It starts with Jim Guinee, an attorney from Middletown, New Jersey, who apparently went to dinner with his girlfriend and aunt. They chose a place in Asbury Park called Stella Marina Bar & Restaurant.
About halfway through her codfish dinner, Guinee's girlfriend, Jennifer Morzano, saw a worm wriggling its way out of the fish and onto her plate.
Disgust followed. As did video.
"I just videotaped it because, one, I thought it looked pretty gross, and we weren't sure what it was. We weren't sure if she was going to get sick," Guinee told a New Jersey newspaper. (The video is embedded at the end of this article.)
Then, Guinee did what we do in 2018: He posted the video to Facebook. As of this writing it has nearly 200,000 views.
"And that is a live worm that just crawled out of the food," Guinee says on the video. "So not only did we sit through almost our entire dinner without drinks, but now dinner has come to life. ... After eating half of your fish, that is not what you want to see."
(The worm is bad enough. But not having drinks served during dinner? Outrage.)
Anyway, the worm was "almost certainly an anisakid -- a parasitic roundworm that feeds on fish and marine mammals and, when ingested alive by humans, can cause disease," reports The Washington Post, which interviewed several scientists to identify it.
"Anisakids can cause a parasitic disease called Anisakiasis -- when the worms take up residence in a human's stomach wall or intestines, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."
So, you can imagine: Not thrilled to have found it, and probably even less thrilled to learn more about it afterward--especially since Morzano said she'd already eaten half of her fish.
But then, the restaurant did the only thing I can imagine to make this situation worse. They apparently attacked Guinee and his family on social media, for the crime of having posted the video.
Doing so showed a ""callousness and irresponsible reaction of an attorney of law to attempt to destroy our reputation & possible livelihoods due to something that could have happened to anyone, whether cooking at home or in a restaurant," Stella Marina reportedly said, in a Facebook post that has since been taken down.
Personally, I feel like the drinks that weren't delivered was extraneous information in Guinee's video, and the fact that he's an attorney was extraneous information in the restaurant's post. So maybe they're square on that.
Yet, the war continues, as you might expect, with some people defending the restaurant, and others attacking its listings on Google and Yelp with 1-star reviews.
So, how should the restaurant have handled this differently? And what lessons can we learn?
1. Cook the food thoroughly.
The U.S. FDA "recommends cooking raw fish until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees," according to the Post. Guinee says that another diner at the restaurant told him he too had found a worm in his food, so there was clearly an issue here.
2. Comp the meal.
It never ceases to amaze me how dime smart and dollar foolish brands can be when they face customer service problems. The thing to do here is comp the family's entire meal.
Instead, Guinee says, he got a one-third discount. It's not enough--definitely not enough to leave your customer walking away feeling satisfied.
3. Hold your tongue.
This is one of the many stories we've seen where the aftermath is worse than the original offense. Attacking the family on social media only prolongs the story.
Case in point: I doubt I would have written about this if it weren't for the restaurant's reaction. But by counterpunching, it only made the whole thing more of an issue.
Here's the original video. Please don't watch it just before or after eating.