California Tortilla Cashier Screams At Disabled Customer Who Accidentally Spilled Tray

Update: The owner of the California Tortilla left an excellent response, republished inside in full.

Reader Mark is a California Tortilla fanatic. He slept outside the Ranson store so he could be their first customer, earning a year of free burritos. Mark kept patronizing California Tortilla even after he fractured his back in a car accident and started wearing a bulky back brace that limited his ability to move or bend. On one visit, Mark accidentally knocked over his tray. When nobody came to help, Mark asked the cashier for assistance and was startled when she replied, “So I guess you want me to clean it up?” She then managed to further embarrass Mark by loudly explaining to other customers, “Sorry I kinda have to clean up when someone makes a mess.”

Mark cc’d us on his email to California Tortilla headquarters:

I wanted to convey my recent dining experience at the Ranson California Tortilla.

I have been a long time customer and was extremely excited when the Ranson location opened in the summer of 2007. Heck I was so excited I slept outside the restaurant and managed to be the 1st customer in line on opening day garnering the fame and awe of my friends and co-workers and even random strangers I meet when I tell the tale of that fateful night, how awesome and spunky California Tortilla is and the fact that yes they may shake my hand since I have earned the prestigious honor of free burritos for a year!

Ever since that fateful day I have been religiously eating out at California Tortilla, admittedly spending way too much money (Damn you and your gimmicky marketing ploy!).

In early December of 2007 I was involved in a serious car accident fracturing my back and leaving my incapacitated for several weeks. When I finally regained the ability to move I was placed in a brace that runs from my lower back up to my neck. As you can imagine this not only made life not so fun it also limited my ability to do simple things like bend or move, isn’t it amazing how much these basic activities play a roll in your daily life? Needless to say I neglected my duty to eat at California Tortilla for almost two grueling months.

Upon receiving your monthly Taco Talk© (Issue 150!) (or as I refer to it as your ‘Call to Action! Newsletter!) detailing the plight of the worst sales week of the year I decided it was my duty as a loyal spunky customer to support your American dream of a bigger vacation home or possibly a new sports car, and had to act!

Despite the fact that I was still unable to fully function and had limited mobility I took the family to the Ranson California Tortilla and ordered 1 kids burrito, 1 chili taco bowl, 1 Caribbean Jerk burrito combo and 1 Kids MYO platter at 12:20pm (order #221). I received the food and began to prepare to eat having the usual joyous time picking out a new hot sauce and to get a drink. Upon attempting to sit down in my seat my body brace made contact with my food tray and spilled my entire meal ($19.57 after discount) onto the floor spilling the drink on the floor, throwing the chips and queso around and destroying the meals. After the customary cursing at myself for being so stupid and figured your normally awesome, attentive and friendly employees, several of whom were walking around the restaurant would come to help me out, none did. Several fellow customers offered napkins to help me clean up but obviously making such a mess required more than several napkins, not to mention the fact that I could not bend over to attempt to clean up. Seeing that no one was helping me I approached the take out cashier station and began to explain my predicament to the female behind the counter (white female, 18-22 years old, 5’3”), she yelled ‘what I can’t hear you’. I again told her that spilled my food and drink all over the floor, she rudely sighed and stated ‘so I guess you want me to clean it up?’ A short while later the employee trudged over to began to assist in cleaning up the mess, when another customer attempted to walk by the employee yelled to him ‘sorry I kinda have to clean up when someone makes a mess’. Needless to say if I didn’t feel enough like shit for ruining my family’s meal the comment by the employee and her entire reaction to the event pretty much sealed the deal.

The employee than left the area, neither her nor any other employee approached me and offered any replacement food items or any other type of encouragement. I allowed my children to finish their brownies and drinks and promptly left feeling about as big as an ant, still hungry after paying $20 to throw food on the floor.

I understand that this incident is not your employees fault, but as awesome as employees, managers and store owners have been in the past helping refill drinks and other needs I was a little shocked at the treatment I received. I’ve received friendlier and warmer customer service from the employees at McDonald’s when such an event happens there then I received from the employees on this visit. Knowing how you strive to provide an exceptional customer experience I’m sure you share my disgust with the treatment I received on this visit. If this is going to be the type of treatment I receive from your employees I think I’ll take my business elsewhere!

Owner Larry Herman responded with the following:

My name is Larry Herman, Owner of California Tortilla in Ranson, WV. Thanks so much for the post. Two minutes ago was the first I became aware of your story as I was forwarded an email from someone who read that post. It was the first time that I have been made aware of this incident. I was never forwarded the email sent to headquarters. Not an excuse, just an explanation as to why I am commenting now. I want to immediately respond. I apologize for our failure to communicate and accept all responsibility. In spite of the fact that I have many, many wonderful emails explaining great experiences (a few references were made in yours), anything less than the finest service on every visit with every customer is unacceptable. Plain and simple. Even one instance will not be tolerated. I would like to know some more details from you so I can address and deal with the employee and any other staff that were involved as well as ensure that any and all future visits were just like all the others that you have had. I appreciate the comments suggesting possible scenarios. I accept NONE of them! We employ people to do the exact opposite of this and think they all do. Obviously, someone did not this time. Once is over my limit. 100% concern 100% of the time for 100% of the customers is our ONLY acceptable type of behavior. This type of attitude, EVEN ONCE, is something up with which we will not put! There is NEVER a reason to treat anyone with this or any type of disrespect. I will personally make sure that this employee and situation is dealt with swiftly and immediately. Please contact me at the store 304-728-7500 or ranson@californiatortilla.com. YOU and all of our customers are the reason we are here. We appreciate you and will only employ people who treat everyone with the most superior respect, care, and courtesy. I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks. Larry

(Photo: Getty)

Comments

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  1. Marshfield says:

    Nice letter. Hope they send him some coupons for free food soon. Sounds like the employee was having a bad day. Or perhaps a bad life.

  2. wdnobile says:

    As my Dad always says..”theres a reason they work THERE”. Fast food places often offer the minimum in pay and so , in turn, get the lowest quality employee.

    Even so, the way the OP was treated was reprehensible, even if he hadnt been a disabled person. You see someone drop something like that, its common courtesy to help. Thats what the other customers did. Too bad that restaurant didnt have any similar minded folks working that day.

    • Jackasimov says:

      @wdnobile: Aww balls. Totally not true. I worked fast food (did you?) for a few years – and at a nickel above minimum wage for that matter – and rarely ran into people who didn’t take their work seriously and try to always do a good job. If they didn’t do their job well they’d hear about it and leave everybody else hanging in the lurch.

      Low pay doesn’t encourage poor performance in fact it’s probably quite the opposite. You do well, you get noticed, you move up, you move on. Fucks’sake, it’s a pretty hard job too, you should try it sometime.

      Some of the laziest snottiest people I know make an easy 6 figures. Is there a reason they work where they work?

      I don’t know what crawled up that girl’s ass that day but she needs to get into a new line of work. Preferably one without customers. That’s no way to treat a cripple.

      On a lighter note, what the hell is California Tortilla and why don’t we have them in Chicago?

    • Ajh says:

      @wdnobile: As someone who worked in a fast food place, and did my best to be polite and a hard worker…I say ..your father’s full of it.

      Looking down on people working minimum wage jobs saying there is something wrong with them that they can’t find a better place to work is just despicable. And where would you be without them? Checking your own groceries out and making your own greasy hamburgers.

      However…this particular employee is also horrible. Rude employees happen at every level. I hope something’s done.

      • Hate_Brian_Club_I'mNotOnlyThePresidentI'mAClient says:

        @Ajh:

        Despicable? That’s a little harsh. I’ve worked in fast food and a certain share of my co-workers gave no shit whatsoever about the customer other than getting them the hell out of the restaurant.

        The fact is, low paying service industry jobs attract a wide variety of different people and a noticeable percentage of them couldn’t give a damn about their job. Not to say that that doesn’t apply to every field, but in my experience low paying jobs have higher turnover and less dedication.

        • Ajh says:

          @Hate_Brian_Club: The thing is to generalize the people that work at these jobs as trash that does poor work is to insult horribly the ones that do good work. It’s like saying that kid’s from a poor neighborhood and lots of criminals are from poor neighborhoods so he must be a criminal. It just doesn’t WORK that way.

        • Jackasimov says:

          @Hate_Brian_Club: Maybe it’s just you, buddy. Shit tends to roll downhill, as they say, and perhaps you were just at the bottom at the time. Or maybe somewhere towards the middle and part of the problem.

          I’m afraid your “noticeable percentage” has no basis in fact. Garbage.

    • Petra says:

      @wdnobile:

      My first summer out of high school, I worked mornings at a fast food mexican restaurant and evenings as a waitress at a ’50s style diner, and I can say without any hesitation whatsoever that I never used my crappy $5.30/hour wage as an excuse for poor service. No matter how awful your day is, and no matter how poor your pay is, you are expected to provide a smile and good service to your customers, even the clumsy, annoying, or verbally abusive ones! As I read this, I was genuinely shocked that an employee didn’t immidiately ask if he/she could help and offer to replace the food.

  3. outphase says:

    [www.californiatortilla.com]

    Time for a training opportunity anyone? Relevant EECB info is located there.

    I wish the OP the best.

    • AdvocatesDevil says:

      @outphase: THANK YOU! I always contact businesses to let them know of the stories I read here and I SO wish this site just including this information right in the post!

      • Legal_Eagle_In_Training says:

        href=”#c8017513″>Roclawzi: I totally agree. I worked at a chain sandwich store during college, and the first thing they tell you in cashier training is that you are the only representative of the company that the customer is likely to see. I agree with this wholeheartedly, and am ashamed when I encounter people like this. Regardless of what the job is, it’s your job, so treat it with some respect if you hope to keep said job and move up to a better job down the road.

  4. Roclawzi says:

    Should be fascinating to see what their response is. I know it’s not their fault that your spilled your tray, but the fact is that it’s moments that make up superior customer service, not just consistent service. Friendly is good, fast is good, but your situation gave them the opportunity to go outside the norm to serve a customer. 5 minutes work and 2 bucks (their cost) of food would have reinforced why you love the place and recommend it. Instead you get poor service. No doubt your cashier did a little emo poem on her myspace that night:

    Burrito burrito crash splat
    mop, bucket not for me
    funny how your brace makes you
    look like a crab as you
    scuttle on the floor trying
    to pick up what you dropped
    haha crippie boy
    i hate the prom queen

    Or something to that effect.

    And for those that are about to say “what do you expect from a minimum wage employee”, I say this: You can get bad service from someone making 40 bucks an hour as easily as someone making 5. Good service is a matter of pride, not compensation. Even if you pay a premium for your employees, all you’ll do is make them work a tiny bit harder when directly observed to keep their premium rate.

    • juri squared says:

      @Roclawzi: I agree. Had I worked there I’d’ve gotten their food replaced. I’ve done my food service dues (college food court) and when I saw someone wipe out with a tray I was happy to replace it. Didn’t cost me anything but a second of time, after all.

  5. cwsterling says:

    on the point of sounding like a prick, he mentioned that he had the kids there with him, (Prick part coming) one would think if you had just recently regained mobility that you would let your kids help out.(end of prick)

    Sorry, I personally felt I needed to say that even though it was very mean.

    • crazyasianman says:

      @cwsterling:

      maybe his kids are very very young? still feel for the dude though, her making a huge to-do about cleaning up when he isn’t exactly in any shape to do so. I wonder if the brace was externally visible?

    • Jackasimov says:

      @cwsterling: I was thinking the same thing. You know the old saying: “old enough to eat a kids burrito or some kind of platter, you got time to clean.” I’d say if they’re on solid food they can help out dear old dad a bit especially if some youngster is giving him a hard time. Plus by that age I’d have them cussing out the belligerent employee and chasing her with plastic knives.

      Seriously though, the letter is just a wee too familiar and upbeat. I hope it works, but it’s spunkiness is maybe a little to informal.

      • ea917 says:

        @Jackasimov: “Seriously though, the letter is just a wee too familiar and upbeat. I hope it works, but it’s spunkiness is maybe a little to informal.”

        Ah, but this is a case of “know your audience” — check out the California Tortilla website. It’s a very wacky and informal place, founded by comedians actually. They refer to their staff as “spunky cashiers,” have a weekly Burrito Wheel to spin and win prizes, and even throw in random Pop Tarts and ice pops days as promo fun throughout the year.

        I love CalTort too, and I’m hoping they come through to redeem themselves. Pam (“the lady on the cup,” and brains behind the operation) has seemed pretty cool before; she seems to be all about the customers and appreciating that they stick around.

        • Jackasimov says:

          @ea917: Oh god no. I can’t take that shit while I’m eating. Or thinking of eating. Or thinking about things. Or anytime really. It’s called whimsy. I am it’s mortal enemy.

    • @cwsterling: He did say he spilled soda and other things. While napkins help, you will need a mop and water to clean the rest up, otherwise you have a slipping hazzard from the grease and the soda will make everything else sticky. There’s nothing wrong with alerting/asking an employee for help with a spill. I doubt they have a mop and bucket full of cleaner out for customer use. Just saying…

  6. timmus says:

    How come we know the store’s name but not the employee’s name? This seems kind of backwards given the circumstances.

  7. GundamAC197 says:

    Ok, bear with me.

    This is unfortunate, to say the least. But as I understand it, doesn’t one normally wear a brace of that sort under their clothes? This is a really mean way to react to someone with a disability, but it’s not as reprehensible to respond that way to an able bodied person who makes a mess and then asks you to clean it up, without making an effort to do so themselves.

    I think it’s entirely possible the worker didn’t realize his disability, just saw some guy drop a full tray of food and then expect her to do all the work to clean it up. Things happen. People have bad days. We’ve all snapped at someone who didn’t have it coming.

    …on the other hand, it’s entirely possible this person was just rude.

    • taylorb says:

      @GundamAC197: I think you missed the point. He couldn’t have cleaned it up with napkins even if he didn’t have the brace. And as an employee, you’re supposed to get the hell over your bad day and be nice to customers. Your other hand is correct.

    • SabyneWired says:

      @GundamAC197: You might be thinking of the normal Lumbar belts and such that people often wear for back injuries.

      I work in a hospital (though not as an RN!), and, if memory serves, I’ve seen the braces they use for people who have back fractures. They’re easily some of the most awkward things I’ve ever seen; they’re molded to fit the patient’s body with plaster, then straps are added so they can be secured. They’re not really meant for mobility, and most times in a case like the OP’s, they’re worn outside of clothing due to their bulk.

      With that out of the way, they’re really hard to miss, unless you’re blind as a bat like this employee seems to be. I can’t believe that anyone with an ounce of sense in their heads would let someone sit there and practically beg for help when something like this happens. Had it been me, I’d have cleaned it up no problem, then offered to have the meals remade.

      Bad show by the employee, I say.

      • GundamAC197 says:

        @SabyneWired: Ah, ok.

        And if anything, I wholeheartedly agree that it was a bad show by the employee. I just feel like a lot of people here are quick to be like “Ugh, this is such a horrible person, they shouldn’t be working anywhere EVER” when the truth is everybody has a bad day. For all you know, her mom died that morning and she was lamenting a life of customer service.

        • everybody has a bad day. For all you know, her mom died that morning and she was lamenting a life of customer service.

          @GundamAC197: Whatever. Just because you hate your job doesn’t mean you get to be a dick to all your customers. Ms. Angry Cashier is either too young and inexperienced to get a better job and needs to learn to deal, OR she’s decided to stay working at a teen’s job well into her 20s, 30s, or 40s, in which case it’s no one’s fault but her own that she can’t move up. With that attitude, it’s no surprise.

          I have no problem with the people who serve me fast food etc. There’s nothing wrong with working there at any age, presuming that’s what you want to do with your time. OTOH, if you hate your customer service job so much, do us all a favor and get a job digging ditches or something so you don’t have to go ruining everyone’s day out in public.

      • @SabyneWired: Is it the same kind of thing Kennedy was wearing in Dallas, which they say kept him propped up, which meant he couldn’t duck?

  8. icingsugar says:

    I’m sorry, why didn’t you speak up? Why didn’t you ask for assistance rather than watch employees walk by you in the restaurant? They may have thought that you had it under control/not paying attention.

    And when the cashier was ignoring the situation why not say “Hey, is there any way to get a replacement? My kids are hungry…” If she is a bad employee then a little nagging would have helped. I don’t agree with how the situation was handled, but I also don’t understand when customers with a valid grievance don’t speak up. No one is going to watch out for you. (and McDonald’s has never cared when I’ve spilled my soda, btw.)

    • picardia says:

      @icingsugar: Did you miss the part of the story where he did ask for assistance?

      • icingsugar says:

        @picardia: Nope, I didn’t miss it. I was commenting on his passiveness about the situation.

        From OP–After the customary cursing at myself for being so stupid and figured your normally awesome, attentive and friendly employees, several of whom were walking around the restaurant would come to help me out, none did.
        (I would have asked for help of these employees walking around at this point if I was somewhat not mobile like OP)

        –The employee than left the area, neither her nor any other employee approached me and offered any replacement food items or any other type of encouragement.
        (Perfect point to ask “hey is there a way to get a replacement?” like I commented before.)

        I meant speak up as in an opportunity for OP to be more direct with his feelings about the situation. If the employees are mindlessly ignoring the whole situation he should have been more direct, embarrassment be damned. If he wanted a replacement he should have asked for it when he was pretty much being ignored anyway. He didn’t seem to have exhausted his resources at the restaurant level (asking for a replacement, possibly escalating to manager for what he wanted) it seems silly to escalate after you have left.

  9. closed_account says:

    @icingsugar: I understand losing things you just paid for (and how it sucks). I do not understand why America faults someone else when you spill something you purchased. The store did not make you spill your items, why should they have to foot the bill? If you buy a new car and hit a pole leaving the dealership you wouldn’t throw it in reverse and ask for a replacement, would you?

    I understand that each situation is different- I just do not get why it is always someone else that is at fault when someone has an accident.

    That said, I would expect more from any establishment and the treatment of ANYONE that has a spill in their store. Also offering to replace the lost items (it isn’t like he bought this meal with the intention of throwing it on the floor) would be a great offer.

    …And yelling at anyone is never understandable.

    • hills says:

      @chadbailey:
      “I understand that each situation is different- I just do not get why it is always someone else that is at fault when someone has an accident.”

      He never said it wasn’t his fault – he took full responsibility for the mess, he just couldn’t clean it up and needed help with that. Your analogies don’t fly. He just wanted some human decency.

      • Trojan69 says:

        @hillsrovey: No, he had the expectation they would replace the lost food.

        If this were not true, he would never have mentioned it. If this was strictly about the slow response to clean it up and the poor attitude/rudeness of the employee, he wouldn’t have mentioned anything else, to wit:

        “The employee than left the area, neither her nor any other employee approached me and offered any replacement food items or any other type of encouragement.”

        See? He expected the offer of food replacement.

    • Jackasimov says:

      @chadbailey: Totally agree. When I was a kid I dropped the ice cream off my cone right outside the store (Brocks in Yuba City, CA. Go there. They’re nice). My grandfather took me back in to get a replacement and they very sweetly gave me a new scoop for free. To this day I think back on that incident with fond memories and it’s probably made me look at the world just a little bit differently.

      I don’t know if this guy necessarily deserves free food after spilling his. Sure it would be a really nice gesture and pretty good for one’s karma, but I wouldn’t expect it.

    • jeebussez says:

      @chadbailey: i’m not sure what you’re talking about. i’m a naturally clumsy guy so i spill things on a near-weekly basis. i’ve never asked nor ever received a replacement (except for Thrifty’s ice cream). I’ve never seen anyone (except for small children) request/demand a replacement for something they’ve immediately spilled (except for small children and ice cream).

      Additionally, in the automotive world the official term used is a “collision”. There are no accidents when driving; there’s always someone to blame. it’s the same thing when you spill your food: very rarely is it the wind that blew all of your food off the table and onto the grass, but you smacked it over. Mark seemed sad at not getting replacement food, but he seems much more heart about the lack of encouragement (or anything) from the employees.

      As a sidenote, the ADA does not require the employees to help Mark clean up his mess. However, if Mark just walks away from it (as it is his right to do so, if not a little dick-ish) then the employees are required to clean up the spill, as it is now a safety hazard.

      • Additionally, in the automotive world the official term used is a “collision”. There are no accidents when driving; there’s always someone to blame@jeebussez: I’m going to have to disagree, unless you consider God/nature someone. If I am driving and tree crashes in the road ahead of me, and I hit it, is it my fault? If a deer runs into my car(happened to me, he ran into my passengers side), how can it be my fault? Don’t mean to be snarky, but just sayin.

        • Syrenia says:

          @Git Em SteveDave loves this guy–>: When I hit a deer, State Farm covered it as an act of God. It was considered something that I had no control over and the claim had no impact on my rates. The interesting thing that claim adjuster said was that if I had tried to avoid the deer (which was impossible) and had an accident as a result, then it would have been my fault and they would have increased my rates. (I think he called it a ‘non-chargeable’ claim. But it was a while ago.)

          $4000 damage.

        • Antediluvian says:

          @Git Em SteveDave loves this guy–>: Ah, you missed the Judge Judy posting from Jezebel:
          “Judge Judy Explains The Difference Between An ‘Accident’ And ‘On Purpose’ To Confused Litigant” [jezebel.com]

          She very clearly explains that a deer running into the road is NOT an “act of God.” However, despite the title, she does not explain the difference between an “accident” and “on purpose” in this short clip.

          But she does yell at people for speaking out of turn. :-)

          Personally, I’m inclined to agree with you because there are times when the animals come at you and no matter how defensively you’re driving, you’ll have to hit them, or the tree falls ON your car, or something similar.

          • @Antediluvian: @lostarchytect: I think Judge Judy based her opinion on the part of “Act of God” which states:…”the defendant has created the conditions under which any accident would result in harm.” In this case the person had no license, and was thus illegally borrowing the car. I think if the deer had hit the car, JJ might have believed it. I think she was going on the notion that the lady was SAYING there was a deer to explain falling asleep behind the wheel or some other reason.
            In my case, the deer impacted my passenger side front wheel area. Defensive driving or not, there was no way to avoid that, except knowing it will happen in the future, then changing your course based on that. Barring pre-cognition, my car would have had to have been able to suspend the law of physics to avoid the collision, and as the deer approached me at a 90 degree angle, move away and back instantaneously. Since there was impact, and as I said, short of being psychic and/or being able to change/suspend the laws of physics, there was no way to avoid the deer hitting ME, then this falls under an “Act of God/Nature”. Thank you your Honor.

            • Antediluvian says:

              @Git Em SteveDave loves this guy–>: Lack of pre-cognition is no excuse. Or at least it will be at some point.

              I think the overall take-away lesson from all this is do NOT sass Judge Judy.

            • Jackasimov says:

              @Git Em SteveDave loves this guy–>: I don’t buy it. At best you were driving at an unsafe speed for the conditions. The conditions being an area where wildlife might enter the roadway. Besides, maybe you’d done something to provoke the deer.

              • @Jackasimov: Well, it was an 8-point Buck, so maybe he thought my 1985 Cutlass Ciera driving the speed limit was challenging it. As for wildlife, one side of the road was large open farm fields which are about ten feet below the street level. The other was homes. As best as we could tell, the deer was running down the driveway at 10pm and hit my car. I think he was suicidal, which I blame on him not being able to watch JJ on TV anymore after Yogi forgot to pay the bill.

          • Jackasimov says:

            @Antediluvian: I loves Judge Judy.

        • booboolee says:

          @Git Em SteveDave loves this guy–>: Consult Judge Judy on this one, she already had a case like the scenarios you are talking about. Her conclusion… THERE ARE NO ACCIDENTS.

    • Jbondkicks says:

      @chadbailey: @icingsugar:

      I’ve worked in food service for nearly 8 years now, and there is no reason that he should have to ask for assistance. Technically speaking, keeping the dining room clean is a responsibility of the workers. It is certainly courteous of the customers to clean up their own messes, but they aren’t required to do so. In addition, when you see a customer trying to clean up a mess that clearly requires more than a few napkins, you at the very least least bring them a cloth towel to use (and usually clean up the mess for them).

      If he was in my pizza shop, we would have cleaned the mess and replaced his order (for free or at least severely discounted).

      McDonald’s has never cared when you’ve spilled your soda because they can ignore you and you apparently keep going back.

    • J.Heck says:

      @chadbailey: Heh. When I totaled my new 2003 Honda Civic 8 months after I bought it, the dealership paid off my old loan and got me into a new 2004 Honda Civic, with all of the same specs, for the same monthly payment, within two days. That might be why I still do all of my business and will continue to send everyone I know to my Honda dealership.

  10. supercereal says:

    I can definitely sympathize (life is difficult enough with just a cast and crutches…nevermind a full back brace), but was I the only one who was kind of shocked when Mark expected the employees to automatically approach him with offers of free food?

    Sure, the employees should have been nicer and more understanding. Walking right by a large spill without even asking the customer if everything was all right seems a bit cold, dangerous, and unsanitary. But to expect a fast food joint to run in and save the day seems a bit much to ask.

    • lockdog says:

      @supercereal: Free replacement even if the customer is at fault has been pretty standard practice anywhere I’ve worked. I worked at a large chain supermarket in high school and they would do free replacement of anything for just about any reason. Drop your bags in the parking lot, kids knocked over the birthday cake even after you brought it home and we’d replace it. Customers appreciated it a lot, but employees (even if we did have to clean up the messes) liked it even more because it makes you feel good about yourself and your (crappy) job if you can do something to help someone, especially since you know your manager won’t give you any crap about it.

    • juri squared says:

      @supercereal: The OP was a little vague, but I’m assuming he only wanted help cleaning up, not free food. He states he was willing to eat the cost of the meal (so to speak).

      Not only that, but he even sounds like he was willing to clean it up himself but was not physically capable of doing so.

  11. TurnkeyDB says:

    @chad

    No, do a search for “clamshell brace” and click on anything that refers to spinal cord injuries.

    It is exactly what it sounds like – a big clamshell looking brace for the entire torso and it sounds like the OP had a cervical collar just for good measure and, yes, I’m familiar with them.

    OP most likely now has a back full of titanium rods, screws and maybe a cage around his spine just for good measure.

  12. TurnkeyDB says:

    Oops sorry, I meant to reply to Gundam…

  13. ryan_h says:

    man, with 75 hotsauce choices, this place is really a fast food joint? thats INSANE!

  14. bucky_katt says:

    I’m really surprised to read this, because California Tortilla has usually had the most chipper employees of any fast food chain I’ve been to. My wife and I have speculated that they must pay them better or something. But the chain has kind of exploded over the last couple of years, so I guess quality standards in hiring and management must have slipped as they’ve opened franchises left and right . . .

  15. benh57 says:

    Hmm, never heard of this place. It looks like California Tortilla has no locations in California! Ha.

    Looks like this is basically a Baja Fresh, Rubio’s etc? (“Fresh Mex”)

    Well, we have much better mexican places i’m sure.

    • theblackdog says:

      @benh57: You could say that, except instead of the cookie cutter chicken, beef, or pork burritos you can get anywhere, they offer other variations of burritos, most of which are excellent.

      • HeartBurnKid, creepy morbid freak says:

        @theblackdog: So yeah, a Baja Fresh, Rubio’s, Tacos Del Mar, Chipotle kinda place.

        I gotta go with benh here, it’s kinda funny that California Tortilla has no California locations.

  16. randalotto says:

    How is this even a story?

    There was a bad employee. The customer sent a letter. No response has been received yet.

    Wow. Enthralling.

    When California Tortilla responds with either “Go f yourself” or some amazing, above and beyond reaction, then let us know that they either suck at customer service or, alternately, have great CS.

    Until then, it’s just one employee providing poor service…

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      How is this even a story?

      Until then, it’s just one employee providing poor service…

      @randalotto: Looks like you just answered your own question.

    • Consumerist-Moderator-Roz says:

      @randalotto et al: Bellyaching about “Why is this on Consumerist” is specifically against the rules (as it’s tiresome and boring).

      Please read the comment guidelines before posting again.

    • kizilbash says:

      @randalotto: Actually, you hit the nail on the head. It’s that exact, crappy, “do-it-yourself” attitude that we risk upon entering so many fast food restaurants, grocery stores, and similar establishments that blot our landscape.

      The fact that someone is in a customer service position in and of itself implies, crazy as it sounds, “service to the customer.” Some customers, by definition, require extra attention and should never, ever be the target of public derision simply because their mishap creates more work.

      Is this is front page story of the New York Times or Little Town Journal? No. However, the owner’s swift and conciliatory response might be. He addressed every one of the insulted customer’s concerns, promised decisive action to ensure it wouldn’t happen again, and opened a direct line of communication to make sure the customer received “satisfactory customer service,” which is the bare minimum any paying customer should expect.

      Unfortunately, too many Americans are under the mistaken impression that politeness is either a sign of weakness and or a waste of time, neither of which is true. Civility is not completely absent, but it is a component of public life that has become increasingly rare in the past 15-20 years or so.

      IMHO, the Internet and text messaging and their relative anonymity have fostered an atmosphere (for many) that absolves them of the need to be civil to one another. To some, this coarseness apparently extends to all stranger-to-stranger interactions as evidenced by the commentator to whom we are responding. Civility and general decorum makes life on a crowded planet much easier and often worthwhile and, as my father taught me, “please” and “thank you” are still free.

      Sincerely,

      Kizilbash

  17. starrion says:

    Not to belittle the OP’s embarrassment at the hands of this rude cashier, but is this really that important?

    Right now the congress is going to spend 700,000,000,000 of our tax money to bail out the very banks that have been royally screwing people for years.

    Which is not to say that OP doesn’t deserve an apology from the restaurant, but will every frustrated fast food worker’s bad day get posted here?

    • JMB says:

      @starrion: This is the Consumerist, not the Economist. So yes, in terms of this site, yes it is important. Apparently, important enough for you to load the site, and take the time to post a comment.

      Actually, as money gets tighter, it’s important that consumers know more about the places that they decide to spend their money. If a restaurant is being rude to its customers, I’d like to know that. I have much better places that I can spend my money.

    • Jbondkicks says:

      @starrion:

      Sorry to everyone that enjoy stories and diversions about things other than banks and 700 billion dollar bailouts.

      They are not important!

  18. Pylon83 says:

    I think the letter is too long and poorly written. I’m not sure why people feel the need to go into so much unnecessary detail when sending these kinds of letters. Even more useless are the attempts at being cute. It should have been a short and sweet letter, something to the effect of “I’m a long time customer of X store. This is what happened. Here’s what I want you to do to fix it”. No one cares about how his injury happened, or how he is limited. He needed help, the employee gave him shit when he asked for it. End of story. A busy executive doesn’t give a damn about all the details, and such a lengthy letter is much less likely to get read entirely. That aside, I agree with the commenter who said something about his clear expectation that a replacement meal be provided. It’s not the stores fault he dropped it, he shouldn’t EXPECT them to give him a new meal. Yeah, it’s a great opportunity to go above and beyond, but to be pissed that they didn’t give you a new meal for free is simply unreasonable.

    • SomeoneGNU says:

      @Pylon83:

      I think it’s horrible what happened and I do hope something comes of this, but I must agree. Time is money in business, and a longer letter often will be glanced at rather than fully read causing important points to be missed.

      Should he have his meal replaced? I don’t think the store’s obligated but a $20.00 meal for a “random act of kindness” buys a lot of happy customer’s in line(or a lot of food dropping customers).

    • whiteguy8055 says:

      @Pylon83:

      I think the “cuteness” of the letter is more in the spirit of the OP being a long-term customer, and the vibe he got from California Tortilla ( he mentions what he did just to get free Burritoes, and the “fame” it gave him).

      I suffer from tremors, and frequently have small spills of food that “miss” my mouth sometimes. (I try to clean up my booth when I’m done. I don’t have the mobility issues of the OP).If a worker where I was eating had loudly exclaimed about the mess I had made, I would be mortified!

    • kyle4 says:

      @Pylon83: I agree with you. His letter was written as if he was their best friend, it almost weirded me out in a way since it’s a fast food joint.

      Having said that, it’s disappointing what happened to him and hopefully something comes out of it, but a lot of fast food employees have bad days.

  19. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    having worked at several fast food places in my teenage years and having to deal with many full soda spills –
    usually used to take me about 3-5 swipes with the mop to get all that soda off the floor, wringing it out each time into the big yellow bucket.

    aside from the customer’s disability, the employees have a choice in this situation – mop the spill or replace EVERY napkin in the dispensers after the customer uses them all to sop up the floor. guess which choice costs more and therefore brings your manager down on you like a tons of bricks? there’s a reason many fast food places only put one napkin per two food items in your drive through bag.

    sure it would have been nice if he had been offered at LEAST a replacement beverage but obviously not required. but it’s quite likely to be store policy to mop that up and i can’t even begin to imagine what the safety and liability laws are for not at least putting a ‘caution – wet floor’ sign nearby.

    and being rude about it, specifically being rude about the customer when speaking to other customers, is what seems to be upsetting the OP the most. regardless of the circumstances, whose fault it is, or what the situation is, in the customer service world, being rude is not the right way to handle it.

    and for everybody who says that ‘it’s just a fast food job, it doesn’t matter’ – a letter of reference from my first fast food job supervisor helped me get my first [retail] management position. begin as you mean to go on….

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      @catastrophegirl: [i said "at least a replacement beverage" since that would be the least expensive part of the meal. i realize that the OP was hoping to have food replaced as well, however unlikely that might be]

  20. bigtimestuff says:

    This is awful, and I hope California Tortilla responds well.

    But…I couldn’t help thinking, “Is this from The Onion?” while I read the letter. Yikes.

  21. Hawk07 says:

    Yeah, I knocked my drink off the tray at a Burger King in Singapore when I picked it up too quickly from the counter and swung around. I was in a fairly crappy situation because I was pretty much the only white person and American easily within the area. I was on their turf and country, not my own.

    But, they were all really nice about it and immediately moved to clean it up with a mop and give me a new drink. Nobody got mad or kicked me out of the store. So, I quietly sat down and finished my meal.

  22. FiorenzaEpeius says:

    My name is Larry Herman, Owner of California Tortilla in Ranson, WV. Thanks so much for the post. Two minutes ago was the first I became aware of your story as I was forwarded an email from someone who read that post. It was the first time that I have been made aware of this incident. I was never forwarded the email sent to headquarters. Not an excuse, just an explanation as to why I am commenting now. I want to immediately respond. I apologize for our failure to communicate and accept all responsibility. In spite of the fact that I have many, many wonderful emails explaining great experiences (a few references were made in yours), anything less than the finest service on every visit with every customer is unacceptable. Plain and simple. Even one instance will not be tolerated. I would like to know some more details from you so I can address and deal with the employee and any other staff that were involved as well as ensure that any and all future visits were just like all the others that you have had. I appreciate the comments suggesting possible scenarios. I accept NONE of them! We employ people to do the exact opposite of this and think they all do. Obviously, someone did not this time. Once is over my limit. 100% concern 100% of the time for 100% of the customers is our ONLY acceptable type of behavior. This type of attitude, EVEN ONCE, is something up with which we will not put! There is NEVER a reason to treat anyone with this or any type of disrespect. I will personally make sure that this employee and situation is dealt with swiftly and immediately. Please contact me at the store 304-728-7500 or ranson@californiatortilla.com. YOU and all of our customers are the reason we are here. We appreciate you and will only employ people who treat everyone with the most superior respect, care, and courtesy. I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks. Larry

  23. Eels says:

    This letter is pathetic. Besides the grammatical errors and unnecessary information, the guy lets the company know he’s obessed with the restaurant and I doubt anything will keep him from eating there. The “I’ll take my business elsewhere” line is just an empty threat, which even if followed through on wouldn’t matter much to the company anyway.

    He was spurred to visit the restaurant because of their recent poor sales. That translates into corporate putting heat on their store managers, who take it out on their mimimum wage employees. No one would be offering up free burritos at a time like that.

    • RvLeshrac says:

      @Eels:

      He’s more likely to get a good response BECAUSE he’s a rabid fan.

      Who do you want giving your restaurant chain a bad review? The random guy who just happened in one time and didn’t like his burrito, or the guy who is known by friends, co-workers, and associates to be a rabid fan of your restaurant?

      If the guy who thinks you can do no harm suddenly decides that he’s never going to eat at your place again, he’s probably going to take a dozen or three customers with him.

      In addition to that, he has kids. When his kids get a little older, do you want them to inherit his enthusiasm, or do you want them to be telling the story of how their disabled father was treated like crap by your company?

      • Pylon83 says:

        @Eels:
        I agree. The point of writing these letters is to get a good end result. In order to do that, he needs to make them feel like they truly will lose a customer for life, and that they will benefit financially if they keep him as a customer. The way he professed his undying love for the place simply indicates that they can kick him while he’s down and he’ll keep coming back. Yeah, he may complain a time or two, but actions speak louder than words. When his friends and co-workers hear him complaining about the place out of the right side of his mouth as he shoves a burrito bearing their name into the left side, they’ll write off his complaints as crazy talk, walk down the street and put some cash into California Tortillas coffers.

    • SabyneWired says:

      @Eels:

      I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if he did stop going there if they don’t make some attempt at damage control here. Sad but true, my family has stopped going to many of our favorite restaurants and food places because the food and/or service had gone downhill so badly. And it can definitely hurt business, especially if those people take their friends/relatives/acquaintances away with them.

    • @Eels: Spoken like someone who has never been in the OP’s shoes.

      • Eels says:

        @twophrasebark: What shoes? A person who has never been treated badly at a restaurant? A person who has never written a complaint letter? Oh wait, you mean a “disabled” person’s shoes, right? He was wearing a fucking back brace. He’s not a quadripeligic. Please stop acting like he was some unfortunate person. My father wore a neck brace for six months. He didn’t ask for a handicapped parking spot.

        • SexierThanJesus says:

          @Eels: I agree with you, Eels, and would also like to chime in to blame the disabled guy through the comfort and anonymity of the internet.

          He wanted some help cleaning up. He couldn’t bend over. What is it about this that jackasses like you aren’t comprehending?

  24. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    I was so very tempted to stop reading after “roll” being used in place of “role,” but continued despite the obvious grammar issues and use of an expletive. If you wouldn’t send this in as a cover letter for a new job, why the heck would you send it to a head of a corporation, thinking you’re going to get some kind of great response?

    I suppose this man thinks he’s their greatest customer ever because he eats there practically every day of every week (do his kids eat there so much too?) but so much of the letter is spent convincing the company that he probably won’t stop eating there, or he’d probably just find another location. I’ve eaten at California Tortilla, btw. I’m not quite seeing the quality this guy apparently sees.

    That said, it is humiliating that the employee would do such a thing, but he seems to be above and beyond in assuming that no one could help him. I guess perhaps because they had in previous visits, he assumed they would this time with a jaunty tune in their hearts? I’ve had bad days, and spilling stuff is really only ever the faulty of the person who spilled it. Being disabled means generally, an employee should help clean up the area, but a lot of times, the tone in which you use to ask for help might rub someone the wrong way. Not saying that the employee should have done what she did, but hindsight is 20/20 when you say there’s no excuse for poor service. Everyone has bad days.

  25. Ron Draper says:

    There’s never any excuse for treating any customer that way, ever. Back brace or not, that girl needs to have her ass canned. If you don’t like serving people, don’t work in the service industry.

  26. Aresef says:

    CalTort, from the tone of the emails I get from them, is one of the most chill corporations around. They’re gonna fix him up and make sure the cashier gets yelled at.

  27. Shoulda gone to Chipotle.

    • @Joe_Bagadonuts: That is, jokingly said. Fan of both the CalTor and Chipotle, would expect much better than this from either establishment.

    • Thassodar says:

      @Joe_Bagadonuts: Chipotle is sooooo disappointing. The first time I went I was jypped on meat and half my burrito was rice and cheese. No bueno. We have a place around here called Freebirds which actually does burritos right. I don’t know if it’s in other states, though.

      • jeknee says:

        @Thassodar: Unfortunately, no Freebirds outside of TX (except for that one in the state just north of TX whose name I will not mention.) I could go for a monster right about now.

  28. PandoraCalchas says:

    Actually, the tone and language of the letter is exactly the same way the owners of California Tortilla communicate with their customers. This could be a complaint letter written by the CalTort management themselves. I know from direct contact with Pam, one of the owners, that management is very responsive. And, one of their catchphrases has to do with their “spunky cashiers” – so CalTort has a reputation for cheerful/helpful service.

    Pam is probably fairly unhappy with this customer’s experience.

    • SlappySquirrel says:

      @PandoraCalchas: Yeah, I don’t think people who don’t get “Taco Talk” quite understand this response the way CalTort’s actual customers do.

      CalTort is great and I’d been amazed if this cashier still has a job.

  29. PracticalMagic says:

    I just have to say that as a consumer AND a fellow human being, I could not have sat by and watched this lack of caring unfold. The employee obviously doesn’t care about pride in a job well done, or know a thing about compassion.

    Had I been there as another customer, I would not have been able to sit there and not help out. I would have helped in the clean up as well as, and let that employee know what I think of them. I also would have told them they should be ashamed of themselves for their attitude.

    My kids sometimes get embarassed because I stop and help people and strike up a conversation. In this case my kids would have said “oh God mom, here we go again”. I don’t have a problem in this situation telling a bad employee with a bad attitude what I think of them, and I don’t have a problem with helping out others. It makes me sick to see how society is so unwilling to help others.
    I’m wondering why, when other patrons saw the “accident”, that they didn’t offer to help. Society is just so selfish these days. I hope I teach my children to be benevolent, yet strong. I’m done ranting.

  30. 2719 says:

    I can’t feel sorry for this guy. Shit happens. Fast food employees don’t really care. Surprise, eh? Yes I worked at a fast food place years ago and I did care but majority of other employees DID NOT. There is something special about seeing employee schedule and a note next to a name – “in jail”. Trust me most people don’t care…

    WHY would anyone expect a replacement food in this case? You can buy more food and try not to do the same thing again.

    Also he was not by himself, his kids should have helped him. In the end they did clean up the mess their only fault is they did not provide a ‘service with a smile’. But that’s not included with your cheap food I guess…

  31. One of the best stories I ever heard was in a book by former NBC correspondent John Hockenberry.

    Trying to get a cab, soaked in the pouring rain, a driver pulled up and then refused to let him use the cab because the driver would have to stow the wheelchair in the trunk.

    Fed up, Hockenberry rolled in front of the cab and smashed in the guy’s headlights.

    I’m not saying this is the answer, but nor do I feel any sympathy for people who are ignorant and discriminatory.

  32. Meathamper says:

    The worst complaints are from the followers.

  33. Ben_Q2 says:

    I think the issues here is not if they would replace it or not. Its the helping that is the main issues here. Should the store replace the items. Depends how nice they want to be. Cost of food is still cost of food.

    The person that made a issues out of it. Again depends. Then again I am the guy that walks into a store and tells the person that works there asking if I need help or if they can find something for me. “Do I have a shirt on that said/says I need your f$$king help?”

    People are no longer nice its something you need to get used to. At one point people use to help you, now you get someone like me telling you off just for trying to help me. I just do not like people talking to me, what gives someone the right to talk to me? This guy was just asking for a little help, the person is paid to help him, so she should have just help him.

    Q

    PS if your wondering. Thank my ex-wife. I am getting better.

  34. gunboats says:

    CalTort is awesome. I started a weekly pilgramage at my office to the one in Bethesda every week (Burrito Friday). This is not how they operate. It may be a fast food restaurant, but it is the type where, from time to time, the owners of the chain are the ones making your food. From what I can tell, the staff are required to be excessively friendly. And the self-deprecating humor of the management is always enjoyable. Even if you don’t live near one, sign up for their Taco Talk newsletter for a good laugh. I’m sure they’ll take care of the guy, no e-mail attacks or public postings necessary. The last time I had to wait longer than normal for my food, they gave me a free buritto. They probably give him a free store location or something.

  35. nsv says:

    Tijuana Flats screwed up my order. (Not my fault–I never even got my hands on it. They gave my order to someone else.) Someone noticed and took the initiative to fix it, and even gave me an extra sample of another item. Sadly, that “someone” was a manager. None of the employees, including the one who screwed up, figured it out.

    The manager apologized and kept a good attitude the whole time. The result is that I’ll happily go back and bring other people with me.

    They made no money on me that day, but they did take a potentially bad situation and turn it around, leaving me with a good impression and giving them some positive word of mouth. Not a bad deal.

    An entry level employee may not be capable of figuring that out, or might not think beyond “Jeez, now I gotta get the mop AGAIN…”

  36. Green Goth Brit Chick - AlternatEve says:

    Ok, to all the people asking why his kids didn’t help, he notes in the message that:

    “Several fellow customers offered napkins to help me clean up but obviously making such a mess required more than several napkins…”

    So, yeah, is the kid supposed to produce a mop and bucket from somewhere? Geez.

  37. supercereal says:

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  38. pwillow1 says:

    A restaurant bears the responsibility to clean up when a patron spills his food. If another patron slips in the spill, the restaurant is liable.

    No excuse for the rude and reluctant restaurant employee. Cleanup is part of the job description, even if you’re being paid minimum wage. Don’t take the job if you don’t want to do the work.

    Is the restaurant responsible for replacing the spilled food? Probably not, but most restaurants would because they don’t want their customers to have a poor “dining experience.” Such a move on the part of the restaurant is bound to pay for itself in repeat business.

  39. papahoth says:

    California Tortilla was founded by two guys in the Washington DC area. Their food is fresh, high quality and pretty much healthy for you. Most of their restaurants have free WIFI. They are one of the fastest growing chains in the United States and their owners emphasize quality. No place can be perfect but I have eaten there many time and have found them to be superior in performance.

  40. supercereal says:

    Disemvoweling my last comment? I just pointed out that the title inappropriately claimed the employee “screamed” at the OP. I said it was possible that the restaurant was loud and the employee could not hear Mark (hence the “What? I can’t hear you.”). She may have been speaking above normal conversational volume because she didn’t think she would be heard above the ambient noise. We don’t have enough information in the letter to conclude that Mark or anyone else was “screamed at.”

    Honestly and sincerely, how is that not a relevant question?

  41. 4ster says:

    “This type of attitude, EVEN ONCE, is something up with which we will not put!”

    Without question, this is the greatest length I have ever seen anyone go to in order to avoid ending a sentence with a preposition.

    • ElizabethD says:

      @4ster:

      It’s actually paraphrasing an old and oft-quoted anecdote, sometimes (erroneously) attributed to Winston Churchill:

      The Wall Street Journal, 30 Sep 1942 (“Pepper and Salt”): When a memorandum passed round a certain Government department, one young pedant scribbled a postscript drawing attention to the fact that the sentence ended with a preposition, which caused the original writer to circulate another memorandum complaining that the anonymous postscript was “offensive impertinence, up with which I will not put.” -The Strand Magazine.

  42. Boulderite says:

    I have worked in restaurants and have friends who manage them and we’ve all replaced spilled food and cleaned up spilled food. Quite frankly it goes along with the job.
    If the employees don’t want to do this then they should look some place else for employment.

  43. Boulderite says:

    I would also like to say that I appreciate the Ranson locations owner for reaching out to the OP.

  44. mythago says:

    Wow, kudos to California Tortilla for the response.

  45. You can’t really expect a burrito shop that has the picture of the owner and his wife on every napkin to act like a jerk in a situation like this.

  46. ldavis480 says:

    That was a really good response on behalf of the management actually. About the best I’ve seen.

  47. hhole says:

    To all the folks who slammed the poor guy with the back brace about his poor grammar, letter being too long or treating a fast food company like family, etc. Based on the response of the owner it looks like, in this instance, passion trumped formality.

    As a business owner, I know that taking care of my most passionate customers is a top priority. They are my evangelists to all the people my sales reps will never come in contact with. I really appreciate the owners response that “once is over my limit”. If all companies practiced such behavior I dare say The Consumerist would be a really boring blog. IMO.

  48. SOhp101 says:

    That is an awesome response by the CEO. It sounds like he really will follow through and fix this situation. I wanted to see if they had any locations in SoCal and they don’t. No California Tortillas in California? Go figure.

  49. SOhp101 says:

    Whoops, so it isn’t the CEO but the owner of that particular franchise. Still a great response though.

  50. K0MMIE says:

    That was a good response… but this sentence… is it right?

    “This type of attitude, EVEN ONCE, is something up with which we will not put!”

    It looks… wrong. I can see he doesn’t want to end the sentence with a preposition… but… really?

    • HeartBurnKid, creepy morbid freak says:

      @K0MMIE: It looks like the office grammar Nazi (or just MS Office’s grammar checker) told him not to end a sentence with a preposition, so he struggled a bit with rephrasing.

      • clickable says:

        @HeartBurnKid, creepy morbid freak:

        I think he was referencing a comment attributed, I believe, to Winston Churchill: “This is the sort of English up with which I will not put.” Someone upthread mentioned that this chain was founded by comics, and this sounds like it might be in that spirit.

  51. fatcop says:

    SO fired.

  52. zibby says:

    Misleading headline screams that someone was screamed at. Seriously, the way it’s actually described it sounds like the employee was a little put out. The ideal customer service experience? No. But let’s not get hysterical.

  53. chenry says:

    Uuuuh woah. Did someone just get fired?

  54. daveforamerica says:

    I’m still saddened by the “there’s a reason why people work those jobs” comments.

    For eight or nine months I worked as a sales associate at a hardware store, and worked nights at a bar. I had graduated from college and was looking for a job. The sales associate position turned into a manager position, and then I finally landed the “full time, ‘real’ job” I had been looking for.

    But, I think I learned the most from the retail/service jobs than I have ever learned sitting at a desk.

  55. …Free food? … to expect a fast food joint to run in and save the day seems a bit much

    @supercereal: Bollocks! I worked for over a year at Jack in the Box and spent a couple months at McDonalds and I can tell you that absolutely is what you do in that situation. Every time. No matter what. Only the crappiest manager would begrudge it, either. Also if it happened in my JIB, I would have given the customer a free Apple Turnover too (I don’t think they have those anymore, but those were our normal “Sorry for the inconvenience” item.

    That’s what you do so the customer feels better. It turns a bad day into a not so bad day. Compared to, “I had to pay $40 for lunch for two because I spilled the first one.” That goes a long way toward keeping them a happy customer and making them want to come back. And consider for a moment the (low) cost of the replacement food and the profit margin–if they come back just one more time than they would have otherwise, you’ve already come out ahead.

    I’m glad you’ve never had the misfortune of being a klutz in a fast food place, because if you had, you’d know they usually try and help you out :)

    Also, I think I do get your point about entitlement–I’m not saying the fact that it’s standard procedure means he’s entitled. It’s part of a strange category of things that you’re not entitled to, that you should be very grateful for, and that does count as going above and beyond. Yet also, if they don’t do it, they are being kinda cheap and uncaring. It’s kind of like stopping for a stranded motorist on a deserted lonely road with no cell phone reception. If you don’t have somewhere important to be, you’re kind of a dick for not stopping. But if you do stop, you deserve praise for helping them.

  56. SlappySquirrel says:

    I just got the following e-mail response from CalTor:

    Here’s the full story, which I hope will put things in prospective:

    We took it very seriously when we received this gentleman’s email back in January. We pride ourselves on our customer service for the disabled, as well as for those who aren’t disabled, and to say that I was mortified by our employees’ behavior is an understatement. I apologized profusely to the customer at the time and assured him that we would look into the matter. I promised him that something like this would never happen again and also sent him free food gift certificates. He seemed genuinely happy with our response.

    With that said, unbeknownst to me (only because I didn’t look), the Consumerist was cc’d on his email to me. It looks like they sat on the story for 8 months for some reason and never bothered to do any follow-up with either him or us.

    So while I certainly understand why people would be upset by this story, I just wanted to let you know that as a company that has staked its reputation on giving great customer service to each and every customer, we were just as upset by this story when we first heard it as everyone else was.

    So that’s the whole story. Thank you so much for your email and for giving me a chance to respond! I really appreciate it.

    Yours Truly,
    Pam Felix
    Co-founder California Tortilla

    • theblackdog says:

      @SlappySquirrel: Now I would love to see the original E-mails with a date and timestamp.

      • SlappySquirrel says:

        @theblackdog:

        So would I. Not to sound like a burrito apologist or anything, but they have the September edition of their monthly newsletter on their website and it’s the 158th issue.

        That suggests to me that the 150th issue that the LW talks about came out sometime around January. Also, accoridng to the letter, he was injured in early December and had no burritos for “almost two months.” According to the letter, the incident happened on his first trip back to CalTor.

        This sure suggests to me that the Caltor executive is right and this incident happened in January.

        • _NARC_ says:

          @SlappySquirrel: Interesting! As a reader, I certainly would expect an item like this to be timely, rather than from months ago.

          Can we get a clarification on the timelines here? Thanks!

  57. trujunglist says:

    I’ve never heard of California Tortilla and I live in California. This makes me assume that the food is complete trash. It’s mexican food in WV. Excuse me while I projectile vomit.
    Sorry to hear about your story. It sounds like the manager is going to clean up the mess!

  58. SalmaDamrit says:

    I’m surprised the owner was able to show so much concern without ever saying “We take this very seriously.”

    Maybe because he was being sincere? :>

  59. PaulBelus says:

    It is grammatically correct. It is also an indication that the writer has a sense of humor, and a reference to a Churchill quote.

  60. Mp3dog says:

    Hey Larry, way to step up to the plate, take full responsibility, and make it right.

  61. HomerMoth says:

    The owner of the particular California tortilla seems to be on the ball. I am sure there a couple of free tortilla’s or free family dinner coming their way. i’d hate to be the emplyee who did this when this larry guy finds out who it is. This is why the consumerist works

  62. mrearly2 says:

    Where is the love? (sighs)
    The cashier made an ass of herself and showed she has no love. I pity the fool who gets involved with her!

  63. SolidSquid says:

    So in other words…

    they’re taking it seriously?

  64. sparky1_2007 says:

    is that an intel processor box that kid is throwing? :|

  65. KRayGolf says:

    You’re just lucky this didn’t happen in California. The employee wouldn’t have been able to understand you (unless you did repiten en espanol), and the manager wouldn’t give a sh*t.

  66. loueloui says:

    Wow, a lot of franchise owners could learn a lot from reading Larry’s response. THAT is the way to address poor customer service issues, not some disingenuous form letter and a coupon.

    Kudos to you Larry. Your concern for your customers wil lserver you well.

  67. ViperBorg says:

    @FiorenzaEpeius: +1 for Las Vegas.

  68. TamaraNarbasaurus says:

    As they say, if you got nothing good to say, it is better to say nothing at all. That is directed at the employee. It has kept me out of trouble, in similar situations. When dealing with a customer. But, for this disabled man. There is simply no excuse to make those comments. No matter how bad the day was for that employee. I should know. Been there, and done that.