By: Patrick Maguire
Book Chapter: Customer Hall of Shame
My first reaction was, “Another entitled, mysogynistic jerk.” And then I became wary of the credibility of the server’s story. So I reached out to the banker and the bartender for comment, and both replied. But let’s start with the events from over the weekend.
A post on the Kitchenette blog yesterday titled: Server Posts Epic Facebook Response After Customer Harasses Her, tells the story of a male customer allegedly sexually harassing a female server:
From Kitchenette: Every server who’s seen the abuse heaped on themselves and their co-workers has wanted to see a horrible customer get their just comeuppance through a public shaming. Today, our prayers have been answered, because someone did just that.
Laura Ramadei, a server and bartender in New York City, was at the end of her rope after five years’ experience in the industry and more than her share of terrible customers. So when a New York finance bro named Brian Lederman allegedly sexually harassed her, it was the last straw:
You came into the restaurant where I work and ordered a Stoli on the rocks. When I asked you and your companion if you’d be eating, or needing anything else from me, you put your hand – ever so gently – ON MY ASS and asked if you could take me “to go”.
The facebook post included a copy of the receipt including Brian’s name, a bill for $15.24, a scribble in the tip line, and a printed total of $17.24, indicating a $2 tip. If you’re not on facebook, I’ve included the full text of Laura’s post in the first comment below.
As the story started making the rounds, I reached out to Brian via Facebook DM:
Me (9/16 4:09pm): I’m publishing a piece on this. Would you like to share your side of the story? Thank you-PM (I included excerpts from Laura’s Facebook post and a link to the Kitchenette post.)
(All of Brian’s comments were cut and pasted verbatim, without edits. Perhaps they were voice-generated?)
Brian (9/16 4:11pm): You want to publish a piece of fabricated lies bet guest you will also be on my attorneys list to sue for defamation you like to publish hearsay ! You know this girl ? Does anyone know her ? It’s a shame people believe what they hear not knowing the facts
Me (9/16 4:12pm): What are the facts?
Brian (9/16 4:18pm): My story ??? There is no story I went into a bar ordered a drink I was a bout to make a joke and stopped in the middle ” the girls says what can I get you – the joke if told 1000 times is how about you to go with nothing on it ” laughing kidding in the most joking manner not insulting nothing even remotely close the fact is I didn’t even finish the joke .. And I certainly never laid a finger let alone a hand on this girl she is simply fabricating a story to gain attention and get another Jon if I did anything inappropriate why didn’t she say anything to me I signed my check with my friend and left there is not one part of her story which is factual I never said anything derogatory and sexually harassing in any shape or manner never nog in anyway it’s a complete lie and I have a friend who was with me who witness everything and nothing because nothing but two drinks were serves we were not even drunk I remember EVERY think that occurred which as normal stop in a bar for a drink paid and left where this came from is shocking to me and my friend in fact my cc is missing since I left there and I believe she stole it and probably got does not quit . The girl is a psyco that’s the facts I’ve never had anything like this happen to me before so that’s a sick story to post especially when no one knows the facts except myself and my friend
Me (9/16 4:20pm): I’m waiting for statements from you and the restaurant you interacted with her at before publishing my piece. Obviously I want to get the facts straight. That’s why I reached out.
Brian (9/16 4:23pm): If anything happened why didn’t someone say anything to me not the girl not the Resteraunt no one I got a call from someone about this is all a complete shock to me . The fact is nothing what so ever happened if I was in any way rude I would have appologized I wasn’t I’m not that type of person I’m a married man 2 children this is like a nightmare what have I done but have a drink pay and leave What’s could possibly have happened why didn’t anyone in the Resteraunt say anything why suddenly 2 days later all this garbage written its 1000% untrue that’s the faxts
Me (9/16 4:26pm): If you want to prepare a statement, I’ll include it in the story. Thank you.
Brian (9/19 12:01 am): My statement is simple . This fabricates story is a clearly premeditated plan to leave a job and attempt to get sympathy from the public by slander and defamation of my character . The girl is clearly intelligent and calculated how is it possible is I sexually harnessed her she didn’t say anything to me or her manager ? Why ? Because it NEVER happened except in her mind . I never touched her or made any advance in any inappropriate sexual manner and this girl will be deal with my attorneys and paying for her lies this I can garantee . I’ve never heard of anything like this in my life ! It’s just a shock to me and I’m honestly speechless how she can create such a story maybe it was the tip …
Brian: (9/17 12:31 am) One more thing to take into consideration about what has been written Look how much time she spent taking about herself rather then the supposed sexual Harassment she is self promoting herself rather then making such a huge deal about the fabricated story and why she quit her job . If anything like that ever happened in a bar or public place the manager would have known imm and came to the table to say some thing or she would have said something she was super nice when she handed me the bill and never insinuated any sort or inappropriate actions on my part so when did it all occur after I left ? I guess on her mind ! That’s all I can say this girl is self promoting and getting to gain sympathy to get another job or try to defame and slander me to Gain attention for herself
Me (9/17 8:28am) : Got it. I’ll be gathering facts all day and posting tonight. Why only a $2 (13.12%) tip on $15.24?
Brian (9/17 3:32pm): I didn’t pay attention I was in rush that simple . I thought I wrote 3 and now find out 2
After reaching out to Laura via Facebook DM, we exchanged emails:
Me: (9/16 4:49 pm): Hey Laura. I write a blog advocating for people in the service industry. I’m working on a blog post about the alleged incident with Brian Lederman. I have a few questions.
#1- Would the MOD working when Brian came in be willing to substantiate your story and answer some questions?
#2- Did you tell the manager that Brian put his hand on your ass?
#3- What action did the manager take? Did they confront Brian?
#4- What do you say to the people who are speculating that this is a ruse? (Your “commercial” at the end of your facebook post has raised more than a few eyebrows.)
Laura (9/16 9:48pm): I have answered your questions so as to clear up confusion. I am hoping the noise my post has created will die down soon, as things seem to have gotten out of hand, and attacks are being made that I have strongly advocated against. I hope that in reaching out to me you like wise seek to promote awareness and education, rather than malice and accusation.
[Laura's answers to #'s 1-4 above.]
#1- He was not a witness to the incident, and therefore would only be able to provide further conjecture.
#2- Yes, almost immediately after the incident, the customer asked for the check. I told my manager what happened as soon as the customer left and he took down a description of the man and his name.
#3- After conferring with the general manager, the decision was made not to allow this customer back into the establishment. He was not contacted or approached by my managers, and I never requested they do so. The organization has been very supportive of me as an employee.
#4- I posted the story to spread awareness, and to inspire friends to treat each other and their servers with kindness and consideration. The post script was a genuine call for help and advice from friends, who face similar challenges pursuing careers in the arts while making ends meet. By no means was it meant as a “commercial”. I can’t imagine that any significant career opportunities would arise out of this incident. Only support and input from friends and colleagues, which I’ve been grateful to receive.
I also sent Laura a facebook DM on 9/16 at 4:50pm stating that Brian denied touching her. In a separate email sent by Laura on 9/16 at 10:07pm, Laura responded:
Oh and to address your follow up facebook message – he did touch me. It wasn’t a “grab” or a violent act the way certain repostings or stranger shares have implied. It was subtle but clear contact. To me it felt like three fingers gently resting on my left buttcheek. I hope you understand how horribly ridiculous and uncomfortable it is to talk about the details of this, but in the interest of clarity I hope my candor is helpful. I know that he has denied the event to other publications, and to my managers, but I stand by what happened, as do my employers.
If the quotes in today’s NY Post are accurate, Brian Lederman did nothing to endear himself to anyone defending him.
Excerpts from The NY Post:
“I’ve grabbed plenty of girls’ asses in my life,” Brian H. Lederman boasted to The Post. “But I’ve never grabbed hers.”
The married moneyman went on the defensive Tuesday after server Laura Ramadei made a tell-all Facebook post saying he ogled her like a piece of meat as he fondled her derriere at Lucky Strike on Grand Street.
Lederman, a 57-year-old managing director at Swiss Performance Management & Fiduciary, angrily denied any physical contact — and threatened to sue Ramadei for defamation.
“I clearly remember making a joke when the girl said, ‘What would you like,’ ” he said. “I kiddingly said, ‘I would like you to go with nothing on it.’ ”
He said he was furious that she claimed he did more than spew sleaze.
“That f–king c–t, for her to do something like that is pretty ridiculous,” he told The Post.
He then threatened to make sure she doesn’t serve lunch in this town again.
“I will make sure she doesn’t get another job in New York City. I know everybody,” he raged. “The bar owners, the club owners — that’s a terrible thing to write about somebody.”
Ah, another rendition of the old, “Do you know who I am?” rears its ugly head. Because of his reaction alone, a few hundred thousand more people know him…
If a 57-year-old guy doesn’t know that it’s not funny to make a sexist comment to a stranger, there’s a good chance he’ll never learn. The old, “I was just kidding” excuse just doesn’t fly, especially in a case like this. It’s bad enough when servers hear the same ‘jokes’ thousands of times (“Hated it” from a customer pointing to a licked-clean plate), but personal, sexist, abusive “kidding” is unacceptable, cover-your-ass backpedaling.
Despite the hint of opportunism, I’m siding with Laura.
By: Patrick Maguire
Book Chapter: Confronting without Confrontation
This is too good not to share. From Eater National:
Yelpers and restaurateurs have long had a shaky relationship, but one bar in Massachusetts has come up with a clever way to fight Yelp hate. According to an Instagram post, State Park, a bar in Cambridge, is poking fun at a one star review left on the site by quoting it at the bottom of their checks: “Lucy D. on Yelp says ‘Overall, a pretty lousy experience.’” Other restaurants have also gotten creative with responding to the antics of Yelpers: One restaurant in Portland fired back at a sexist joke left on their Yelp page by turning it into a fundraiser to benefit victims of domestic violence. In New Mexico, a food truck bit back at a one star review with a genius song featuring a ukulele.
By: Patrick Maguire
Book Chapter: Rules of Engagement
“Any press is good press,” is an antiquated and spurious adage. Social media failures are now commonplace and can lead to decreased business, and in extreme cases, closures. The list of restaurants, bars and businesses I’ll never visit because of the views, attitudes, content and strategies portrayed on their social media platforms is growing, including a Cambridge, MA “Beer Bar Bistro.” Fortunately, the list of Boston-area businesses I need to visit, partly because of their social media persona, is longer than my boycott list.
Tonight on Draft we have some of the most important beers in the world… particularly from Belgium…
[Highlight is my emphasis. -PM]
De Ranke XX Bitter
De Ranke XXX Bitter
De Ranke Saison de Dottinges
De Ranke Guldenberg
De la Senne Jambe de Bois
De la Senne Band of Brothers
Bink Grand Cru
Blougies La Manuesse
Other “Beer Bars” will tell you to drink Dupont, Chimay, Karmaliet, Guldendraak, Piraat, Delirium.
They would be wrong.
I thought their post was a dick move and told them so in a comment. Their response;
Beer Bar Bistro: Patrick Maguire, if you think we are dicks for saying that some of the beers you like are not very good, well then, I guess we are dicks.
I don’t know much about beer, but I do know that everything we say when we’re representing our brands in a public domain registers in the brains of potential customers and influences buying decisions. Insulting, mocking and taunting your competition and/or peers fosters negative perceptions. Businesses walk a very fine line attempting to employ an effective strategy around bravado. And businesses that depend on grandstanding often state that their intent was humor after they’ve been called out.
Me: No, I just think it’s a dick move to put parentheses around “beer bars” mocking your peers/fellow restaurant owners and workers who serve the beers you listed. Pretty condescending, insulting and dickish approach to co-existing in a very small town.
BBB: It’s hardling mocking to say to someone the product they serve is not good. Our approach is in fact to co-exist. We’d just like our peers to pour better beers. So that we could actually be peers. If we sold the world’s best burgers and called ourselves a burger bar, and other “burger bars” sold crappy burgers, we’d still reserve the right to say they ought to sell better burgers.
Me: And if you told other “burger bars” that they ought to sell better burgers you’d be arrogant dicks. (Yes, I know that’s part of the attention-seeking schtick.) Taste and business strategies are subjective. Who are you to tell other restaurants/bars what kind of beer is best for their business and their customers, and to tell them that they’re “wrong” for what they serve?
The ‘conversation’ intensified, but quickly died after a few more exchanges. Apparently someone realized that digging a deeper hole was a bad strategy. It will be interesting to see if they leave the thread intact. If they take it down, I copied all of it.
As I stated in the “Beer Bar” facebook thread, I get the “king of the hill/let’s be edgy” swagger that has always been part of the schtick, but I don’t agree with it when it crosses the line. I believe that you can still have a unique brand identity and personality without being disrespectful, especially to those in your own industry.
It’s imperative for businesses to demonstrate that they have a personality that fits their brand, but I also believe that humility, gratitude and respect should be recurring themes in social media campaigns.
Ironically, the owner of “Beer Bar Bistro” is building a large brewery in Massachusetts and will be attempting to sell beer to many of the same “peers” he has alienated. As one Facebook commenter noted, “Weird for guys about to open a massive new brewery to be talking this way about potential accounts, no?” Well, yes.
The owner of “Beer Bar Bistro” was asked on Facebook, “I’m beginning to wonder why you are opening a brewery in USA when you are so reverent to Belgium…”
BBB Owner: “…it’s not so much a reverence toward Belgium Beers, as it is reverence towards these particular Breweries in Belgium. There is so much shit beer being produced in Belgium…I feel it’s my responsibility as a citizen of the world to educate people on what they SHOULD be drinking. As a Brewer, I will make whatever the hell I want and then tell people they SHOULD be drinking that!”
“I am the greatest!” was endearing (even eloquent) when trumpeted by Muhammad Ali, but only a handful of humans and businesses can get away with it.
Do comments, attitudes, and opinions expressed on social media influence your decision about patronizing an establishment? Some customers don’t pay attention or care at all. Even after Upper Crust Pizzeria in Boston was found guilty of exploiting their employees, many people continued to patronize them because it was convenient. Where do you draw the line? When do you take a stand? Is it bigotry, bullying, bragging, misogyny, politics, religion, exploitation of employees, or something else you saw on social media or elsewhere that has lead you to boycott a business? Please add your comments and stories below. Thank you.
By: Patrick Maguire
Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service
When Fontaine locked the door on Thursday afternoon and Arthur climbed onto a stool to take the weight off his bum knee, I knew it was time. You could feel it. The Manjourides siblings have earned their retirement after working very hard together at Charlie’s for nearly four decades–an amazing feat unto itself.
I attended the last day of service on Saturday morning. Some of us camp out for concert and playoff tix, some of us for food and history in the making. My goal was to be first in line for the 7:30 opening. When I arrived at 6:25, the counter was already full of melancholy regulars and lively banter.
There are very few authentic places left that exude as much soul and history that Charlie’s did. After the door was locked on Thursday, I slowly walked around the restaurant taking in every framed picture and scrap of memorabilia, some I had never seen before. Fontaine filled in the blanks for me, “Oh yeah, that picture of me and Marie was used for an AT&T Ad. Yes, that’s Dennis Johnson (“DJ” Celtics legend), Al Pacino,…the Texas Chainsaw Massacre guys were so nice…”
We’ve all been to wakes, funerals or memorial services and thought, “If only we could have gathered this group when (deceased) was alive to celebrate their life with them and let them know how much we loved them.” The “living wake” for Charlie’s began on May 11th when the cat jumped out of the bag via twitter. Since then, and another twitter announcement, the Manjourides siblings have been inundated with media and sentimental regulars visiting for one last meal to say goodbye and congratulations. One gentleman who frequented Charlie’s 50 years ago, drove up alone last week from Alabama to pay his respects.
Personally, I’m thrilled for the Manjourides siblings and their families. I’m honored to have befriended all of them, and so happy they’ve closed the restaurant on their own terms. I have so much respect for what they have accomplished and endured. I’ll repeat the message I posted on my Facebook album dedicated to the extended Charlie’s family:
Much gratitude to siblings, Arthur, Chris, Fontaine, and Marie who have been operating Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe together for decades without killing each other!! I’ll miss the history, charm, wit, character(s), stories and friendship. Thank you for serving the South End neighborhood and Boston (and far beyond) so long and so well. Congratulations on a legendary run, and good luck on the next chapter. Cheers to everyone on both sides of the counter at Charlie’s, past and present.
To Charlie’s, a legendary American institution. Cheers. You will be greatly missed.
By: Patrick Maguire
Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service
Some people are of the opinion they are beyond reproach, and that, regardless of the circumstances, they are the victim and the world owes them something. Fortunately, the backlash against entitlement and the disdain for pretension have exposed some of these individuals.
Enter semi-anonymous, “opinionatedchef” Chowhound extraordinaire, Mindy. The first obvious hint of Mindy’s persnickety nature is gleaned from her choice of Chow handle. The second is her body of work–while often very informative, there’s also a snotty tone in her posts that I’ve been reading for several years. Last week she outdid herself.
In her post about the very-popular Sycamore restaurant in Newton, MA, Mindy referenced two “uncomfortable service confrontations” in her opening paragraph. A lot of people only scan Chowhound, so if they read the title of her post, “Sycamore: Stellar Food but People Problems…,” along with the first paragraph, they’d be left with a negative impression of the hospitality at the restaurant. However, when we dig deeper into Mindy’s post, we find the root of the “confrontation”:
Now, last Wednesday we were 30 minutes late for our 5PM Sycamore reservation. And Sycamore is very small and usually booked solid, so 30 min. tardiness causes them big problems. I get that. And I own the responsibility. But still, the last thing you want to hear FIRST when you arrive late from a miserable over-extended crazy-Boston-drivers tempest – is how much of a problem you’ve caused and how the ONLY solution is for you to depart by such and such a time. And ONLY after you agree to that condition will you be seated.
Mindy prefaced her comments by distinctly identifying the General Manager who spoke with her, and summarily upbraided him in her post. And in a bizarre attempt to bolster her argument, she also interjected the name of a popular Boston restaurateur and concluded what he would have done in that circumstance to make her feel welcome. How clairvoyant.
She concluded her post with, “Next time? Well, hopefully, we will find a more relaxed and welcoming tone [from the staff], but if traffic blockades us…, I think we might just cancel and try for seating (elsewhere).”
What Mindy omitted in her post, but revealed later in the thread, is the fact that she failed to call the “usually booked solid” restaurant to let them know her party was running late. If she “owned the responsibility” she never would have publicly singled out the GM and bitched about the hospitality, period. In fact, when called out on the fact that they didn’t call ahead, she stated, “…we have no cell phone. we left home with ample time to arrive promptly, but the traffic gods had other plans…”
Yup, 2014 and they don’t own a cell phone. And yup, judgement.
Chowhounds can be a very cliquey, insular bunch. Regardless of extreme opinions, there is usually someone who will side with the OP (Original Poster), Mindy in this case. This is the first time I can remember unanimous disagreement with an OP. At least 25 different ‘Hounds’ weighed in supporting the restaurant GM and/or denouncing Mindy’s handling of the situation. Several posts were removed by the moderators (for being too ‘personal’ and attacking the OP), and the thread was locked the same day it started. Here’s a sampling of the comments(I copied and saved some of these before they were deleted):
Gordough: And I am sorry, but you lose me with the no cell phone thing. Totally fine and commendable if you want to attempt to live a completely cell free life but this situation could have been made all the better with a heads up call to the restaurant. I always call if I am going to be more than 5 min late and I can’t tell you how gracious the hosts and hostesses are when I call. To me it seems like common courtesy but so many people don’t do it. And I am also surprised that just based on Sycamore’s tiny size (do they have more than 12-15 tables?) you weren’t more understanding how 30 minutes can mess them up.
Bugsey34: After 30 minutes, I believe you become what is called a “no show, no call.” I think you’re lucky they would have been able to seat you at all, really. I would have expected no soup for you. It’s not about being rude, it’s actually just mathematics of the small number of tables and how long it takes guests to eat there.
MC Slim JB: Might be time to look into a cheap mobile phone and pay-as-you-go plan for emergency use. It’s really not acceptable to make a reservation, miss it by more than 15 minutes, and not give the restaurant a heads-up as soon as you know you’ll be late. It’s worse at a place that is really small and has an early rush like Sycamore.
TimTamGirl: I have to agree with the other commenters that it was pretty awesome that they were able to seat you at all the first time. I understand that you would have preferred a gentler tone, but honestly, under the circumstances, I’m not sure one was warranted – especially since it sounds like you were expecting to be given a comforting hug after your crappy drive. I understand that you had had an unpleasant experience, but that’s… not on the restaurant. At all.
midnightboom: I have several years of experience as a hostess and I have dealt with many people like you. Let me tell you just how your behavior ruins everything for everyone.
We hold tables for 15 minutes max, after that, if you haven’t called to tell us you’re running late, you’re out of luck. Once you decide to show up on your schedule, you’ll be on the wait list and that’s the best we can do.
Once you no call/no show, we plan on you not arriving, and plan out the rest of the seating accordingly. The times we quote to those on the wait list depend on you now not coming/us having that table available when we say it’s going to be available. We see which tables are getting up soon and move the waiting list along.
When YOU show up and demand your table, you are now throwing off our wait times, sometimes by a large chunk of time, pissing off everybody else on the wait list because now that you’ve taken their table and extended their wait time. So if we end up seating you as you feel is your right, you might end up having a happy dinner, but you’ve now upset a long list of other diners who have been waiting patiently and are marring their experiences with your entitlement.
Behavior like this is simply rude. This post is all about yourself and not thinking about how your actions actually affect anyone else, and the domino effect it has from the staff onto the rest of the guests. Feign innocence if you must but most of the time, if you are met with a pissy reaction from staff it’s because of the way you’re treating them. You may think the customer is always right but that doesn’t mean people will stand for disrespect.
Also, important things like having a temporarily disabled person with who requires a certain seating arrangement should be communicated when you make the reservation, NOT when you arrive. The right table is not always magically available. And get a damn cell phone, that’s not the restaurant’s problem.
Jerezhound: …Yes, we are in the hospitality business, but in the end we’re in BUSINESS, and we would like to stay that way. If we continue to alienate the majority of our guests by cowtowing to the neediness of entitled, disrespectful guests such as yourself, then we will no longer attract the good guests who play by the rules and give ample notice of potential problems, and we are no longer able to provide for ourselves or our countless employees because no one wants to do business with us anymore because they can’t get a table on time. So, think twice next time you decide to complain about someone doing you a FAVOR.
DrewStarr: You don’t seem to realize that by not calling, you were as disrespectful of the host as you could possibly be – the most important job they have is managing the seating of that dining room. You no longer live in a society where “I couldn’t get to a phone” is an excuse for being late without warning.
You showed additional disrespect when you gave a physical description that identified the individual to those familiar with the restaurant. Had another Chowhound poster done the same of you, the post would have been removed.
The only reason people are telling you to get a cell phone is because you felt it is your place to not adhere to the social contract; given this is a discussion forum, that implicitly gives them the right to respond to this particular aspect of your life.
As someone who has been reading Chowhound from the beginning, Drew’s comment resonates deeply. The biggest problem I’ve had with Chowhound over the years is that they find it perfectly acceptable for an OP or poster to single out a restaurant worker by physical characteristics, but it’s not ok for a poster to point out another poster’s flawed ‘characteristics’ or arguments. I’ve seen hundreds of posts removed over the years that included important facts relevant to the discussion.
ChocolateMilkshake: And they [Chowhound Moderators] just axed another 10 comments. It’s a wonder why anyone continues to post on Chowhound at all.
hyde: Nah, it’s great! It makes for a dumbed down totally acceptable pablum where nobodies feelings are ever hurt and no real outrage ever takes place. Vanilla Ice Cream for Everybody!
senatorjohn: Entitlement isn’t news. What I find incredible about this story is you haven’t bothered to get a mobile phone in the last fifteen years, but you still take the time and effort to complain on the internet.
If you ever return to Sycamore and they are gracious enough to let you in the front door, make an uncomfortable service confrontation of your own: apologize for your behavior, this post included.
Mindy responded to the admonishment from fellow hounds with obstinate narcissism:
opinionatedchef(Mindy): Man, the assumptions are flying today!! All i can see is CHs not willing to READ my post w/o scalpel in hand.
Except for not calling, I never did or would be disrespectful of the host. Wherever we are dining, we always make reservations and if we are running late from our house, we always call to check with the host, before leaving. No one’s place to tell me to get a cell phone. No one’s place to make assumptions about how i live my life.
We did NOT screw up the night’s floor plan/seating schedule. We departed when we were told to depart/bill paid/ no unfinished business. We ate faster; they made their $ on our table; the following guests were able to sit at their reserved time.
Hey, we all fuck up. How we respond after being enlightened makes all the difference.
I reached out to Sycamore via their website and received a nice note from their GM graciously declining to comment.