Server Fired For Confronting Customers Who Left Their Dog in the Car on a 90 Degree Day

In Depth

For everyone who’s ever naively asked “why don’t servers just say something when customers are total dicknozzles”—this would be why.

Cristal Perez had been working at a Millvale Millville, New Jersey Longhorn Steakhouse for a year and a half when she was fired last Sunday. Her crime: telling off a couple she was serving who had left their small dog locked in their car on a 90 degree day on Tuesday of that same week. Via Press of Atlantic City, Perez told the couple that what they were doing was “wrong” and that they were “lucky to be leaving before the cops came” (another couple allegedly called city police about the animal). The couple complained to Perez’s manager (because of course they did), upon which she received a four-day suspension. When she came back Sunday, she was terminated for “violating restaurant policy about giving customers a good dining experience.”*

Was the dog in danger? Depends on who you ask. A spokesman for Longhorn, which has apparently taken it upon itself to act as the customers’ PR team, insists that the air conditioning was on the entire hour the couple was in the restaurant and that the dog was never in any danger. Perez, on the other hand, claims the dog was panting heavily and looked to be in distress. Edit: As kinja user Jae (and others) point out, even if Longhorn’s claims are true, the customers in question are guilty of a crime (since every car I’m familiar with needs the engine running for the A/C to work) under New Jersey law by allowing their car to idle for more than 3 minutes. So, best possible interpretation for them, the customers are still extremely shitty people. Thanks, helpful readers!

When you consider that Longhorn is one of the many subsidiaries of Darden Restaurants (official corporate motto: “Our Employees Exist to Be Ground ‘Neath Our Iron Heel”**), this story isn’t particularly surprising. But while we can—and should—rag on Darden for this, because fuck Darden, it’s likewise important to note that the vast majority of corporate restaurant entities would’ve behaved the same way. Irrational terror of bad press is a pervasive part of the restaurant industry, and is the main cause of nearly every instance of a restaurant kowtowing to the whims of idiot customers.

The irony in this particular case is that firing a server for calling out a customer for a widely-loathed behavior (in this case, locking a dog in a car on a hot summer day) is likely to result in far, far worse PR for the company than had they not done so—and they’ll deserve every ounce of outrage they get.

* Excuse me, I need to go vomit for about an hour and a half after typing that sentence, even as a quote.

** This is sarcasm; “Our Employees Exist to Be Ground ‘Neath Our Iron Heel” is not actually Darden’s corporate motto. If you’re wondering why I feel the need to specify this, know that Darden are some litigious motherfuckers.

Image via Longhorn Steakhouse/Facebook.

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