Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Tartar Sauce!!

So a news article hit Facebook this morning about a man with Down syndrome who was going out to dinner with his family and wanted to order fish sticks to eat. The problem is that they only have fish sticks on the kids menu (which states it's for children 12 and under) and this man, Willie Forbes, is 47 years old. Therefore, the hotel refused to serve him the food. After speaking with the manager and still being denied, the family ended up going to a restaurant next door where Willie was able to choose whatever meal, from whatever menu, he wanted.

So there are two sides of this going around the Down syndrome circles on Facebook (as there usually are!). One side is saying that it's JUST food. He just wanted fish sticks. How hard would it have been to give him a kid's meal (despite his age) and bend the rules a little bit? As we know, many people with Down syndrome have sensory disorder, food restrictions, and can be picky eaters so for the love of God, just let him eat what he wants to eat! It's discrimination because he has Down syndrome! It's said that a Facebook page was even started in support of Willie in outrage of the situation, though I couldn't find it.

On the other side, there are parents saying that we expect other people to treat our kids with Down syndrome just like everyone else. We want equal treatment. We cry for inclusion and fairness. So then, how is it fair if this restaurant makes an exception for Willie by breaking their rules and allowing him to order off the kid's menu just because he has a disability?? If we expect others to treat our kids with Down syndrome like everyone else, shouldn't we then expect them to live to the same standards and abide by the same rules as everyone else? If a typical 47 year old man wouldn't be allowed to order from the kid's menu, then Willie shouldn't be allowed to either.

So what do you all think? Was Willie discriminated against or was the fact that he is 47 years old enough to keep him from ordering off the kid's menu? Would you leave the restaurant with your family member or encourage him/her to order something else? Having a VERY picky eater in my house (who does not have Down syndrome), I will post later what I would have done in this situation... but I'm curious to hear what you all think first. ;)




24 comments :

StampinPenguin said...

Many restaurants will let seniors order from the children's menu. It's just good customer service. They lost a sale because they wouldn't bend the rules.

mary said...

I would leave because if that's all he likes why not let him have it No matter if he is old young.

Kacey said...

While I think the restaurant should have made an exception and allowed Willie to order off the kids menu (if only for the sake of good customer service and because it posed no health/safety risk), the establishment was well within their rights not to. The kids menu is for under-12s, Willie is not under 12. Period. His family was not discriminated against (and was certainly entitled to take their business to another establishment).

It is a very fine line that the parents of kids with special needs walk -- to want said kid to be treated like everybody else AND for said kid to receive special treatment. And I've been on the other side of it too.

As a teen, I was a lifeguard at my local pool. City bylaw banned arm floaties but allowed patrons with disabilities to wear Coast Guard certified Personal Floatation Devices (PFDs*) in the pool. The rule is on the city's website, on each and every door into the clubhouse and from the dressing rooms into the pool area. Uncertified "floaties" do not prevent a kid from drowning and most kids that drown do so within 10-12 feet of an adult. The PFD law is, really and truly, for the safety of the child.

Every single week, a family or two with a kid with a disability in uncertified "floaties" would arrive and I had to tell them that their floaties were not permitted in the pool -- and they would be LIVID.

** sigh ***

* Stearns puddle jumpers and the like are Coast Guard certified, cost about $10-15 (not much more than uncertified floaties) and can be purchased at any Walmart/Target/big pharmacy.

DandG said...

It is the restaurant's right to act rigidly and stupidly. And it is the customer's right to take their business elsewhere (as they did) and publicize the situation (as they did) which will probably lose the restaurant business. Except that negative publicity sometimes does backfire, resulting in more business for the stupid restaurant. I would be happier if they specifically plugged the next-door restaurant!

Susan said...

I agree with StampinPenguin:) My mom, who is 85 orders from the kids menu often! Why? Because the portions are much smaller:) She has never been denied. I believe this restaurant denied this young man because of his age which is just silly. What happened to the customer is always right? I would have spoken to the manager and if he/she did not help the situation, I would have told him/her that they had just lost a good, paying customer:(

Susan from Boston

P.S. Love your new header Renee!!

Becca said...

I think the restaurant could certainly have bent the rules a bit, upped the portion and the price commensurately. But their refusal certainly couldn't be construed as "discrimination." People are so quick to cry discrimination whenever an issue *happens* to involve someone with a disability/of a different race/gender/sexual orientation, and I think it's often (but certainly not always) unfair. Drives me nuts. Rules are rules, the restaurant should have bent them, and had every right not to. Glad he got his dinner elsewhere. ;-)

Kristy said...

I occasionally order from the kids menu at multiple Resturants where it is for children "12 and under". The portions are smaller. However I never complain when they tell me they will have to charge me more for my meal because I'm not a "kid". More is usually only 1-2 dollars. I think the resturant should have increased the price and maybe the portion and served the man the fish sticks regardless of his age or if he has Down Syndrome.

Barbara said...

We have a restaurant here in Boston where kids eat free if the Red Sox win when a adult orders a meal I have an over 12 (much) lol who still likes a kids meal because its a smaller portion. The restaurant never has a problem with it but obviously this is not a child so no free food as it should be. I think there could have been an exception made for this man but also know the establishment was well within its rights not to accommodate him. I see no reason to be upset that they didn't but feel sorry for them that they didn't see it as an opportunity to be able to preform a random act of kindness that would have meant so much to this man and his family.

cathy ward said...

When I was in the restaurant business, one of the companies I worked for had a motto when dealing with guest requests- 'yes is the answer, what's the question?'...special orders are a pain but as many others have pointed out, it's good customer service to fulfill every request you can. We had a 'regular' that was a child that always wanted buffalo wings (and they were the HOT ones) but it wasn't an option on our kids' menu- we charged for chicken strips and made the kid wings....we did the reverse for many adults who couldn't (diet restrictions or the like, small appetite,etc) eat the adult portion...really, I don't get it the 'no'- disability set aside...I would've gone to another restaurant simply due to bad customer service, not because of discrimination...

mamabearbrooks said...

I definitely see both sides....my daughter who is 17 often requests to order from the children's menu. She has never been denied. There is no "legal" reason to stop someone. Isn't it better to adopt the philosophy, "the customer is always right" and make them happy. If it was a "cost concern" then the restaurant could have adjusted the portion to an adult portion and charge them accordingly. I think if someone is just "in the mood for something" and wants what is offered on the kids menu, it should have nothing to do with the individual's differences!

Shari Funkhouser said...

Having a child with special needs you often can't see, I would not bend the rules because of his disability. They should not have been bent for Willie either. Rules are rules and the restaurant had every right to say no. Just because our son is different doesn't mean he has different rules than anybody else. And I would not have left the restaurant. Our son would have eaten there and if he didn't then that was his choice.

Sarah said...

Since the restaurant didn't have fish sticks on the adult menu, I would have let Willie order them from the kids menu (even if they had to charge the family a couple dollars extra for not being a kid). It is not like the family was trying to cheat the restaurant by asking for the kids meal to get a cheaper price when there was the same option available on the adult menu - in this case there was no adult equivalent. When I go out for ice cream, I prefer to get a kid sized cup even though I am an adult and I haven't been told no yet.
That being said, I do believe it was in the restaurants right to say no. They wouldn't let Willie order off the kids menu because of his age, not because of his extra chromosome. As someone stated above, it is a fine line between wanting an individual with special needs to be treated equally and to also receive special treatment. (When I was in college we were told there is a different between equal treatment and fair treatment. Equal treatment means everyone gets the same thing while fair treatment means that everyone gets what they need).
The restaurant showed poor customer service when they wouldn't allow Willie to order fish sticks but I don't think that it should be called discrimination.

Becky Schafer said...

I personally think that if someone wants to order off the kids menu, then they should be able to. Either that, or make an adult menu with similar kids fare...special needs of not!

TheAlbrechtSquad said...

I have to grimace a bit at the people saying "rules are rules". It's a restaurant, people make special orders all the time! I don't see this as a life or death situation and I don't think that anything would have been wrong with then trying to meet the needs of a customer.

On that note, I grimace at the cry of discrimination. I think there was a lack of sensitivity and I think that the manager was a jerk but since they are in charge they choose which "rules" to follow.

Overall a sad situation. Having a child who would have been overwhelmed with this situation, I would have been frustrated and disappointed in the bad customer service.

Marsha Cleff said...

I don't see a big deal with an adult ordering off the kids menu. There are times when an adult wants "comfort food". However, if a restaurant states that the kids meal is only for kids under 12 and they will not serve to anyone over 12, then it is not discrimination. Bad customer service...yes...but there is no law against suckiness. Now, if Willie ordered a beer from the same restaurant and was denied the beer because he has DS, then it is discrimination.

Susan White said...

I think this is a very foolish "line in the sand" for the restaurant to draw. The food is the food. The sale is the sale. Doesn't matter who is eating it. If they had bought it to go and taken it outside, who would know? They could have bought the meal and fed it to their siamese cat. But it is the choice of a private establishment to decide whom they will serve and under what conditions.

We the consumers decide whether those conditions are acceptable to us. And we discriminate our choices with our pocketbooks. The family wisely took their money elsewhere and provided that establishment with a lot of free publicity...all to the restaurant's detriment. Kinda like Denny's. I still don't eat at a Denny's.

csmith said...

I often order off of the kids menu for myself and I've never been refused. I would be insulted if a restaurant refused to serve me something from their menu. Very poor customer service! I would have left regardless of the Down Syndrome issue, but the fact that they refused to make such a simple accomadation is just wrong. We all have our own little quirks and issues and the fact that we make allowences for one another is what makes us good, kind people rather than selfish jerks.

Lynn said...

There are restaurants that have lax restrictions on who can order from the kids meal menu and others that are strict. I guess every restaurant has a right to do what they want. Guess I would have just encouraged him to get something else and if he didn't want anything could always leave and go somewhere else.
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Ann said...

I don't believe it qualifies as discrimination. I believe that too many people are looking for something to be said or done so they can make a big deal over it. I do have a daughter with DS with issues about food texture and usually orders one of three exact menu items no matter where we are. She is only 11, so the child's menu has not been a problem yet. However, if it happened we would take our family to another restaurant without a big fuss over it.

Catherine Pittman said...

Seriously it's food. They should be happy that people are still eating out with our crappy economy and they should have let him or anyone else order off the menu. My 15 year old daughter has no special dietary restrictions, just prefers the kids menu she's picky... And we have never ever had a problem with a restaurant allowing her to order off the kids menu!

Anne B. said...

Legalism never wins over love....love always wins and it is our only eternal hope! Praying that this situation has opened eyes and changed hearts.

Rachel said...

I don't know but I am 31 and sometimes my church friends and I like to go out to eat at IHOP after Wednesday evening church. The waiter is just fine with letting me order off the kids menu...it is the same food anyway. The kids portion is plenty of food and at night, I would not want to eat more than that anyway...plus it costs less. I say it does not matter what age you are...if you are a paying customer...it should be no big deal...he was not asking for a larger portion...he just wanted fish sticks...now if I wanted to order the kids buffet at a restaurant that would obviously be a different matter and I should pay the adult price.

Monicas Mom Musings said...

Not discrimination, just bad business. They could have given him an "adult" portion of the meal he wanted and charged him a little extra for it.

Kath said...

I'm British and this was big over Facebook here before the media joined in... There's actually slightly more to it. The original Facebook page in support of him was deleted after the media picked it up and many people commented that the story on the page in support of him and the story that was posted on the hotel/restaurant page didn't match up, despite being posted by the same person, the one on the hotels page appeared to have been dramatised to make the hotel look as bad as possible whereas the one on the page was really just "They said he couldn't have it because he wasn't a child and offered a similar adult alternative that they'd serve a smaller portion of, but that wasn't suitable."

I think the suggestion to offer it at a higher price is a good compromise but I think the staff thought that's what they were doing offering the adult meal. And if the person was bent on complaining as it kinda seems they were, I can't help thinking the headline would just have then been "They discriminated against my uncle with DS by charging him more for a kids meal".