Thinking about ordering a pizza from Papa John’s in person rather than phoning your dinner order in to them? Then be prepared to have your physical description entered on your food ticket. For one Asian-American woman, she was less than flattered to see a not so nice stereotypical remark about what she looked like printed on her food ticket. Understandably angry, she tweeted a pic of her receipt to the attention of the restaurant chain on Twitter. The company issued a cheesy public apology (as a press release designed to repair their image), but will it be enough to keep the otherwise charitable organization in the pizza business?
Papa John’s: Better ingredients. Better Pizza. But not better employees? Papa John’s Pizza is under fire after one of its 16-year-old employees at a New York restaurant was found to have used what is being called a racist remark to refer to a customer. Harlem resident Minhee Cho had placed an order in the restaurant but got home to check her receipt when she noted the name on the receipt read “lady chinky eyes”.
Cho went to Twitter to post a picture of the receipt, quipping, “Hey @PapaJohns just FYI my name isn’t ‘lady chinky eyes.’” The text and image quickly went viral. Papa John’s promptly fired the employee responsible for the receipt.
The Huffington Post reported that Papa John’s Pizza chain has addressed the situation on its Facebook page:
We were extremely concerned to learn of the receipt issue in New York. This act goes against our company values, and we’ve confirmed with the franchisee that this matter was addressed immediately and that the employee is being terminated. We are truly sorry for this customer’s experience.
Certainly the comment has racist undertones. It’s not clear, however, that the Papa John’s employee meant any harm. Although the parent company has apologized and insisted the behavior was not in line with company values, the manager at the New York store justified the employee’s behavior.
According to the Gothamist, the store manager, identified only as Jerome, had this to say:
“It’s a busy place, and it was a way to identify her and her order. You know, we do stuff like that sometimes. We’ll write ‘the lady with the blue eyes’ or ‘the guy in the green shirt.’”
If the franchise manager encourages employees to identify customers by appearance rather than by name, perhaps he should come under fire as well. Rather, the Jerome shifted the blame to Cho, calling her post on Twitter unfair, since it prompted a flurry of prank phone calls which disrupted business, reported the New York Post. Jerome also suggested that Cho made a bigger deal of the issue than necessary. The Post reported Cho as saying she felt entirely comfortable while in the store.
Whatever the case, Papa John’s acted swiftly to help save its image as a humanitarian, charitable and family-friendly organization. According to its website, Papa John’s has raised over $450,000 for Junior Achievement and is a proud supporter of Boy Scouts of America. As a company so dedicated, the last thing Papa John’s wants is to appear as if the company supports racism or is training their staff to use racist epithets to describe its customers.
If there is a lesson to be learned here, it is this: even the smallest slights can become a big deal on the internet. Be careful who you might offend, even if you think nobody is watching. You might just wind up being the subject of the next viral video, viral pic, or viral Tweet.