Gas Station Cashier Fired for Wearing "Say No to Bongs" Shirt
Kenneth McAllister says he was fired from his cashier job at a Chicago Citgo station for sporting a "SAY NO TO BONGS!!" t-shirt.
(At first, we thought this was an Onion story, too, but it's not.)
About three weeks ago the station began stocking bongs, glass pipes, and bags of fake marijuana. First McAllister protested to his manager, a friend of 13 years who'd hired him in June. Then he turned up to work, having handwritten his thoughts in all capitals in black permanent marker on a white t-shirt.
For this, McAllister says he was fired Wednesday. Station owner Ramesh Gupta wouldn't comment. "This is crossing the line," McAllister, 33, told the Chicago Sun-Times Thursday of the station's wares. "It condones pot use. Honestly, I've smoked in the past. But I believe everything has a time and place."
According to McAllister, teenagers were coming in "gawking and drooling" over the pot paraphernalia.
"They're violating parents' right to protect their children," McAllister, who has a 14-year-old daughter, told the Sun Times. "It's not the gas station's right to present these things. It's eye candy."
After McAllister was fired, he promptly called the police department to report the station's stock. Sale of drug paraphernalia is illegal in Illinois, although some businesses get away with it thanks to an exemption in the law for products "marketed for, or historically and customarily used in connection with tobacco products and other legal substances."
The gas-station attendant said he was fired Wednesday after he wore his homemade protest shirt to work. Following his dismissal, he called the Homewood Police Department about the sale of the items.
Homewood police Sergeant Mike MacDonald said the department had been receiving calls for two weeks concerning the gas station's new product offering. Police ordered Gupta to stop selling the products Thursday morning, and the stock was off the shelves within hours.
"That was the end of the story," Gupta told the Sun-Times. "Maybe if we were a big corporation, we'd have the money to look into it [and keep selling them]. A little company like us, whatever they tell us is the right thing to do."
According to Gupta, between two and three customers a day bought the items, and other area gas stations are still selling them.
Meanwhile, McAllister is looking for work. "I'm not upset about being fired," McAllister said. "A job is a job is a job. There are plenty of other things I can do. It's the principle of it — [bongs] cannot be in front of kids."
Inc. contributing editor Courtney Rubin was for five years a London-based staff writer for People magazine. Rubin, a former senior writer for Washingtonian magazine, has written for the New York Times magazine, Time, Marie Claire, and other publications. She is the author of The Weight-Loss Diaries.