Customer Hall of Shame

Stop Faking Service Dogs-Wes Siler-Indefinitely Wild: Outside Magazine

Book Chapter: Customer Hall of Shame

Posted: 08/31/2017

Fake service dogs are the new allergies…

Neil Swidey’s comprehensive piece, Why food allergy fakers need to stop for the Boston Globe Magazine earned him a 2015 Sigma Delta Chi Award from the Society of Professional Journalists. From the highly-acclaimed piece:

BEFORE WE GET INTO IT, let me make one thing clear. This intervention is not aimed at those with life-threatening food allergies or similarly grave medical conditions. I would never question people whose faces will balloon if they ingest trace amounts of shellfish. Or people who risk going into anaphylactic shock with a whiff of peanut dust. Or people whose ingestion of a smidge of gluten will send their bodies on an autoimmune witch hunt that over time will eat away at the lining of their small intestines and potentially lead to everything from infertility to cancer. Those problems are very real, and everyone who is afflicted with one or more of them has my sympathy.

I’m talking about the rest of you. Those of you who don’t eat garlic because you detest its smell or avoid cauliflower because it makes you fart or have gone gluten-free because you heard it worked wonders for Jennifer Aniston or Lady Gaga or Dave, your toned instructor from spin class.

I know you want your dietary preferences to be taken seriously, and you think invoking the A-word is a harmless little white lie. But you have no idea how much trouble you’re causing and how much you’re helping to erode hard-won progress for people with genuine allergies and disorders.

Today’s guest post from Wes Siler for Outside’s Indefinitely Wild blog, makes a similar appeal to fakers who put people with real disabilities at risk.

Stop Faking Service Dogs

Loving your pet too much is putting people with real disabilities at risk.

It’s time to stop falsely claiming that your dog is a service animal and to stop bringing pets into restaurants, onto planes, and to other places where only service dogs are permitted.

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Here in famously pet-friendly Los Angeles, I encounter dogs that are blatantly not service animals on a daily basis. Recently, during a morning visit to my local café, I laughed when a woman whose tiny dog was thrashing around at the limits of its leash and barking fiercely at other customers loudly proclaimed that it was a service animal. “It’s my service dog,” she said to me, scowling. “You’re not allowed to ask me why I need it!”

Data backs my anecdote up. A study conducted at the University of California at Davis found that the number of “therapy dogs” or “emotional support animals” registered by animal control facilities in the state increased 1,000 percent between 2002 and 2012. In 2014, a supposed service dog caused a U.S. Airways flight to make an emergency landing after repeatedly defecating in the aisle. A Google News search for “fake service dog” returns more than 2.2 million results.

This has recently led state governments to try and curb the problem through law. In Massachusetts, a House bill seeks to apply a $500 fine to pet owners who even falsely imply that their animal may be a service dog. In California, the penalty is $1,000 and up to six months in jail. Twelve states now have laws criminalizing the misrepresentation of a pet as a service animal. That’s good, but with all the confusion surrounding what a service dog actually is, there’s less and less protection for their unique status.

A new bill introduced to the Senate this summer by Wisconsin Democrat Tammy Baldwin threatens to add to the confusion even more. If it becomes law, you’ll be able to take any animal on a plane simply by telling the airline that it’s an ESA. Alarmingly, the bill seems to include ESAs in its definition of service animals.

Look, I get the desire to bring your pet along with you everywhere you go. My dogs are as important to me as my friends and family. The first criteria my girlfriend and I apply to where we eat, drink, and travel is whether our dogs can enjoy it with us. But out of respect for the needs of disabled people, for the incredible work that real service dogs perform, and for the people managing and patronizing these businesses, we will not lie. We do not take our pets places where they’re not welcome. We never want to compromise the ability of a service dog to perform its essential duties.

As an animal lover, don’t you want the same thing?

What’s a Service Animal?

The Americans with Disabilities Act limits the definition of a service animal to one that is trained to perform “work or tasks” in the aid of a disabled person. So, while a dog that is trained to calm a person suffering an anxiety attack due to post-traumatic stress disorder is considered a service dog, a dog whose mere presence calms a person is not. The act states, “dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.”

That same law makes no requirements or provisions for any registration, licensing, or documentation of service animals. It also prohibits businesses or individuals from asking a disabled person for proof that their dog is a service animal. In fact, the ADA permits only two questions to be asked of people with service animals: Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? What task is the dog trained to perform? That’s it. No inquiry can be made about the nature of the disability and no proof can be requested, nor are there any licenses or documents to prove a dog is a service animal.

Emotional support animals (let’s just use that as a catchall for any dog that provides comfort but does not perform a specific task) are specifically excluded by the ADA, and access for them is not provided by that law. Businesses and similar entities are left to define their own policies. Amtrak, for instance, does not consider ESAs to be service animals and does not permit them to ride in passenger areas on its trains.

Because ESAs provide benefit by their mere presence, there’s no burden of training for them like there is for a service dog. The presence of untrained, or poorly trained dogs in public places, and on crowded airplanes can lead to significant problems. In June, an ESA aboard an airplane attacked the human seated next to it, resulting in severe injury.

So where’s the confusion come from, and why are there so many pets on airplanes these days? The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) does recognize ESAs and mandates that they be allowed on planes. It also goes further to place a burden of proof on owners of both service animals and ESAs.

“Another dog once spent an entire flight barking at my dog,” relates Randy Pierce, who’s been totally blind for the past 17 years. “My dog was not barking back, but the barking was changing her behavior. That makes it harder for her to do her job; she loses her focus. I’m 6’4″, so if she loses her focus, it means I’m going to hit my head on an exit sign or a doorway or, if we’re on a street, maybe even step out into traffic.”

I also spoke with my friend Kent Kunitsugu, whose 12-year-old son, Hayden, suffers from epileptic seizures. Their dog, Lola, is trained to smell the sweat associated with an oncoming seizure, alert Hayden and his parents, and then lay across him during a seizure to comfort and protect him. “We often have to ask people to get their pets away from ours, because it’s a distraction, and the dog needs to pay full attention to my son,” explains Kunitsugu. “People think we’re being assholes, but we can’t afford a distraction.”

Pierce’s dog, Autumn, completely ignores other dogs, doesn’t beg for food, sits quietly for the duration of long flights, and generally minimizes her impact. That’s the result of lots of money—service dogs cost upwards of $20,000—and thousands of hours of training. Pierce, for example, has developed a routine with Autumn that involves the dog communicating when she needs to go to the bathroom, and then doing so in a specific orientation to Pierce that enables him to easily find it and collect it in a baggie. A true service dog is essential to its human partner’s well being, as well as a huge financial investment that other untrained dogs in public places put at risk.

The increasing presence of ESAs on flights, and in businesses has also combined with confusion around the law to create a backlash that’s impacting true service dogs, in addition to pets.

“On that flight, I overheard the flight attendant remark to her colleague that she wished they wouldn’t allow service dogs,” describes Pierce. His disability is obvious, but that’s not always the case for people who need service dogs, and those with disabilities already find going out in public difficult and intimidating. Fake service dogs are giving real ones a bad reputation.

Quantifying Fake

You can order service dog vests, tags, harnesses and other paraphernalia on Amazon and countless other websites. Dozens of websites and services claim to offer registry, certification, licenses, or other documentation for service dogs—all scams, as the ADA neither defines or requires any such proof.

To take your emotional support animal on an airplane, all you need is a letter from a licensed mental health professional that’s on letterhead, signed, and less than a year old. You can buy those online for a few bucks: news investigations have found psychologists offering to sell them to otherwise undiagnosed clients. Heck, most of us could probably counterfeit one using Photoshop.

“In order to be a service dog, that dog has to be trained to perform a task, and there has to be a recognized disability,” explains Pierce. “I’ve met a lot of people who tell me this is their emotional support animal, but what they’ve just told me is they don’t understand the law.”

Pierce is frustrated that the law is so vague, often misunderstood, and simply used as an excuse to bring pets somewhere they don’t belong. Because you can only ask if a person with a service dog has a disability and what tasks the dog is trained to perform, most businesses and other services simply don’t question service dogs at all. And most people with emotional support animals don’t realize that their pets aren’t actually guaranteed equal access by the ADA, or any other law, outside of air travel.

Really the only mechanism available to legitimate service dog owners is to sue a business that denies them access, which just worsens the problem. “The owners of most places are intimidated,” says Pierce. “They don’t want a lawsuit on their hands for being wrong, and they don’t know what their rights are, so they don’t ask questions.”

Animal Lovers Must Unite

We find ourselves in a society that requires you to present a diagnosis of mental illness (or soon, just a verbal claim of such) if you want to safely fly with your dog. The system is broken.

In 2014, 25,000 emotional support animals boarded Jet Blue flights alone. Why isn’t there an airline that offers safe transport for pets? Or specific pet-friendly flights on certain popular routes?

And why aren’t there more dog-friendly restaurants, bars, music venues, and other businesses? There are nearly 90 million pet dogs in this country. That’s a huge market, but also a huge problem when us owners act inappropriately. As animal lovers, creating and supporting dog-friendly businesses should be our priority. Acting selfishly to the detriment of others will not create a more dog-friendly future. We want to be able to take our dogs to more places, more often, but we have to make sure doing so is appropriate and doesn’t infringe on the rights and well-being of people who need real service dogs.

The American Kennel Club offers a Canine Good Citizen certification after a formal process of testing and training good behavior. If you want to bring your dog into a café, why aren’t you being asked to produce evidence of that, rather than falsely stating that the business owner has to permit your emotional support animal?

“Instead of looking at ourselves as service dog users and faux service dog users, I like to think of all of us as dog lovers,” says Pierce. “When you look at it from that perspective, they’re not mutually exclusive. How do we make sure all our animals are able to succeed?”

Wes Siler

Wes Siler runs IndefinitelyWild, Outside’s lifestyle column telling the story of adventure-travel in the outdoors, the vehicles and gear that get us there, and the people we meet along the way. You may recognize Wes from such websites as Jalopnik, Gizmodo, and Hell For Leather, where he used to review cars and motorcycles, and share his various misadventures, outdoors and otherwise. Wes lives in LA with his dog, Wiley.

IndefinitelyWild is an outdoors lifestyle blog on @outsidemagazine brought to you by @wessiler and friends.

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Hospitality Therapy-Screaming into the darkness, like a wolf on a moonlit mountain. #ServerNotServant

Book Chapter: Customer Hall of Shame

Posted: 07/22/2017

This is priceless.

I’ve spoken with several hospitality industry professionals (many clients) who have adopted a policy of refusing to engage publicly or privately with amateur reviewers. The general philosophy is that they’re never going to please everyone, and they don’t want to waste valuable time interacting with a small minority when they’re slammed running their business. I get it, and I respect that position.

However, there are some business owners and managers who selectively engage and seize an opportunity in a cathartic, epic manor to defend their business and their people. It’s marketing brilliance when done properly.

Case in point:

Written by Tony Cuddihy, and reposted with permission from JOE.ie:

This, dear friends, is how you defend your business and the people you work with. This Doolin hotel manager is our hero.

When Donal Minihane, the General Manager of Hotel Doolin in County Clare, came across a poor review on TripAdvisor he decided to write one of the best responses we’ve ever come across.

A user called Lovnhawaii posted some quite derogatory comments about the hotel – giving out about everything from the receptionist to the Wi-Fi to the ‘grumpy ole men’ working in the hotel – which you can read here.

Anyone familiar with Hotel Doolin will know that the person in question was talking out of their arse, so Donal decided to defend Hotel Doolin in the best way possible.

This is what he wrote back:

Dear LovnHawaii:

Thank you for staying with us at Hotel Doolin on your recent trip to Ireland and for posting your feedback. We were very disappointed with the content of your review. However, after investigating the particulars of your stay in detail with all team members I was even more disappointed to learn that the content of the review was not an accurate reflection of what actually happened.

From the title of your review, other readers would think that you inadvertently stumbled into Hitchcock’s Jamaica Inn and that Hotel Doolin was full of brigands and cutthroats, that our staff wear eye patches and pantaloons and are hiding behind the pillars in the lobby, cutlass clenched between our teeth, waiting to jump out and pillage passerbys.

You say the hotel is deceitful and dishonest and that one of our staff members, Emma, is a liar when, in fact, it is your good self that is being liberal with the truth. Emma did make a mistake on check-in with the rate, this was spotted the following morning by one of our more senior receptionists and was rectified before you checked out so that you never paid €240 as you stated above.

 Also, the duty manager met you the following morning, apologised for the mistake and gave you a further reduction on your rate. We are 100% certain that Emma made a genuine mistake, as sometimes people do, and we feel it is very unfair and irresponsible of you to call her a liar and dishonest on a public forum.

I’m sensing a lot of anger in the review above and I know that you probably didn’t mean to let loose all that anger on us. Hey, sometimes people just need to vent. Sometimes at night when I come home from a long day’s work at the hotel, I check to see if everyone is in bed and then I go out into the field at the back of my house and scream into the darkness. I let it all out, like a wolf on a moonlit mountain.

I feel better after that and nobody gets hurt. I’m not saying howling into the night like a wolf will work for you, I don’t know your circumstances, you may have neighbours that’ll think it is weird, but there are other ways of channelling rage that don’t have to involve Hotel Doolin and slandering Emma.

With regards the Wi-Fi, yes, the Wi-Fi in the west of Ireland is the worst in Europe, there is nothing we can do about this for the moment, although I think we are getting high-speed broadband in the area pretty soon. in the meantime, to anybody else reading this review. DO NOT COME TO DOOLIN IF WI-FI IS MORE IMPORTANT TO YOU THAN HUMAN INTERACTION, YOU WILL BE DISAPPOINTED.

There are three men over the age of forty working in the hotel. Only one of them was working on the night you stayed, so we didn’t know how to deal with the ‘grumpy old men’ in your review, until my assistant manager came up with the only viable solution.

 We’ve decided to execute all three of these men to ensure that no other guests will have to endure the horrific ordeal you went through that evening in the bar.

Paul, Martin and Luis will be blindfolded and shot in the back of the head at Fitz’s cross after mass this Sunday. There will be trad music, cocktail sausages and face-painting for the kids and I can organise a pair of complimentary tickets for you if you wish to attend. I know this will not make up for what happened to you but we hope it will go some way towards showing you that we take your feedback seriously.

You see, even though you hurt us deeply with your review, we’d still like to be friends, we’d love if you afforded us the opportunity to change your opinion of us and hope that you will return to Doolin someday.

In fact, each year on the 30th February we have a party for our valued past customers who think we are liars, we all hold hands and dance around a campfire and sing songs that help us forget about the past and look with hope towards the future. We’d love if you could make it (that lying cheating ruffian Emma won’t be there, we promise).

Ends

JOE would like to thank Donal for giving us his permission to share his response, and Aaron Stone McHale for bringing our attention to it in the first place.

[Thanks to Darren Tully, living in Dublin, Ireland for bringing this to my attention. -Patrick Maguire]

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Restaurant Owner and Teenage Daughter Beaten by Grown ‘Man’ and ‘Woman’ Customers.

Book Chapter: Customer Hall of Shame

Posted: 06/25/2017

Subhuman. According to Merriam Webster, “subhuman” is defined as “less than human: such as (a) failing to attain the level (as of morality or intelligence) associated with normal human beings.” There aren’t too many other ways to describe the despicable couple who wantonly attacked a Qwik Chik restaurant owner and her 15-yr-old daughter in Baxley, Georgia on Thursday, 6/22, according to ABC WJCJ22. As the disturbing video within the piece by reporter, Tori Simkovic proves, the female customer physically attacks and beats the restaurant owner, then her husband sucker punches the owner’s 15-year-old daughter in the face on the way to fleeing the scene. The teenager easily could have died of a punch from the ’man’ almost twice her size, especially if she hit her head after the horrific blow. Miraculously, she jumped up immediately to come to the aid of her mom who suffered a broken nose during the beating.

According to this piece filed by Vince Cestone of KRONE 4 TV:

The owner of a Qwik Chick restaurant … says the incident happened Thursday. A couple went to her stand and complained about their food being cold. After a few minutes back and forth, the owner says she refunded their money, but then she says the couple went crazy. They started cussing and beating down the window. The owner went outside to tell them police were on the way when the woman started punching and slapping her in the face. That’s when her daughter got out of the truck to help, and the husband punched the teen right in the face.

“The camera surveillance footage that we put out tells it all. That’s just brutality,” Baxley Police Chief James Godfrey said.

In the WTOC report: “I’ve been here, what, 41 years – 30 of them as chief. I have never seen anything like this. I’ve never heard of anything like this,” said Chief James Godfrey.

From the WJCJ22 piece: Mom/Restaurant owner, “When you see your child hit, by some grown man and she’s only 15, nobody deserves that.” The owner said that the customers came to the restaurant often, but had recently started becoming agitated in recent visits. This attack has made her question if she wants to continue working in the restaurant business. “Do I want to put myself, my employees, or my child at risk just over food? That’s so stupid. So senseless.”

When I spoke with the owner of the restaurant on Saturday afternoon (6/24) just before 4pm, police had not made any arrests, but were following several leads. The owner acknowledged receipt of my PM to the Qwik Chik facebook page, and I agreed to email her the same messages I posted there to make it easier for her to reply.

PM (Patrick Maguire): Reporter, Tori Simkovic from WJCL22 stated in her piece that the attackers came into the restaurant often, “but had started becoming agitated in recent visits.” Is that true?

Owner: Yes, they were irritated for the lat 5 or 6 visits, per my employees.

PM: And if yes, why were they agitated?

Owner: One example was ordering a large drink and then hollering at them when my employee brought the drinks back saying that they said they wanted a jumbo. Stuff like that…

PM: Did you say or do anything to upset them?

Owner: They said that the chicken was cold which it was not. It wasn’t right out of the grease hot, but certainly not cold. They were already irritated by the time I stepped in. I know they had already irritated my employee.

PM: In retrospect, would you have handled your previous interactions with them any differently?

Owner: Not really because there was no reasoning with them.

PM: Would you have handled your interaction with them the day of the incident any differently?

Owner: Probably not.

PM: Why is the video dated 2010?

Owner: Because our business had recently been hit by lightening and had some of the equipment replaced and the tech forgot to set the time and date. I had noticed the time was off, but had not looked at the date.

Ironically, this picture from 10/9/15, is one of the few pics on the Qwik Chik facebook page:

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The caption under the pic from the owner of Qwik Chick reads, “You never know what someone is going thru. We deal with this everyday and try our best to be nice. Sometimes it’s better to just walk away and not be ugly!!!” Amen.

Based on my research of the restaurant (reviews, social media, Google search) and conversation with the owner, I cannot envision a scenario where the owner and her daughter deserved anything close to the brutal assaults they endured.

I left the following PM on the dormant facebook page of the male attacker:

I am writing a blog post about your attack on the owner of Qwik Chik and her daughter. Contact me if you’d like to make a statement. [No response as of 1:33pm on 6/25/17.]

When I called the Baxley, GA police dept (912-367-8305) at 1:11pm on Sunday, outgoing VM indicated “office hours” are M-F 8am-5pm. I suppose one could call 911 if they had a hot lead on the thug/attackers…

Please watch the video before commenting below. And if you don’t want to feel worse about ‘humanity’ and the world we live in than you do after watching the video, don’t read the comments following the related stories and social media posts. It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World…

Updates will be noted here as they are received.

6/26/17 9am: I received a call from the Baxley PD. They’re following several leads, but no arrests yet.

7/4/17 approx. 12:30pm. Facebook message from Qwk Chik owner:

Hello everyone. Just wanted to take a moment and tell you that you have no ideal how much your phone calls, messages, cards, gifts, donations and encouraging words have meant to me and my family. You would never think that something like this would happen in our town but it did and it’s getting worse all over the world. It is nice to live in a little town where everyone steps up and helps anyone in need. Again Thank You for everything. Please keep your eyes open for these two so we can get them where they belong. Happy Fourth of July and God bless our nation and keep us safe.

July 5th. Attackers surrender.

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Humanitarian Diner Award

Book Chapter: Customer Hall of Shame

Posted: 02/11/2017

Because you can’t make this shit up. This week’s Humanitarian Diner Award goes to amateur ‘reviewer,’ “TM58″ who awarded one of the Boston area’s top restaurants 1 star on Open Table after being inconvenienced because of a fire at a business NEXT DOOR!! Without inquiring about the safety of the fire victims, “TM58″ was last seen ‘fuming’ in Newton Centre seeking a safer place to dine and whine… For those who actually do care, there were no injuries.

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“Sorry” -Donald Trump

Book Chapter: Customer Hall of Shame

Posted: 11/19/2016

Dear America, “I apologize.”

That was hard for me, but I finally did it, despite the irony of the ‘quotes.’

  • I’m sorry for appearing like a thin-skinned, petulant child tweeting at the “very rude” Hamilton cast demanding that they apologize for exercising their First Amendment right, especially after I wantonly and rudely offended so many people across our great country during the presidential campaign.
  • I apologize to everyone who voted for me but couldn’t publicly admit it to their family, friends, fellow humans in their diner or coffee shop, and co-workers, because at the core, they know what a repulsive human I am, despite promising to lower the cost of their healthcare…
  • I’m sorry so many of the people who voted for me are no longer talking to many of their family members, friends, co-workers, and fellow humans in diners and coffee shops. And I’m sorry many of my supporters have been blocked by so many people on social media…
  •  I apologize to all of the good Hombres who were offended by my “Bad Hombres” comment. You can stay.
  • I apologize to all of the painters, carpenters, glassmakers,framers, plumbers, sheetrockers, roofers, electricians, steel workers, bartenders, real estate agents, and all of the blue and white collar workers who suffered severely when I stiffed you for the work you completed for me. Despite that fact, and all of the pending lawsuits, I deceived, manipulated and suckered millions of your co-workers and peers into voting for me under the guise of advocating for them. I’m sorry.
  • I’m sorry for not being able to advocate for anyone except Me, Myself, and I. (“I speak the truth,” and “Tell it like it is,” remember?)
  • I apologize to everyone who voted for me because I “said what you were thinking.” I wasn’t even thinking about what I was saying…
  • I apologize to all of the people who believed me when I said undocumented workers don’t pay taxes but benefit by freeloading off of government services. And I’m sorry for not paying taxes when you did.
  • I’m sorry for not sharing my tax returns…
  • I’m sorry that I’ve ‘calcified’ racism, bigotry, and sexism ‘into a national nightmare’ and set our (soon to be) great nation back 50 years.
  • I’m so sorry so many people had to vote for me by default just to see ‘change.’
  • I apologize to the Republican Party that ultimately I was ‘your guy.’ I didn’t expect to win this thing, I just wanted to elevate my brand and just be a “protest candidate.”
  • I’m sorry for all of the people who didn’t vote because they believed the polls that said their vote didn’t matter and that I didn’t have a chance. (On second thought, that’s on them.)
  • I apologize to all of the people who hold me in such high esteem. Extremists will defend their deity to the death because that defines/validates their existence. That devotion can be deadly.
  • I’m sorry for not having an ounce of decency. If I did, in the wake of my victory, in an effort to unify our  great country, I would have made a thoughtful, powerful, impassioned speech, vehemently denouncing the people who used my win as a catalyst for racist attacks, hate crimes, bigotry, and violence in my name. I apologize that I’m not smart or aware enough to know that our country needed that. I just don’t have it in me. Sorry about that.
  • I’m sorry I’m so ‘bad at twitter.’ I apologize that VP-elect Pence had to ‘take one for the team’ and provide cover while my $25m fraud settlement was announced… “Sorry, Baby Donald, I’m not taking the bait.”
  • I apologize for being such a ‘sorry’ human being.

Insincerely, “The Donald”

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