Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A restaurant chain is only as strong....

By now, you've heard about or read about the story of US Army veteran Ernest Walker, 47, who went to a Chili's in the Cedar Hill section of Dallas, Texas to receive a free meal as part of that restaurant chain's Veterans' Day promotion.

Walker and his service dog entered the dump restaurant and sat down, ordered a burger, and then it started.  An old white man wearing a t-shirt endorsing the candidacy of a man who pledges to make America great again came over and told Walker, who is black, that he could not have been a real US soldier because the old man was in Germany and saw no black soldiers.

Uh huh.

The old man doddered off as a server came up to pack Walker's leftovers in one of those styrofoam clamshells.  All of a sudden, a manager showed up and told Walker that he couldn't have been a real soldier because he was wearing his hat indoors.

By the way, whatever happened to Texas's plan to secede from the United States? Just askin' for a friend.

Walker showed the man a military ID and his DD-214 (separation papers).  So that was enough, and the man and his dog went on their way peacefully, right?

Sorry, Pecos Pete.

"The guest also said your dog is not a service dog," Walker says the manager told him.

The dog was wearing an official red service vest and his tags stating that he was a service dog. Seeing things go sideways in a hurry, Walker turned on his cell camera and recorded a colloquy with a blustery callow youth whom Chili's trusted to run one of their vomitoria.

The face of the crummy chili industry
They bicker back and forth as the manager says he did not see the army papers and the dog's ID, and then the manager grabs the go-box and takes the leftovers away from the man.

In the time-honored tradition of passive-aggressives everywhere, he sneers, "You have a great day," and struts away.

And then the rest of this plays out like you've seen 100,000 times. Walker went on Facebook, the TV news picked up the story, and the big cheeses at Chili's had to stop and put down their martinis on Sunday when the calls started coming in for a corporate reply.

Ernest Walker.  Could he LOOK more like a veteran?
Channel 5 in Dallas says the manager has been "put on leave," and Chili's has "reached out to" Walker via phone on Monday.

In much the same fashion that I used to keep a collection of mafia nicknames ("Bobby Ha-ha" and "Richie The Boot") I should really start a clipping file of corporate apologies, all of which are cut from the same dough with the same cookie cutter.  Chili's says:

"On a day where we served more than 200,000 free meals as a small gesture of our appreciation for our veterans and active military for their service, we fell short." 
Well, I know I feel better for reading those words.

They also "fell short" of human decency and good sense.

The mayor of Cedar Hill, Rob Franke, said that the incident at Chili's "is not what we are about. My concern for the veteran is paramount, but we must also consider the manager and how he can become a better person and perhaps do better the next time he is put in a difficult situation," Franke said. "People do best and learn the most from experience. To learn requires patience and grace, neither of which can occur in the heat of emotion, demonstration, and anger."

In other words, a multi-million dollar corporation puts a burger-flipper in charge of one of their outlets, and this is what they get.

Chili's, get smart. You can't do much about your lousy chow, and your image is besmirched, but you could begin the unsmirching by spending your money on something.

Instead of giving veterans some fried ground beef on a soggy roll once a year in November, why not take the lead on something worthwhile by leading the way for other corporations (you go first!) to begin a decent job training/counseling/placement service for veterans in need of more than just an annual handout?

Oh sure, it doesn't sound as magnanimous as handing out beef, but it just might be what a lot of veterans need.  Who knows? There are jobs out there that need trained your restaurant in Cedar Hill, Texas. 

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