Monday, 28 January 2013

Girl's Night(mare) Out

Girl’s night out, hen party, lady’s night …no matter how you describe it … it’s a tradition.  Little girls get together for sleepovers, vowing to stay up all night, only to be sound asleep by ten.  Teenage girls get together for sleepovers and do stay up most of the night giggling (usually about boys), watching scary movies and doing each other’s hair and make-up.  As we progress to womanhood “girl’s night out” means an evening away from little kids and husbands – an evening of sanity, laughter and (sometimes) tears with really good friends.  My children are grown, so now a “girl’s night out” is not so much about getting away from kids, but about getting together with friends.  It often involves the theater or a movie, or a celebration of a special event or just some down time to be able to “bitch” with other females.  And yes, it almost always involves dinner and/or drinks somewhere.  Sometimes a fancy restaurant to celebrate an occasion and sometimes a chain restaurant to grab a meal before going on to said movie or theater production.

Whether planned or impromptu, whether fancy or more casual, it’s always a nice evening.  And that is the way it’s supposed to be.  Unfortunately for three friends dining at a Chilly D’s Sports Lounge in Stockton, California their girl’s night out turned into a bit of a “nightmare” out.  Granted, when the bill comes at the end of a restaurant meal it can be a little shocking but when Christine Duran looked at their receipt the shock did not come from the total at the bottom, it came from a table identifier in the top left corner.  Instead of a table or section number or a customer name, the receipt read ‘fat girls’.

Duran could not believe what she was seeing and immediately turned to her friends Isabel Robles and Christina Huerta asking, “Why does this receipt say ‘fat girls’?”  They laughed and accused her of lying.  When she showed them the receipt they were dumbfounded.

Confronting the waiter when he came back to collect their money he denied having anything to do with the “label” stating that a waiter named “Jeff” (whose name does appear on the receipt) typed the title into the system to keep track of their bill.

Obviously the manager was called.  Duran told ABC news that he “had a smirk on his face, like it was funny but he was trying not to laugh”.  He offered them a discount of 25% and then upped it to 50%.  Understandably, the women rejected both offers.  In my opinion the manager should have comped them the meal and probably offered them a freebie return trip as well!  That is if they actually wanted to ever return to his establishment.

Although embarrassed Huerta took a picture of the receipt because she wanted others to see it.  Bar Manager Jimmy Seimers was not working the night the incident took place but questioned Jeff who admitted typing the words into the system.  Seimers stated, “I don’t think he understood completely because he was busy last night, but that’s just no excuse.”  Seimers also stated that Jeff was suspended as investigation into the incident continues, but added that “they would probably find nothing that would save Jeff’s job”.
Rightly so, Jeff’s job should not be saved under the circumstances.  I trip to a sensitivity training should be in the cards as well.  Jeff could take some customer service lessons from the Red Robin Manager in Apex, N.C. who also caused a stir with his customer’s receipt.  An obviously very pregnant woman came in with her husband to enjoy a quiet dinner out.  The manager recognized that she was tired and stressed and decided to do something nice for her.  When their receipt came they were pleasantly surprised when he comped their meal, and wished the mother-to-be the best of luck.  I get the distinct impression there would be no ‘fat girls’ receipt tolerated in his restaurant!

When Christina Robles talks about what happened she cries.  “He probably thought it was funny.  It’s not funny.  I can just see it over and over again, and I still can’t believe it.  They labeled us ‘fat girls’.  It’s just something we’ve got to deal with.”

Chilly D’s posted the following on their Facebook page the following Saturday:

“ … I completely understand why they were hurt by what was written on their receipt and that type of treatment isn’t tolerated.  Also there will be no tolerance in the future, guaranteed.  Everyone is welcome in our establishment, my family built this business so that the community of Stockton would have a safe and fun place to hang out and come together.  My hope is to heal our newly tarnished reputation so that everyone feels safe and welcome again.  And if these ladies would like to meet with my family and I, so that we can personally apologize, we would really like to do that, because we do not want anyone to have an experience like this.”
I understand that waiters and sales personnel need to track customers to make sure the right table/person receives the correct receipt or invoice.  But seriously, do these insensitive individuals not realize that what they type into their system gets printed on the customer’s receipt.  I have a hard time believing that!  This is not the first time a receipt has insulted a paying customer.  A Maryland Radio Shack employee referred to a woman as an “ugly bitch from tatooville” on a receipt in March 2012.  A Papa John’s employee was fired in January 2012 after using the racial slur “lady chinky eyes” on a customer’s receipt and in August 2010, Consumerist reported on a Domino’s receipt with a racist remark typed at the bottom. Although the ‘fat girls’ incident happened in December of 2012, I did not come across the story until this week, while I was looking up something else on the Internet.  It was reported on ABC News as well as written up in the Huffington Post.  Obviously the other receipts are equally as bad, even more so, as the receipt from Chilly D’s, but the ‘fat girls’ is the one that happened to speak to me personally.

I have never been skinny and have resigned myself to the fact that I never will be.  It’s not the way I am built and it’s just not in my genes, but I could definitely weigh less than I do now.  After all, that is the purpose of my TOPS membership, my virtual walk and this whole blog.  I have been heavier and I have been thinner but with age comes wisdom and I have learned to understand than I am not defined by the number on the scale.  As far as other people’s perceptions go, thinner is definitely better.  If you have ever been overweight (it’s really hard to say fat, which makes the above story that much harder to tolerate and that much more hurtful) chances are you have been insulted in one-way or another.  Overhearing a whisper as you walked by (probably purposely not whispered quietly enough) or a hurtful comment from a well-meaning friend or relative?  There’s that tried and true, “you’ve got such a pretty/handsome face … if only you would lose a few pounds.” 

Although I have not thought about the following two comments from my personal life in years, they immediately came to mind when I read the story of the ‘fat girls’ receipt.

“I didn’t know hair grew on fat!”

The scene:  My very physically fit, high school football playing cousin was sitting in the living room with me watching television.  A commercial came on for a hair removal cream for legs.  I happened to make a comment that it really was not as easy and mess free to use as the advertisement made it seem and that was his remark.  I have since forgiven him (well, mostly) because he was an insensitive jerk as a teenager.  I was not as quick on the draw or as outspoken back then (read: painfully shy).  If I had the nerve then that I have now I would have no doubt come back with something to the effect of, “Really?  It grows on your head doesn’t it?”  Alas, life does not have a do-over button.  This is a secret, so don’t tell anyone but about that little scene, nastily - I take the slightest bit of pleasure in the fact that despite his athletic prowess in high school, he is now also waging the battle of the bulge.  I would have to rethink my come-back comment as well, because he is also bald!

“Wow, I didn’t know pork sausage could dance?”

The scene:  High school dance … the first and last one I ever went to.  No regrets though as the Monday after the dances usually held the consensus that the “Friday dance sucked”.

As I said, I very rarely think on those comments but boy they sure popped up quick when I read the article about the receipt.  As it happens they both happened to me during those high school years.  Teenagers are a mean spirited bunch!  At the risk of totally giving away my age, but to put a little perspective on the whole thing, it was the 70’s.  Perceptions of what was “fat” were different than they are now.  I would never have been considered “skinny”, but I honestly do not think I would warrant that comment in high school now.  As an adult I have had situations where my weight has made me feel uncomfortable, self conscious, unhappy and sometimes even unwelcome but those are feelings that I brought on myself.  Overall no one has made verbal comments – at least not within earshot.  I’m not even going to talk about my pregnancy years where I definitely was as big as a house.  That’s a whole different discussion!

It’s 2013 and everyone tries to be politically correct.  Terms such as physically or mentally challenged are commonplace.  Racial slurs are unacceptable even in the context of humor.  Midgets are little people and secretaries are administrative assistants.  Every area of life has gentle euphemisms.  And rightly so, no one deserves to be singled out because of their differences.  But there is no gentle euphemism for fat.  Fat is fat or heavy (not flattering) or overweight (not much better) or obese (‘nuff said).  Fat people know they are fat and do not need other insensitive people pointing it out to them, particularly, in the public manner of the ‘fat girls’ incident.

The push to be slim is very strong.  Witness the number of commercials for Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, NutriSystem, etc.  Witness the number of lotions, potions and magic pills for sale.  I’m not saying those of us fighting the battle should not be concerned with being a healthier weight, with eating more sensibly or being physically stronger.  But I believe those slim (but not necessarily healthier) people are becoming more tolerant.  Actresses are no longer bone thin.  Queen Latifa is a large woman and I think she is absolutely gorgeous.  She dresses beautifully, carries herself well and is a very sexy lady.  She did ads for WW, so is obviously is also conscious about her weight, but in the meanwhile, she continues to play the love interest in romantic comedies.  And, believably so.  Kudos!  Stick thin and anorexic (actual or just looking so) fashion models have been banned from the major runway shows. 

Were the three girls involved overweight?  Honestly, yes they were.  Does that mean that they are not welcome in a public establishment, or that they need to be singled out?  Certainly not.  Since none of the articles I read offered Jeff’s age I can only assume that he was young.  In my experience as people get a little older they are more tolerant of weight issues as well as other differences.  More willing to take the person for whom they are.

I am grateful that the important people in my life look at my heart instead of my hips.

I'm posting this on Monday afternoon, before my TOPS weigh-in because my laptop is still at the doctor's.  I'll catch up on the weigh-in next week, but I did walk 15 km on the treadmill this week, so I can add a little more onto my virtual walk.

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