Two recent incidents at two separate national fast-food chains fascinate me, and I humbly submit a possible solution to the problems they caused.
According to thedailymeal.com, a blogger writes that a cashier at a Chick-fil-a at the University of California, Irvine, differentiated between two customers’ orders by writing “CHING” and “CHONG” on their respective receipts.
After a complaint was lodged, Chick-fil-a stated that “the employee was immediately dismissed for the individual behavior.”
Jerry Johnston, head of public relations for Chick-fil-a, said the cashier’s action “does not support any claim or even suggestion of racism at our restaurant.”
Papa John’s wrestled with a similar issue at one of its outlets. A customer at a Papa John’s in New York tweeted her complaint about getting a receipt that referred to her as “lady chinky eyes.”
The company fired the cashier and apologized on Twitter and Facebook, where the story was gobbled up by the mainstream media faster than a beer-befuddled college student can swallow a slice of pepperoni on hand-tossed crust.
However, reports gothamist.com, the New York store’s assistant manager said the cashier didn’t think she had done anything wrong.
“It’s a busy place, and it was a way to identify her and her order,” the assistant manager is quoted as saying. “You know, we do stuff like that sometimes. We’ll write ‘the lady with the blue eyes’ or ‘the guy in the green shirt.’”
It’s 2012 and you don’t know the difference between “the guy in the green shirt” and “lady chinky eyes” in terms of morality? In terms of common human decency? Even in terms of pragmatic business sense?
At various Starbucks Coffee outlets I have patronized, the baristas ask patrons for their last names and write those names on the disposable cups that will hold their beverages.
Since baristas are as hard-working as any other employees in fast-paced environments in which food and drink are served to the public, it would seem to be reasonable (in the absence of any qualifying information to the contrary) that workers at other high-volume, highly trafficked food businesses could take their cue from Starbucks and type surnames onto receipts instead of racist slurs.
The possibility of a misspelled name on a receipt that is likely to find its way into the trash can very soon anyway is less potentially offensive than ethnic invective.
This is not to condemn either Chick-fil-a’s or Papa John’s corporate hierarchies or individual stores for the actions of two knuckleheads whose random acts of bigotry temporarily cast a negative light on these two widely respected national brands.
It’s just a small, cost-effective suggestion that is more practical than asking “Are you a double-digit IQ inbred racist cretin?” during a job interview.