’t let go unpunished.
He was going to forget about the distressing start to his day and return to deal with this ordeal tomorrow during work hours, in the uniform that serves as a reminder to treat and serve everybody with respect. How would they react then?
The next day, Baker put on his chief of police uniform and went to work. He had a lot to catch up on from his day off.
He was busy but he had already promised himself to call into the diner and show his real face. He couldn’t wait to see them shaking in their boots. And that, they did.
Baker stopped by at the diner on his way back from a call out on the field. He pulled his cruiser up right outside, lucky to find a parking space, and pushed through the doors.
His face was stern. The aura of his presence filled the entire diner. Baker was a broad, tall man, and with his uniform on, he seemed to exude authority.
Frowns To Smiles
Now, everyone looked at him for all the right reasons. He was met with smiles and respect. Even the faces of all the workers suddenly perked up, including the cashier who was now much more attentive.
She welcomed him with a smile that slowly faded once she recognized him. Dropping formalities, he asked for the manager.
Tentatively, the cashier called for the manager. This time, however, she walked to the back kitchen door and yelled. Now, she was minding her manners it seemed.
Baker stood with one hand resting on his waist belt and another holding a radio-device. He for sure looked the part. Especially as his radio call bleeped with officer updates. He waited for her to come out.
Today, however, a different manager was working. But she was very distressed by what Baker told her and immediately apologized. She also vowed to launch an internal investigation into the activities of her co-worker.
Shortly after, the story reached social media as witnesses who were there posted about the poor handling of the officer. Now, the diner was forced to release a statement.
A PR Nightmare
A spokesperson for the diner didn't try to deny the claims when asked about the staff's shocking treatment of the officer. She told reporters that it had all happened just like Baker described.
The restaurant was appalled that an officer of the law was shown so much disrespect and promised to look further into the matter. But would it be enough?
A Public Statement
“I don’t know why the offended officer doesn’t sue for $150,000. This is NO DIFFERENT than the Oregon bakery’s refusing to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. Discrimination is discrimination!” one furious reader wrote, while another took a more pragmatic view.
“We are working with the appropriate authorities and local police association representatives to get to the bottom of and resolve this matter as quickly as possible,” the statement added.
“We have made efforts to reach out to the police officer involved, but have not yet spoken with him. We will continue to look into the situation and will take the appropriate actions at the conclusion of this review.”
Despite the establishment's rush to save face, the story quickly began doing the rounds on Twitter and Facebook, to the outrage of thousands of users.
“I don’t know why the offended officer doesn’t sue for $150,000. This is awful behavior that can easily be considered a breach of customer rights” one furious reader wrote, while another took a more pragmatic view.
“If I was a cop, I’d be way less concerned about these people who are openly anti-police than I would about what someone quietly harboring resentment and handling my food.”
Scrambling To Make It Right
Even though Alexandria Police Union Representative Pete Feltham commended the diner for its cooperation and swift apology, the damage had already been done -- even when the diner scrambled to hang posters supporting police officers outside the restaurant.
He added that he felt that Baker “handled the situation perfectly” -- he disengaged rather than escalating the confrontation. However, he said that he was surprised that an incident such as this happened in Alexandria because the police force typically has a good relationship with residents and local businesses.
Calls To Boycott
None of Feltham's words did anything to quell the ire of the public, however. Hundreds of comments were left on the diner's Facebook page, angrily informing them that they were going to be permanently boycotted and encouraging other patrons to do the same.
Following the incident, there has even been talk among social media users to steal from the diner. However, Baker made his position on this clear.
Voice Of Reason
He declared how he is not in support of ‘cancel culture’ nor does he want to see any crime come to the diner as a result of this. He also discourages anyone from trying to boycott the establishment.
“Take the high road!”, he urged. “The actions of a few do not equate to the actions of many”. Two wrongs don't make a right, after all...
In response to the enormous amount of backlash, the diner made good on its promise. They released an official statement less than a week later, according to The Washington Post.
"In a statement, the company said that ‘the views and actions of these individuals’ were ‘inexcusable’ and do not reflect those of the company or the rest of the staff at the Duke Street location,” the source said.
"We have concluded the two team members in question acted inappropriately and we immediately terminated their employment,” the company said in the follow-up statement.
“We have the utmost respect for law enforcement officials and value the relationship we have built with the local Alexandria Police Department over the years.” But that's not all.
Making Things Right
The night manager and the restaurant tracked Baker down to apologize for the shocking behavior of the three members of staff and plan to go out of their way to make it clear to everyone where they stand with regards to supporting law enforcement.
The situation even got the attention of Allison Silberberg, Alexandria Mayor. She expressed that she appreciates the company's "full-throated apology for this unfortunate situation.” But how do other members of the police force feel about the whole thing?
"Well, your first response as a police officer is anger," the head of the police department told the local station.
"These are very difficult times right now with our relations with everyone, and to have one of my officers treated in that manner unnecessarily – your first response is anger, then you calm down a bit." When one waitress saw a similar situation unfolding, she decided to step in.
How Could Someone Be So Rude?
Brittany could feel anger boil inside her. How could someone be so rude? She never asked for this.
It also wasn’t as if they were being nasty in a quiet way – they were trying to get her to agree with them and go along? The situation turned worse when she went to her boss and was told to “suck it up.”
Brittany Spencer had been working as a waitress for the past two years and she thought she had seen it all.
Every kind of person came and went through Fat Joe’s Bar & Grill in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. And when an elderly couple walked through the doors, she didn’t think anything of it… at first.
However, when they took their seats, their expressions changed. Straight away, Brittany knew they were going to be difficult.
The couple looked around the diner with disgust slapped on their faces, as if they had just stepped into their worst nightmare. Fair enough, this wasn’t a Michelin star restaurant but the food was good.
What Was Their Problem?
Brittany dismissed her first impressions. She knew she could cheer them up with her bubbly personality.
But she had no idea how wrong she was. She approached and offered them menus. There wasn’t even a hello back as she handed them menus. The woman scrunched her nose like she smelled something awful. This was going to be a difficult table.
She walked away but when she turned around, she saw the couple was pointing and laughing at another customer in the corner of the diner.
The target of their bile was a regular and very pleasant customer. What was their problem? Little did Brittany know she was about to find out.
Listening To Their Conversation
The couple was deep in conversation and unaware that Brittany was standing right behind them, waiting on another table.
Brittany’s ears perked up and she listened in to their conversation. The words that flowed out made Brittney’s stomach launch into her throat. How could they say something like that? It was beyond wrong.
That "Other Customer"
As Brittany came to them to take their order, they asked her what thought about the “other customer”.
They asked Brittany if she thought it was as disgusting and wrong as they clearly did, even questioning why they would let “someone like that” into the restaurant. Their old faces were filled with nothing but vile judgment.
No, I Don't Agree
“Sorry, but I can’t serve you. And I don’t agree with what you said,” she told them before walking away.
However, she couldn’t just leave it at that and asked her manager if the table could be assigned to another employee instead. But things were about to get even more twisted.
Her manager refused, essentially telling her that she could “suck it up or go home”.
Brittany knew she couldn’t serve the table with customers who held such horrible opinions on a human being, not to mention making one of their regulars feel uncomfortable. So she grabbed her bag and stormed out the door. But the repercussions of her actions were about to come back to bite her...
Sharing Her Experience Online
That evening Brittany shared what had happened on Facebook.
People responded, applauding Brittany for standing up for herself, and some even called out the diner where the event took place. As she shut up her laptop and nestled into her bed, Brittany let out a sigh of relief. Everyone, it seemed, was on her side.
Let Go For Speaking Out
The next day, management told Brittany she was fired! Bursting with anger, she grabbed her laptop and went straight to Facebook.
She updated everyone on the disgusting development. The reactions were explosive. “But I’ll always choose my morals over money. See ya!” She concluded. But the owners of the diner had a very different opinion.
What The Owner Says
The co-owner of the diner commented that Brittany was fired because she refused to do the job she was hired for.
In all her years in the industry, she said she had heard plenty of conversations she didn’t agree with herself, but you just get on and do your job. Their “neutral” stance, however, didn't calm the stormy waters.
Bad Blind Eye
Brittany, and others, said that allowing hate speech to occur in your establishment without any response was turning a blind eye -- which she sees as the same as saying the hateful things oneself.
But Brittany still thought she had made the right decision. As for the current situation and ideals of the diner?
Brittany finished up her viral Facebook post with: “Please feel free to leave a review on their Facebook page, Fat Joe’s Bar and Grill.” They received so much hate that they had to temporarily take down their Facebook page – it is, however, up again.
Also, not long after the situation went viral, a couple of in-person protests forced the restaurant to call the police. Despite it all, they claim that the event hasn’t affected their day to day business and they will continue with the same moral approach. There was one key element that they conveniently left out, however, that many people overlooked.
Just Order The Food
Brittney acted with enough professionalism that she simply asked to switch tables – which is not a monumental request.
The boss’s reaction ("suck it up") reveals the attitude towards their employee’s comfort, but what about being allowed to refuse service to customers trying to force opinions on someone who just wants to take their meal order? And what do the owners, Joe and Whitney Wallander, have to say?
“Everybody has their opinions, everybody is entitled to their opinions,” said Whitney, co-owner of Fat Joe's, in an interview with CBS.
Whitney also says that she and her management team made the decision to send Brittany home for the day, but hadn’t actually fired her for refusing to serve the group of customers.
Naming And Shaming
Before the staff meeting that Sunday morning, other employees at the restaurant showed the Wallenders screenshots of the post Brittney had written about the incident on Facebook.
Although the post did not directly reference Fat Joe's, Tad Wallender said that Brittany's Facebook profile listed Fat Joe’s as her place of work. This, he said, tied the post and the restaurant together. And they couldn't have that.
Tad and Whitney didn't take kindly to being publically called out on Facebook. After all, every establishment has a reputation to uphold.
Tad was concerned that Brittany's post had changed the dynamic of the entire situation, claiming that it was very unprofessional on Brittany's part. When Brittany arrived at the staff meeting, she was promptly fired.
A "Business Decision"
“She decided she wanted to post stuff on Facebook about being sent home,” Whitney said. “And we just made the business decision that we can’t have employees that aren’t going to make us look good as an establishment.”
“We should be able to get along as a community,” says Whitney. “Everyone has different opinions, and I think it’s important that we know how to live with people that have different opinions than us.”
"We're Just Here To Serve Food And Drinks"
“We don’t take a stand on any conversation people have. We’re not going to impose anyone’s political beliefs, moral beliefs, ideals on any single person. We’re just here to serve food and drinks,” Tad told USA TODAY.
Even though the restaurant's owners feel justified in their actions, others argue that they should have known better -- especially in today's political climate.
Discrimination has been in the political and media spotlight in recent months, and campaigns that hope to raise awareness about the issue are working harder than ever before. And, as a result, most netizens do not take kindly to any form of bullying.
After Brittany's post, Fat Joe's Facebook page turned into a “political battleground,” Tad said, forcing him to take it down. Brittany's post wasn't something he wanted the restaurant to be involved with. Then, just a day later, the business received over a dozen threatening emails.
According to the owners, Fat Joe’s always seeks to be neutral as well as respectful. According to them, both the guests who made the rude remarks and the person they were talking about are regular patrons at the restaurant.
And Tad said that there had never been a problem between the two groups before.
Who Was In The Wrong?
“If they felt they were being harassed, if they did, I apologize -- that was never my intention,” says Brittany. I don’t want anyone to be harassed, but they do need to know that what they did was wrong.”
“Letting people say transphobic things is not remaining neutral,” Brittany said. “I didn’t make a scene. I wasn’t asking for them to be kicked out. I didn’t want to take a table.”
On its part, the restaurant seems to be doubling down after all the backlash. Tad said that the restaurant welcomes everyone, and this apparently also includes obnoxious customers who like to harass other patrons.
"If you want to walk in our front door and you want to have our food or drinks, watch TV, watch live music we provide, we're going to serve you as best we can and make you happy to your standards," Wallender told WTMJ.
Not On Her Watch
Brittany said she harbors no ill will against the Fat Joe's or the establishment's owners, but she does hope that the response they received online will serve as a learning experience and that, in the future, they won't let hate speech go unchecked.
“I hope this incident will open people’s eyes that hate like this is still occurring in 2019 and the idly standing by and spreading hate is just as bad as spreading it yourself,” she said. Do you think she did the right thing?