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Nathan’s Hotdogs and “those Chinese”

This past Saturday the family and I went in the evening to the Christmas Tree Store in the Tanger Outlets at the Arches. The kids didn’t have dinner so first we stopped at Nathan’s Famous for food. I’m a fan of their Chili Dog.

My wife had a different than usual experience: she was insulted and treated badly. She’s since then received an apology on the phone from both Tanger Outlets and the Nathan’s franchise owner. They have both offered her coupons and vouchers to make up for the treatment. She doesn’t care about that, she just wants an apology via email.

Except for removing the name of the person who insulted her, here is the complaint she sent Nathan’s famous as well as Tanger Outlets.

Dear Nathan’s Famous Corporation,

I want to file a complaint regarding certain members of your staff at the Tanger Outlets at the Arches Deer Park location.

What happened to me was discriminatory, disrespectful, and insulting. The behavior of the Nathan’s staff was absolutely uncalled for.

Looking at the time on my receipt, on Saturday December 4, 2010 at 5:27pm I was with my family at the Tanger Outlers at the Arches Deer Park location. I ordered Clam and Chips for myself and some other food for the family.

When we got to our table I discovered that the clam was very rubbery and didn’t taste good.  I went to the counter and I explained that I wanted something else or a refund.  The cashier who took my order was very nice and professional but I guess she needed to ask for approval from some senior staff.  That’s when a man named —— (that was the name on his shirt tag) commented “Next time, when those Chinese order make sure they know what they ask for.” He said that as if I don’t speak English and didn’t know what I ordered.  Yes, I am a Chinese American and I am one of “those Chinese”.

Even the female cashier was taken aback by ——‘s comment and gave him a look.  —— then said “Did she know what she ordered or what?”  The cashier said “Yes, she ordered the clam and chips.” I then explained that I in fact knew what I ordered but didn’t like the food and wanted an exchange or refund.  He said “This is how clam tastes you know.”  I said “No, clam taste better and not rubbery like this.  I don’t like it.”  —— then started walking away to the back and kept saying about “She didn’t know what she ordered” and “Those Chinese”.  That’s when I said “Do you have a problem with Chinese?”  He angrily and loudly responded “NO” and walked away.  I told the cashier that I wanted it replaced with fish and asked to speak with the store manager.

I soon found out that the manager was not any better.

The manager came to the counter and I started to explain to him that I don’t like to be called ‘those Chinese’ and I was not happy with the way I was being treated.  It was discriminatory and disrespectful the way —— talked to me and I wanted to file a complaint.  The manager’s response was “OK, so?  You are making a scene here.”  We went on back and forth like this for a few minutes.

That’s when I had enough and I called my husband over. Obviously “those Chinese” didn’t matter to him either and the whole situation was “just so” not a big deal to him.

I explained what happened to my husband. He tried to calmly speak to the manager at first.  You see my husband is not one of “those Chinese”. He’s Caucasian and we are both U.S. citizens.  My husband said “I understand.  I used to work at White Castle so know how it is.” But no matter, the manager wouldn’t hear it.  He interrupted and said “She’s making a scene.  I don’t know if this is your girlfriend, wife, or what but she came at me and is making a scene here”.

That’s when my husband said “Do you have a number for your headquarters so we can call them?”  The manager said “Yes, I have the number but she’s making a scene here” and he started to lecture my husband again. At that point my husband said “That’s enough.  We are done here.  We will look up the phone number on the Internet.  Let’s just walk away.”  And that’s what we did, with my replaced fried fish.

I strongly believe that I was discriminated against by being labeled “those Chinese” and treated disrespectfully by both —— and the manager.  I think the least the manager can do was to hear my complaint and acknowledge that ——‘s comments were wrong.  Instead all he cared about was for me to be quite and leave and not make “a scene”.

I can understand someone like —— without approving of his insulting behavior. It is possible that —— simply does not know any better.

However, the manager is a professional with your corporation. I assume that your company maintains EEOC training and familiarizes the management on recognizing and preventing discrimination. At a minimum his actions certainly do not represent good Human Resources practices. It’s not how you treat a paying customer.

Simply put, your manager knows better and behaved insultingly to a now ex-Nathan’s customer.

While my wife has received a phone call and an apology, she is still waiting for an apology via email.

3 Comments

  1. Prejudice on any level is unacceptable and needs to be dealt with in a rational mature manner. From a customer point of view it seems to me that the response to you was wholly appropriate. Why it would be important for an email response is beyond me. Seems to me that from the franchisees point of view he went above and beyond an email and took the time to respond and face the music directly rather than hiding behind an email. By doing so he added a Human element into the equation which many people would believe is satisfactory and maybe even exemplary. Holding a poor employee performance against the Company or their franchisee is inappropriate unless of course the company took no action after the incident to correct it.
    Just my two cents.
    Bob

    • Bob,

      Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. I do appreciate your time visiting my website. I don’t entirely disagree with what you’ve written, but one item does stand out that I want to comment on.

      Holding a poor employee performance against the Company or their franchisee is inappropriate unless of course the company took no action after the incident to correct it.

      When a customer goes to a business, the employees represent that business. When that employee behaves badly it reflects against that business. How could it be otherwise? I don’t deal with corporations. I deal with representatives of that company.

      Yes, the phone call was appreciated. And yes that was certainly more personal than email. What my wife wanted was something tangible that indicated the problem was being addressed.

      I have no doubt at all that the franchisee spoke with his employees and that was probably not a friendly talk.

      I also have no assurance as to what that conversation entailed other than “I can’t believe that woman complained!” An email apology would have just lent credibility to the stated outcome.

      Thanks,

      Jan Dembowski

  2. Hi Jan your point that

    When a customer goes to a business, the employees represent that business. When that employee behaves badly it reflects against that business. How could it be otherwise? I don’t deal with corporations. I deal with representatives of that company.

    We are in total agreement but no matter how much training employees receive it doesn’t guarantee appropriate performance. Employees at times perform acts that are a discredit to an organization but once known it is how it is followed up and resolved that we should care about.

    What my wife wanted was something tangible that indicated the problem was being addressed.

    I agree it would have been nice to have provided your wife with a follow up on what they would do or did, did your wife ask for a follow up when he called initially? Even if she had I doubt the outcome would have been different. These situations unfortunately becomes a touchy situation as to what rights does the employee have I can tell you that there isn’t an attorney that would allow his client to follow up in writing or verbally other to say something that is politically correct and instead we then become insulted over the corporate lingo in our take no responsibility politically correct world.

    I believe many of what appears to lack social grace’s has a lot to do with our litigious society.

    It frequently is a no win situation for the employer.

    Bob

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