Hot on the heels of the Dunkin Donuts “doesn’t serve cops” incident, a tale that offered a teaching moment in economic liberty, comes another tale of public-space malfeasance. In this instance, a server at a high-end romantic restaurant refused to allow a gay couple to share a dessert, suggesting that two men eating from the same plate “doesn’t go with the ambiance of the restaurant.”

According to the Washington Post report, the couple did not bring this matter to management’s attention, either on the spot or after the fact, choosing instead to voice their anger and frustration on social media. While they are certainly not obligated to follow any protocols, this manner of response is irresponsible, antisocial, and potentially harmful to many innocent people.

What is the likely outcome of their decision to go straight to social media, without even a token effort to talk to the restaurant’s management first? Outrage, certainly, especially given the social tension that the Trump presidency (fair or not, just or not, doesn’t matter) has brought on. There will be people who will boycott the restaurant, there will be people who will protest the restaurant, and there will be people who will avoid the restaurant out of fear of being accused of insensitivity. This means that the restaurant’s owners will suffer losses.

Many people, perhaps most who feel the impetus to respond, won’t care about the owners’ losses. They’ll ignore the fact that management was given neither notice nor opportunity to address/correct the situation prior to the aggrieved couple going public. Rationalizations will include “they should have vetted their staff better,” “they should have trained their staff better,” “they can afford some bad publicity in order for a broad social message to be delivered,” and “too bad, but it’s more important that we call out systemic bigotry than worry about collateral damage.”

However, the owners and their profits/losses do not exist in a vacuum. If the restaurant loses customers, the tipped staff there will lose income. If the restaurant loses customers, the staff earning wages will see hours cut. If the restaurant loses enough customers, employees will be laid off.

For all we know, the offending employee “went rogue,” interjecting his own biases into a space and situation that wasn’t his to decide. For all we know, the employee violated restaurant policies, and might have even gone against explicit training. For all we know, had the couple brought the problem to management’s attention, the employee might have been fired on the spot, management might have comped them the dessert or the entire meal, and the problem might have been resolved to everyone’s satisfaction (except, perhaps, the offending employee’s, but if he went off-book, he does not deserve satisfaction).

We will never know. Several in the political group that brought this story to my attention called them cowards. I agree, but would take it a step further. I can understand discomfort in the moment, I can understand the awkwardness the couple felt, and the desire not to cause a scene. I have 20 years of restaurant management experience under my belt, I’ve seen almost every manner of restaurant problem imaginable. Thus, I fault them only to a degree for not calling management on the spot. We are all human, and emotion interferes with logic more often than not. But, once removed, there’s absolutely no reason, assuming the facts presented in the WaPo article and barring some untold story elements, for them to go with a public excoriation before seeking redress with management after the fact. They’ve done a disservice to presumed-innocents – to the owners of the restaurant, to the managers, and to the employees. They’ve launched a story that, should it grow legs, will do unjust harm to people who, for all we know, would sympathize 100% with the couple and would never in a million years act as the one particular server allegedly did.

This parallels the aftermath of the Dunkin Donuts incident, wherein an employee’s behavior at a franchise location and what might be deemed a “rock and a hard place” response from the parent company led to calls for boycotts of Dunkin Donuts city- or nation-wide. No one really cares about the impersonal, faceless parent company’s bottom line or impact on shareholders, but too few contemplate the impact on other employees at that Dunkin Donuts, or all the people (employees plus franchisees) associated with locations that have no connection to the site of the incident.

I’m not suggesting that people not boycott. A properly executed boycott can be a very effective tool in public discourse. I’m just suggesting, before they do, they contemplate who, exactly, are the bad actors that sparked outrage, and whether it is they and not innocent-but-associated third parties who will be most impacted by that boycott.

In short, even when your gut screams, try to use your head. A tiny bit more of that and our society will be a much better place.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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