Clear cut firing, right? You don't refuse any paying customer! (And, if you're Starbucks, you don't refuse any non-paying people as well.) But, the problem was, Chipotle reacted to a viral video without understanding that there is, always, more to the story. Here's the video:
It seems quite shocking. Other customers can get their food without paying up front, why can't these young black men?
Dominique Moran says she was acting in the best interest of the restaurant and her employees. In the video, she says, "you gotta pay because you never have money when you come here."
It seems that she recognized these young men as people who dine and dash. Or in the case of Chipotle, grab the food and run out the door. She could have been mistaken. She could have assumed horrible things about these young men based on their appearance, or she could have actually recognized them as people who had stolen before.
Because Masud Ali had bragged on Twitter about doing just what Moran feared he would do--take the food without paying for it.
Good morning America Producer, Lauren Dozier asked to run the video on their show. Ali granted permission, but the internet has a long memory and lots of people spend their days making screenshots. Many people responded with things like this:
Fortunately for Moran, Chipotle reversed course yesterday. When I emailed Chipotle Public Relations I received a response in a matter of minutes. Normally PR people get back to me within days or not at all. Clearly, I was not the only person inquiring:
We have spent the last few days reviewing the evidence available to us regarding the incident in St. Paul, MN. Based on our review, we have offered our manager her job back. While our normal protocol was not followed serving these customers, we publicly apologize to our manager for being put in this position. We will work to continue to ensure that we support a respectful workplace for our employees and our customers alike.
Our policy is to treat our customers and employees fairly and with respect at all times and under any circumstances. We will work with all our restaurant teams to ensure they are prepared to handle situations of this kind and know they have our full support. We are committed to doing the right thing and acting in a manner consistent with a thoughtful, fact-driven approach.
Good for Chipotle. Although, I hope they offered Moran a raise as well. But, none of this needed to happen.
When the mob comes at you--like with a viral video, businesses are often tempted to act quickly to save themselves. But, Chipotle didn't gather the facts--and frankly, I don't expect Chipotle HR managers to be experts at digging into Twitter. But, from the video, it's clear that the store manager and the other employees aren't being angry or rude. In fact, everyone remains quite calm.
Take the time to investigate and ask the other employees what happened. These young men took the video with the intent to gain sympathy. Which they did, for a time. But, the truth came out in the end.
You should always investigate claims and when there is a clear conflict between what your employees are telling you and what a customer tells you, you should look at employee history. Customers can be horrible people. Anyone who's ever worked retail or in food service has a zillion stories of bad behavior. Customers lie and steal to get what they want. Not all customers and not all the time. But, you shouldn't fire a good employee based solely on a customer's word, even if there is video to go with it.