Burger King: Your House Burned Down?! The Red Cross Is Coming?! Get Out!

Burger King ejected 25 low-income residents who were waiting for the Red Cross to arrive after their Minneapolis apartment caught fire and burned to the ground. An assistant manager explained that the fire had slowed foot traffic to “virtually nothing,” and that the crowd had to either wait somewhere else or deal with the police.

They were dealt yet another blow when the Assistant Manager received a call from the Manager of Burger King, telling staff to close the restaurant due to the traffic slowed to virtually nothing. Street traffic had been blocked off for a 1-block radius. When the Assistant Manager informed the Manager that the Red Cross was processing the residents that had been evacuated, according to my source, the manager told her to ask everyone to leave and if they didn’t comply, to call the police. The Red Cross worker ended up talking to the manager, and a rescue bus was called to the scene.

Why not dress up the assistant manager as the king and send him over to the displaced folk to apologize with a few free whoppers? They’re waiting at the Days Inn over on University Avenue.

Fire, Ice And Tears [MPLS Mirror]
(AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac)

Comments

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  1. homerjay says:

    Thats a shame. They really could have taken the opportunity to make themselves look like shining stars by offering those people free food and drinks while they waited and stuff. Instead they do the expected.. I’m sure the franchise owner is just thrilled and his managers decision.

  2. Groovnick says:

    A better punishment would be to force him to become an assistant manager at a Burger King. Oh…

  3. ColdNorth says:

    As a Minnesotan, I have to ask: What ever happened to Minnesota Nice?

  4. DeltaPurser says:

    What a complete asshole! What happened to community service? Guess it never occured to her to fire up the grill and give each of them something to eat…

  5. SoCalGNX says:

    Terrible food, creepy, creepy TV ads and now this. Guess we won’t be eating there any time soon.

  6. peggyhill says:

    @ColdNorth:

    Totally! I’m a Chicago and I love visiting MN for that fact; everyone is so nice you betcha.

    They could totally have came out of this looking like rock stars… It’s so sad that in this world, it’s always the dollars. Who gives a rats s$$ about foot traffic! There’s a fire nearby! If I was them, I’d throw on some of that stuff they call coffee and start handing it out to Police, Fire, and most certainly, the displaced. Feats of strength like this would have been PR that BK couldn’t buy no matter the price. Instead, the AM chose the stupider of the 2 routes and tossed everyone out on their a$$! FOR SHAME!!!

  7. ptkdude says:

    BK’s customer service is so bad, I’m starting to think Comcast has been teaching classes!

  8. 46and2 says:

    let them eat cake!

  9. Katharine says:

    No wonder Burger Kings are closing in a lot of areas. They could at least pretend to care.

  10. uberbucket says:

    Fail. Seriously, the manager could have turned that situation into a huge PR boon, far offsetting any temporary profits hit.

  11. SaveMeJeebus says:

    Agreed–BK could have done something above and beyond what they did. However, in light of free food, I think these people should be required to pay $.23 for a pack of bbq sauce like the rest of us. You never give those away for free.

  12. greenpepper says:

    BK made the local news here when they outright refused to give some ice to a child injured in a bicycle mishap. They wanted $1 or so for a cup and the kid had no money. A customer stepped in and paid for the cup so the kid could get a handful of ice.

    Nice place.

  13. boxjockey68 says:

    @Groovnick: PERFECT!!

  14. Bill Brasky says:

    Say good bye to the king. I’ll never eat there again.

  15. sleze69 says:

    I am trying to figure out a way to blame the victims here so this thread is consistent with other consumerist threads.

    Hmm…loitering? Loss of revenue to the restaurant? He just wanted to let his employees off a little early?

  16. jeffjohnvol says:

    If the manager was there on the scene it would probably have been a different story. Many of these stores in low income areas are really at threat of closings, so the manager was probably under stress to keep costs down and every penny matters, especially in this economy, and that store employs a lot of people in that area I imagine (although not good $$).

    Its easy for us to say “yeah, they should have” with our cozy lives, but when your job is on the line it can be different. They make less than a teacher does managing a BK. I’m sure the national HQ would have done it differently but the low paid mgrs on the front line sometimes make bad decisions.

  17. VeeKaChu says:

    Welcome to Corporationalism. Everything’s an SKU and everyone’s a tool.

  18. laserjobs says:

    Wow, did they ever miss out on great PR. Instead they shit in their own bed. Think of how quickly this BK will close down after the local community gets word.

  19. KogeLiz says:

    I bet it was FREEZING out too.
    ugh.
    It’s sad when people don’t care about helping their fellow men/women.

  20. john_nyc says:

    I’m sure that all BK managers have MBA’s and are highly trained in spin doctoring.

    This is just an instance of another idiot making another idiotic decision. Of course this idiot should now be demoted to fry-guy.

  21. Tank says:

    @sleze69: They shouldn’t have lived in a building that was flammable, they should have lived next to a McDonald’s, they should earn more money so they aren’t forced to live in low income housing, someone should have called and scheduled the Red Cross bus to be there at the beginning of the fire instead of after there was no place else to go…

    OK, I’ll quit now.

  22. guevera says:

    Typical. No one gets fired as a shift manager at burger king because they were thinking “inside the box.” That’s the problem with big companies or even medium sized businesses — anytime I can deal with “some guy” it seems to be all good, anytime I have to deal with an employee it’s a struggle.

  23. Ravenwaift says:

    I would like to point out that the Burger King was right across the street from one of the buildings that was on fire. There were 3 fires in the same area. One fire which they put out, a second fire that started in the same place an hour later. That fire spread to a residental building which was across from the Burger King.

    In such circumstances would you, as a manager require that your employees stay during a fire that has already spread? Or would you want your building evacuated?

  24. bohemian says:

    From the article “The temperature was about -8 and not a good day for a fire, the firefighters, or those that the fire affected.”

    They didn’t evacuate the apartment until the afternoon when they couldn’t get the fire next door under control and it spread. So it was still probably really freaking cold out.

    I grew up in Mpls and there was sort of an unwritten rule in most of the north around there is you don’t leave people out in the cold no matter how inconvenient. I guess that has gone the way of corporate stupidity.

  25. mgy says:

    @ColdNorth: Somewhere around the 2000 season they changed into the Minnesota Wild.

  26. socalrob of the 24 and a half century says:

    @greenpepper:
    My local chevron station did that to me when I had a car accident right out side their station. My mom came because I was shaken up when the airbags went off and my hand was all swolen up and looked like it was sliced open. They made her pay a dollar for a cup of ice. So its not just BK, its asshats who want profit for absolutely nothing. A few cents for the cup would have been ok, but come on…

    But in BK’s defense they had no reason to stay open if there was no business, and they do reserve the right to refuse service. What if something would have happened on their premisses to one of the victims? If they weren’t customers then technically the have no right to just sit in a private business establishment and do nothing. Its not a public park.
    PS: If I cant spell, i’m a little hungover so forgive me.

  27. Mykro says:

    I bet BK planned it… Remember their slogan “Feel the Fire”?

  28. jeffjohnvol says:

    Without knowing what happened, it could have been that they were just hanging out and taking up space. We’re all picturing 9/11 burn victims, but there were basically displaced people, not ones with burns etc I’m guessing. It could also look as cold hearted as we are all assuming, but everyone here could be jumping to conclusions.

  29. humphrmi says:

    @jeffjohnvol: When your job is on the line, usually making creative decisions saves it. Pinching pennies at the cost of bad PR never saved anyone’s job.

  30. TheUncleBob says:

    Obviously, this wasn’t taken at this particular BK…

    [img.photobucket.com]

  31. Maulleigh says:

    Here’s the thing: Burger King is a business. They are not beholden to poor tax payers. If they’d all shown up at a doctor’s office, would we be any less/more sympathetic? How about an vet office? A day-care center?

    I’m with Burger King here. Yeah, it sucks that people lost their homes, but that’s FEMA’s problem.

    I do agree with HomerJay that they could have made it a photo opportunity and milked some press out of it. But that’s corporate: probably the store manager just sees a nasty bathroom s/he’s gotta clean.

  32. yourbffjill says:

    @Tank: maybe if they would have had their money in credit unions and would have paid off their credit cards in full every month, they wouldn’t have to live in low income housing.

    problem solved.

  33. n/a says:

    I wonder if Burger King of Minnesota is taking this seriously?

  34. pfeng says:

    Whiners. Of course you should have to pay for a cup of ice. How are they supposed to tell real accident victims from the roving gangs of ice thieves who prey on small businesses, creating sob stories just to get more cool goodness at no cost?

    Um, back on topic, that manager was a real jerk. He should have at least come in person to close his store up. Sounds like the assistant manager at least TRIED to point out that there was victim assistance going on there.

    He wanted his building evacuated so he didn’t have to pay his employees to be there with no sales going on. JERK. Burger King corporate should reprimand him severely, and offer free meals to the affected families — that’s the only way they’re going to get an even slightly positive spin after this…

  35. edrebber says:

    If a group of strangers knocked on your door and wanted come in for an indefinite period of time because their apartment was on fire, would you let them in?

  36. humphrmi says:

    @Maulleigh: I don’t think anyone disagrees here that Burger King and corporate America in general can be as heartless as they want. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t call them jerks when they do.

  37. ShortBus says:

    @Maulleigh: An apartment building burns down and FEMA (The “F” stands for “Federal”, ya know) should be called in? Ugh… I hate attitudes like that. Rather than advocate that people in the neighborhood–the same community–lend a hand, you’d rather see the federales swoop in.

    I’m convinced that personal responsibility will someday be trendy again. Guess it’s not going to be 2008 though.

  38. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @Maulleigh: Okay…

    1) It’s not FEMA’s problem when there’s an apartment building fire;

    2) The victims’ income level has nothing to do with anything;

    3) Refusing to help the Red Cross is a dick move;

    4) Also a dick move: kicking a couple dozen people out into the middle of a Minnesota winter.

    I’m kind of floored, here, because I didn’t expect anyone to seriously argue that what Burger King did was okay. Don’t want to give them free coffee? Hey, whatever. Threatening to call the cops on people who don’t have anywhere to go? I don’t care what standards supposedly apply to a business, that’s a failure of human decency.

  39. Amelie says:

    @jeffjohnvol: Since you don’t know what happened, why make douchebag assumptions?

    The Burger King in question, is in a low income area and it doesn’t tolerate people “simply hanging out.” The fact these people were allowed to stay for any length of time, meant it was an extraordinary circumstance.

    These people were in distress, especially considering the dangerous weather. This picture from the StarTribune, gives you an idea of how miserable it was.
    When’s the last time you experienced -8 degree weather?
    [www.startribune.com]

    I can guarantee that the if a bunch of suburban evacuees took shelter in their neighboring Burger King, this would not have happened.

  40. Tank says:

    @yourbffjill: Oh dude, yer killin’ me – I can’t believe I missed the most obvious one!

  41. CharlieSeattle says:

    What a pity, could have been a PR moment. I was in a car accident with my dad when I was a kid. There was a small burger stand on the corner, and they were so friendly and were offering me everything. I was in shock and didn’t accept anything except some water.

  42. smarty says:

    It’s really funny reading the comments about BK and Chevron. The intelligence level must be sky-high when they are blaming the corporation, when both Chevron stations and BKs are franchises. I believe Kinderhook Industries’ is the owner of the MN BK, so everyone better not frequent ANY of Kinderhook’s businesses!

  43. coan_net says:

    Please note just like almost every place – this is a perfect example of a “bad employee” – not a “bad business”.

  44. rdunlap says:

    @edrebber: Absolutely, especially if it’s cold outside. I’d offer ‘em coffee and something to eat as well. Of course, that’s how us Southerners are raised…

  45. goller321 says:

    @Maulleigh: Figures… a troll siding with BK. Hey fat nerd, quit wishing you were really a girl and have the surgery already…. but for the record, you’ll never look like the avatar…

  46. Amelie says:

    @coan_net: So, out of the blue, the manager telephones the assistant manager, and says, “Close the place down”? This is a perfect example of a bad business.

  47. Mykro says:

    I love BK. They have great TendercrispsSandwiches.. As a matter of fact, I had it last night. Although, the coulple close to me don’t have horrible customer service, just bad.

    Go after the franchise to go after the manager. Fire him and promote the assistant. Set an example and teach morals.. I wonder if anyone remembers what morals are :(

  48. timsgm1418 says:

    here’s one option to blaming the victims…they should have known a fire was a possiblity and had alternater residences available to them? please know I’m just kidding of course@sleze69:

  49. timsgm1418 says:

    @timsgm1418: alternate…geez can’t type today

  50. forgottenpassword says:

    @SaveMeJeebus:

    I always ask for packets of the buffalo sauce (their buffalo sauce is awesome!) when I get up to the drivethru pickup window. The attendant is always so busy & wants to get me out of there that they always just give them to me without charge. ;)

    As for the article, I agree that the manager could have made this into a great PR opportunity ..giving free food to displaced people in need of it. But went in the complete opposite direction & now damaged BK’s name.

  51. jeffjohnvol says:

    @humphrmi: I wouldn’t expect someone who has to get teenagers to work to make creative decisions. Do that job for a month and see how creative you are, lol.

  52. Steve Trachsel, Ace says:

    @goller321: Wow, talk about a nasty comment. Grow up.

  53. camille_javal says:

    @Maulleigh: Here’s the thing: Burger King is a business. They are not beholden to poor tax payers. If they’d all shown up at a doctor’s office, would we be any less/more sympathetic? How about an vet office? A day-care center?

    If the business owner can look outside and see 1) residences are on fire, and 2) there are several feet of snow on the ground – fucking right I’d expect any place that accepts public foot traffic to let them wait for the Red fucking Cross.

    As for whether I’d let them into my own home, maybe. If I didn’t I’d probably still make some coffee and take it out to them, blankets if I had them. (I’m paranoid about anyone coming into my home.)

    Capitalism should not be an acceptable excuse for being a rude asshole – the fact that it is regularly accepted as such is indication of a warped, pathetic mess of a society.

  54. MBZ321 says:

    Another reason why I don’t go to Burger King. That, and it is by far the DIRTIEST fast food restaurant i’ve ever been to. (multiple locations) I’m not expecting a 5 star restaurant, but when I see unwashed tables, fries on the floor, trash overflowing, and not to mention the rude employees, (having personal conversations when I’m trying to get my food…I haven’t eaten in one in several years.

  55. dualityshift says:

    @smarty:
    Burger King operations are not ALL franchised locations. A good portion of the stores are corporate owned.

  56. timsgm1418 says:

    @socalrob: I may actually be able to top your story. I went into labor with twins in 1984. At the time I had no extra money, so I had no phone. Not to be too gross but let’s just say my water broke, I woke my 2 year old son up from his nap, and tried knocking on doors to use a phone, since it was during the day, nobody was home. We went down to the rental office and I asked if I could use their phone because my water broke and I needed to call my doctor, they told me the phone was only for business and I had to leave. One of the workers kind of felt bad and gave me a quarter to use the pay phone across the street. So I had to walk across the street with a 2 year old, waddling while trying to keep a towel between my legs. That was my rude awakening that sometimes businesses are just jerks.

  57. timsgm1418 says:

    @TheUncleBob: or by anybody that could spell correctly

  58. timsgm1418 says:

    @edrebber: no, but then my home isn’t a business where strangers walk in all the time

  59. timsgm1418 says:

    @camille_javal: definitely agree. when I lived in HUD housing almost 25 years ago, there was a knock at my door at almost midnight. It was a lady that I barely knew, with 2 of her kids, she asked me to watch them because her current boyfriend was holding a knife to her babys throat while the police were negotiating with him. I willingly took her children in for over 2 hours, even though mine were asleep, and I wanted to be asleep, because it was a fellow human being that needed help.And I would absolutely do it again (but very happy I’m no longer in HUD housing, so chances are less it will happen again)

  60. ninjatales says:

    @ColdNorth: Minnesota Nice is still alive and kicking. Just look at that warm smile from the King. I’m sure the BK assistant mgr had it on as he turned people away.

  61. M3wThr33 says:

    I have a feeling the people that were involved were pretty unfavorable.

  62. samurailynn says:

    To everyone saying that this would have been a great PR opportunity… This is a BK in a low income neighborhood. Most people don’t visit chain fast food places because they heard about some great thing they did for the community. On top of that, people in low income neighborhoods are even less likely to change their spending habits because of that.

    Now, I don’t think they were right to kick everyone out. When the manager heard what was going on, he could have come down to the store himself and sent all but one or two employees home. When Red Cross arrived to pick everyone up or whatever, then he could have finished closing the place up. Yes, it might have been an extra $15-30 in wages, but that’s not that big of a loss.

  63. bobert says:

    @edrebber: “If a group of strangers knocked on your door and wanted come in for an indefinite period of time because their apartment was on fire, would you let them in?”

    If a building across the street were on fire, and there were fire engines and whatnot on the street, and the strangers said, “Hey, we’re from the apartment building that’s on fire and they evacuated us and we need to get out of this freezing weather”…

    Why, yes, I *would* let them in. I’d invite them to sit down, let them use the bathroom, offer them food and drink, put on coffee, and let them use my telephone. If they were sooty from the fire I’d let them wash up or take a shower, and if their clothes were dirty or wet I’d let them use my washer and dryer.

    But then, I’ve been the recipient of similar kindnesses in the past, and I’m not easily frightened.

  64. Amelie says:

    @M3wThr33: So you have a feeling “the people were pretty unfavorable.” And you know this how? And what other criteria do you have to judge, other than they were “low-income?”

  65. Michael Belisle says:

    “Burger King opts not to lend a hand, requests that Red Cross process people elsewhere.”

    It sucks that the manager’s a prick, but charity has never been mandatory.

  66. mysidia says:

    What do you mean charity not mandatory?

    Allowing people to be present in your restaurant is not charity.

    Kicking out 20+ customers or potential customers (neighbors) so you can close early, when you _know_ it will be a serious problem, is still disgraceful and totally unprofessional.

    What do you think those 25 people are going to tell their friends about Burger King?

    How many readers of this site are going to avoid Burger King and express a negative opinion about Burger King, once they learn about what happened in Minnesota?

    I think lots.

    If BK has any intelligence left, they will treat this as a PR disaster, make a very public apology, and tell us that the Manager of that particular restaurant has been fired.

  67. UEAKCrash says:

    Honestly, to me it sounds like the manager was worried because his lobby was full of police officers and victims. While he sounds rather jaded and rude in the article, it would probably be safe to assume he was looking out for the business as a whole, as they could not take in any money from new customers, since, as the article said, all the foot traffic in the store had been stopped.

    Unless I’m reading something wrong here, it sounds like they were just worried about losing money. You have to realize how close to profit/ no profit a lot of these fast food places run.

  68. nardo218 says:

    Maybe they were causing a scene or a problem with other customers. Two sides to every story.

  69. nardo218 says:

    @KogeLiz: Yah, Minneapolis is pretty much a tundra this time of year, isn’t it? (Or so I glean from the Mary Tyler Moore Show.)

  70. Amelie says:

    @nardo218: Learn to read, instead of making assumptions that suit your own purposes:

    “Assistant Manager received a call from the Manager of Burger King, telling staff to close the restaurant due to the traffic slowed to virtually nothing. Street traffic had been blocked off for a 1-block radius.”

  71. Michael Belisle says:

    @mysidia: It is charity. It costs money to pay the employees that stay. Energy costs money. Since there were few if any paying customers, it would have cost BK money to stay open. BK had the option to temporarily lend its establishment, and apparently chose not to.

    And at no point were the people without assistance despite what Carey’s summary and the headline says. The Red Cross was already there: “The Red Cross worker ended up talking to the manager, and a rescue bus was called to the scene.”

  72. marsneedsrabbits says:

    This sort of reminds me of the Texas Roadhouse manager who tried to bill the cops for lost business after two police officers were shot and killed in the line of duty in the vicinity of his store.
    I will never eat there again as long as I live because of that.
    The full story: [www.snopes.com]

  73. @edrebber: err… YES!

  74. Shappie says:

    The only way to contact burger king corporate is to mail something to their offices. It says on their website, “Email contributions will not be accepted.” WTF is that about? Who in this day and age doesn’t accept emails???

  75. dandd says:

    On one hand what BK did was heartless, but I understand what they did.

    I suggest that during the winter all stores open themselves to the cold masses. Put some cots out for the homeless, give them free food and coffee. Sure, they aren’t buying anything and quite possibly detracting from profits, but hey at least you aren’t heartless.

  76. othium says:

    Kicking people out in the cold is not an uncommon theme in Minneapolis/Saint Paul. Many stores on the bus line have big signs on the front door stating “No Bus Waiting” and require you to make a purchase in order to enjoy the few minutes of heat in their store.

    Burger King (or any fast food joint in this town for that matter) have such horrible staff and quality that I wouldn’t set foot in one if I was paid to anyway. It sucks that these people were forced to as they had no other choice due to having their homes burned. I bet many of them were not happy about being in that place also.

  77. thecaptain605 says:

    This is so ridiculous. I was there at the bk that day before they got kicked out and I saw what was going on. There was an arson across the street that burned down a building across the street supposedly because the “urban clothing store” there was getting busted as a drug front but that is a little bit hearsay. The entire block was closed and blocked with firetrucks, cop cars and ambulances. No on would have gone into the BK across the street from the fire that day, there were f’ing police lines marking the crime scene. I got some food and from what I saw the employees at the BK were being very accommodating (giving free food, letting them stay and meet with emergency services) to the displaced families who had no where else public to go nearby on the tragic -10 degree winter day. I do have to admit that it was a little awkward being in the middle of the crisis center, but I ate my food and felt really good that the BK would help the community that no doubt ate there all the time because they lived across the street.

    Why are managers always the dumbest shits on the planet? The BK could have appeared the hero of the situation, but instead they look like assholes. I Agree, the manager should be fired. Their ignorant decision put the icing on the cake for the families whose lives had just been shaken.

  78. timsgm1418 says:

    sadly charity is mandatory, my tax dollars go to third world countries all the time@Michael Belisle:

  79. humphrmi says:

    @othium:

    Many stores on the bus line have big signs on the front door stating “No Bus Waiting” and require you to make a purchase in order to enjoy the few minutes of heat in their store.

    LOL, a little off-topic, but Chicago’s infamous Mayor Daley figured out how to deal with these types in Chicago’s loop. He threatened to put up an advertisement-funded bus shelter in front of the store, and have the city buy a big ad on the shelter that said “Store XXX behind you wants you to stand in the cold. Mayor Daley invites you to stay warm here.”

    After he spelled out in detail what he was going to do, the big stores like Macy’s and Carson’s backed down.

  80. algormortis says:

    What. The. Hell.

    Burger King ought be ashamed, and i certainly hope said Assistant Manager is without job by now. There’s dumb, and then there’s the action equivalent of taking a dump on the dispossessed. This is magically both.

  81. WV.Hillbilly says:

    It a business for paying customers, not a waiting room for refugees from the projects.

  82. CrazyRedd says:

    @ColdNorth: Indeed!

  83. shadow735 says:

    its best not to agrue with the king because he will kick your ass!!

    I seriously doubt that the police woutl do a damn thing if the red cross were processing these people. Damn that manager is going to get some bad karma knocking at his door. The new should do a story on how heartless he is. then his BK biz will be clobbered.

  84. shadow735 says:

    @WV.Hillbilly: Hey Hillbilly, when a natural disaster hits your area dont go to the schools because a school is there for kids to learn not a refugee camp
    /sarcasm off

    p.s. You are a Hearless Jerk.

  85. WV.Hillbilly says:

    @shadow735:
    My taxes pay for schools. They’re not a private business.

    Only an asshole calls someone a jerk.

  86. shadowkahn says:

    @ColdNorth:

    Applebees manager in Plymouth recently found out about an apartment fire in the neighborhood of his restaurant. He called corporate and got permission to help out. A couple hours later he rolled up to the fire scene with about 100 meals and drinks for the displaced residents. The Plymouth police just gave him a community service award for that, in fact. Minnesota Nice does still exist – you just have to look a little harder than you used to.

  87. shadow735 says:

    @WV.Hillbilly: Hey Hillbilly sorry if I made you all defensive, but if you can be so cold hearted to people that just lost their homes and all they own then you have just proven who the asshole truly is.
    I guess that comprehension of the word compassion is completely beyond your understanding. I hope that when you go to bed you feel all warm and toasty about yourself and your wonderful attitude toward those in need.

  88. WV.Hillbilly says:

    Not cold hearted, just business.
    For paying customers.

  89. trujunglist says:

    @Ravenwaift:

    I’d tell the employees to shut off the grill to save gas. Then you’d have some real flame broiled whoppers.