Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Restaurant rage

Some ugly exchanges have erupted at restaurants this holiday season, in a few instances while patrons were still in their cars. Regardless of whether guests or employees were at fault, the spate of horror stories is sure to be bad news for an industry that’s been striving for decades to burnish its reputation.

Consider the developments of just the last week or so:

A 20-year-old employee of a Burger King in Detroit is facing murder charges because he allegedly punched an elderly man who’d tried to slug him during what was reported as a "disturbance." The deceased, a 67-year-old homeless person, fell to the ground and apparently struck his head. He died of blunt trauma.

A 21-year-old employee of a Wendy’s in Fort Myers, Fla., was reportedly arrested for attacking a customer whom she couldn’t hear through the drive-thru intercom. According to the local coverage, the staffer felt dissed because the patron didn’t speak up.

Simultaneously, a Wendy’s guest was being arrested in Jefferson, N.J., after throwing a Frosty at the employee who was working the drive-thru window. The nature of their friction was not reported. But stories noted that the customer parked her car and went into the restaurant to attack the employee after hurling the frozen drink. She wasn’t arrested for assault, but rather for being under the influence of marijuana.

You almost hope the kids who burned a Boston Market employee in Riverside, Calif., had been smoking something. Otherwise, they were just doorknob-dumb criminals, though no one’s been arrested, and it doesn’t seem as if a warrant’s been issued. The Einsteins pulled up to the restaurant’s drive-thru window and ordered a dish of sautéed spinach. They then flung it back at the employee who handed it to them, yelling, “Fire in the hole!,” a gag that’s been waging for years. The 21-year-old employee had to be treated at a hospital for second-degree burns.

Meanwhile, a woman filed a lawsuit against McDonald’s because an employee in Chicago allegedly spat at her a year ago because she’d ordered a cheeseburger while the breakfast menu was being offered.

The only ones who’ll benefit from any of this: Lawyers. Otherwise, you have victim and victim—a dead man, but a 20-year-old whose life has just taken a catastrophic turn.

And let’s not forget the owners of the restaurants, and the industry in general. It’s not exactly a jolly image to pin to the trade.

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