I was abused at McDonald’s.
On the one hand, I’ve kept silent about this for four years, lest my coming forward constitute retaliation; I don’t believe in retaliation. On the other hand, with almost daily news reports about fast food workers abusing customers and the police being called, I would be remiss if I don’t share my story also.
I have screen shots of my diary from the days in question. I also have the original pertinent e-mails from McDonald’s.
Bottom line: Will you, or will you not, get on with life?
Related: Life in the outer darkness
For years, I frequented McDonald’s #2763, which is or was at the southeast corner of Baltimore and Light Streets. I would go there first thing in the morning, drink coffee, do my morning prayer regimen (90 minutes), write in my diary, compose blog posts, schmooze with people — and leave in time to get to the library by 10:00, when it opened. At the library, I could go online for four hours. I would return to McDonald’s, catch another dose of coffee, and then return to the shelter. For some reason, I was unwilling to go straight from the library back to the shelter; I had to get that afternoon coffee.
Everything about this event had to do with a gesture by management to deal with the “riff raff,” as some might call them, who frequented this place. I would learn that such folk infested the whole block on Light Street, from Baltimore Street south to Lombard. I have very recently learned that that block remains that way today. I’m not too surprised; something, almost something cosmic, about that location attracts them.
“Riff raff” are to be held distinct from the homeless. Some but not all homeless are “riff raff.” Some but not all “riff raff” are homeless. By comparison, today on weekends I go to a certain Burger King, where 12-20 homeless guys, from nearby shelters, come in as soon as it opens. There’s never a disturbance there. At this McDonald’s, in contrast, disturbances were almost constant.
From “The crazies and the stupids:”
“Saturday, March 1, 2014. This morning a particular customer, a regular, was in there, drunk; just howling. For a while. Life in that store would be so much better if they’d only bar out people who are visibly intoxicated.”
From my diary for Tuesday, April 1:
“I sat there this morning contemplating that the atmosphere in the place does seem better. Nonetheless, the psychotic Lisa Watkins was downstairs screaming obscenities so loud I could not hear the woman next to me who was trying to engage in conversation.”
They evidently decided that The Problem was not the “riff raff,” but the homeless; and that the solution was to deny entry to anyone with bags. They hired a security guard to implement the policy. I regard the policy as mistaken. The way they implemented it was certainly mistaken.
2. Thursday morning, April 3
This morning, I was conducting myself as usual for an hour or more before the security guard came on duty and the new policy took effect. The best description of what I saw and heard, that first disturbed me, is found in the first screen shot here below.
Time came for me to go. I took my things and went out front to smoke my last cigarette. (In those days, I could not walk and smoke at the same time. I had a backpack and two heavy bags I had to carry with me everywhere I went.) The security guard came out to smoke also. I asked if we could talk, and he agreed. I said I didn’t think it’s a good thing to cuss customers.
He wasn’t having it. He said several times, “It’s not a hotel.” That could pertain to whether or not people can take bags inside, but has nothing to do with cussing customers.
He said several times, “What you don’t understand is, it’s a family business.” Well, that explains why so many staff resembled each other so stongly that it was hard to tell them apart; but, again, had nothing to do with cussing customers. Unless —
A wild guess: He’d been green-lighted to treat people any way he might choose, and no complaint about him would have any effect.
He became abusive. My time ran out. When I picked up my bags and walked off, he called after me, “I don’t give a fuck about you, fuckin’ cracker.”
Well, what was the appropriate thing to do now?
I was going to the library to go online anyway.
I went straight to the McDonald’s web page, found the feedback form, and told them what had just happened. I still have that text: McDonald’s first response to an on-line comment is to send you an e-mail that acknowledges receipt and includes the text of your comment as submitted. Here is a screen shot of that text. As to the strange characters, I gather I composed the text in Word, and copied and pasted into the online form, and the quotation marks did not transfer correctly.
3. Thursday afternoon, April 3
I returned to McDonald’s 13:30. The security guard was sitting next to the stairwell, and paid me no mind as I passed. As usual, I went upstairs, deposited my things in a booth, and went back downstairs to buy my coffee.
When I got back upstairs, my things were gone.
All of them. Backpack, two heavy bags, and winter coat — all gone.
No one else was on the second floor, nor had been.
I went back downstairs to try to find out what had happened. Now the security guard became animated. Word of my comment to corporate had already come back to the store. He told me, “Call that 800 number again,” whereas I’d never called it to start with. He recited almost word for word the description I’d given of him in the comment; only, curiously, he called the color of his hoodie “burgundy,” whereas I’d called it “maroon.” Now the hood was down, and the hoodie unzipped all the way.
For the other customers present in the store, I regret that I must have made a scene, walking around the first floor dining room shouting. I was in distress. All I had in the world, now, was was the clothes I had on, my phone, my smokes, my cash, and my coffee. I was most concerned about my meds, as I need them every day and was unlikely to be able to get them replaced.
I asked again and again to talk with the manager, but no staff member would admit to being that person. The security guard followed me around, taunting me: “That’s what happens when you get slick.” “Call the police.” “Call that 800 number again.” “You shoulda mind your own business.” “I ain’t afraid of police.” This surely seems inconsistent with his insistence that he did not know what had become of my things.
Since I wasn’t going to get anywhere without calling the police, I did. I took my coffee and went out front to smoke while I waited. The security guard came out also, and subjected me to a steady stream of verbal abuse, to which I said nothing. There was nothing to say till the police would arrive. The most memorable thing he said was, “I shoulda had somebody crack your head open.”
The cop arrived, and I explained the situation. The security guard told him again and again, “It’s not a hotel,” which had nothing to do with what had become of my things. The cop told me to stand away from them awhile. The security guard went away, and after a few minutes came back with my things. He lifted them up to shoulder height and threw them forcibly on the pavement.
I collected them and went back to the shelter. I would not be able to go online again until 10:00 the next morning.
4. Friday morning, April 4
Friday morning, the security guard was already on duty when I arrived. His first words to me were, “I told you not to bring that shit in here.” I said I could not leave my bags outside while I came in to buy coffee. He said he’d watch them outside while I did. But could I stay inside and drink my coffee, too, while he stayed out there watching my bags? That did not seem very feasible.
I bought my coffee, went outside, got my bags and left. I sat down across the street to drink my coffee, and then went to the nearby Dunkin’ Donuts to finish my morning routine. This Dunkin’ Donuts is only 100 yards away, but no “riff raff” ever come in there. As I said, something about the location of Baltimore and Light Streets seems to attract them.
But coffee is far more expensive at Dunkin’ Donuts than at Mcdonald’s.
At the library, I went back to the web page and submitted this comment:
5. Friday afternoon, April 4
Gloria and I did connect by phone at 12:20 that afternoon. The conversation lasted 2:39. She asked specifically about the “threats.” When I quoted the one about “crack your head open,” her tone changed abruptly. She said she was referring the matter to the Operations Manager “to have this situation rectified.”
In fear for my personal safety, frankly, I chose not to go to McDonald’s that afternoon.
When I did go back to McDonald’s, the security guard was gone, and everything was much the way it had been before he came. There were no more untoward events involving me until October 7. I tell that story here: “Does McDonald’s discriminate against the homeless?” Ironically, the store held a grudge against me.
Bottom line: Will you, or will you not, get on with life?