Nearly half a century after Americans supposedly settled the arguments about racial inequality, a mountain of anecdotal evidence would suggest prejudice is still an epidemic we must face. Consider this uncanny example from an IHOP where a waitress demanded that a group of black teenagers prepay for their meal.
This IHOP isn’t in the deep South, either, as the stereotypical narrative would suggest. It is in Auburn, Maine, about 40 miles north of Portland. There, last weekend, a waitress asked a group of black teens to pay for their food before she took the order back.
The move was motivated by a suspicion that the teens wouldn’t pay. That, though, isn’t the waitress’s responsibility, really. Yet she thought to intercede and ensure that her franchise was compensated. In doing so, though, she opened herself up for some obvious critique.
IHOP spokeswoman Stephanie Peterson told reporters that the store was closed Thursday for employee training. The offending waitress has been disciplined.
It is clear that there was some prejudice at work. Social media, though, has a way of outing this type of behavior. A customer who witnessed the incident posted her account on Facebook.
“I heard them order their food, and they were respectful and were not loud or rude etc. We paid and sat there for a few minutes and I heard an employee tell the table that they were going to need to pay upfront and that it was ‘a new generation thing’,” Avery Gagne wrote in his post.
“I called over the group and asked them if they were seriously being asked to pay upfront and they said yes. So my father, mother and I stood up and began to question why this was happening.”
“The woman took it upon herself to make this group of teens pay for their meal upfront because she considered them ‘high risk.’ I don’t care who has walked out on your establishment. That does not give you the right to determine who you believe is going to or not. My parents and I did not pay upfront for our meal, none of the tables around us prepaid for their meals. The fact that she stated ‘it’s not because of their color’ proves it all.”
The restaurant was quick to apologize. That page has been taken down, almost as quickly. CNN caught it, though. “Everyone has been made aware of these inexcusable actions and reminded how we handle matters correctly in the future. We have rectified the situation and can guarantee this is not what we condone to go on within our restaurant.”
Despite the appearances, the store’s manager, Melvin Escobar, told reporters that the incident wasn’t racially motivated. He claims they have issues with teens not paying, in general.
IHOP President Darren Rebelez told CNN that the restaurant chain has “zero tolerance for actions that are or allude to discrimination of any type.”