Not So Closed-Minded: Extreme Edition

, , , , , , | Right | June 4, 2018

I work as a corporate trainer for a chain of quick-service restaurants that feature a cafeteria-style line with the food on display. I am responsible for leading the training teams, and teaching the new employees. Since the building exterior is finished and there are uniformed employees and activity inside, it could appear that the location is open and disappoint potential new customers.

At this particular new location we have the following in place to prevent any confusion: All three sets of stairs up to the patio deck that surround the restaurant are roped off, with a large stanchion sign that says, “In training! Opening day is [date].” The main door and two side doors are locked and have the same sign, but double-sized. In addition to the locked doors and signs, the patio furniture is not set up, but stacked at one end and chained together. There are no tables of chairs in the dining room yet; the chairs have just been delivered but are still in boxes, stacked up ten feet high, and there are so many, it’s hard to find a path through the dining room. I’m sitting on a box doing paperwork when I witness the following…

A woman in her mid-thirties approaches the main patio stairs. She stops and reads the stanchion sign. She walks over to one of the side stairs, stops and reads the stanchion sign. After looking around for a moment, she goes back to the main stairs, lifts the rope and ducks under to enter.

She tries to open the main door. After a few pulls, she appears the read the sign again. She continues to try the door two or three more times. She walks over to the two side doors and does the exact same thing. By now I’m so astonished, I decided to see how far she will go, instead of going outside to stop her.

She proceeds to try the main door yet again, reads the sign, checks her watch this time — to check the date maybe? This time, she spots the side entrance between the restaurant and building lobby, which, by law, we have to keep unlocked for safety. She enters the building lobby, stops in front of another sign that states we’re not open, then reads and pushes it aside to access the door.

She enters, looks around at the boxes and chaos and continues to work her way to the service line. At one point she almost has to crawl over a box to get through. After finally getting to the service line, she stares at the empty cases — with manufacturing stickers and packing materials all over them — and looks around for someone.

I decided to finally intervene and approach her. When she sees me, she asks, “Are you open?” I mentally facepalm. I tell her, “I’m sorry, no. We’re not open yet. We are training the staff, and opening day is next week,” and motion for her to follow me safely out.

She immediately turns angry and starts yelling at me that we’ve wasted her time and used up her limited lunch hour and ruined her lunch, that she can’t get lunch anywhere else, and that we should provide her a free meal from someplace else right now! I try to remain calm and state that she ignored all of the signs telling her we weren’t open, and that the doors were locked for the same reason. I finally have to ask her to leave or deal with the police and a charge of trespassing.

On her way out, she continues to rant, adding that we should also pay for the dry cleaning and repair of her clothes, damaged by her acrobatic attempts to get in through the boxes.

Sadly, this is the first of six similar incidents that day. By then, all I can muster is, “Signs blocking your path, roped-off stairs, and locked doors are normally enough to indicate we’re not open for business. I’m sorry that wasn’t enough. Exactly what would have indicated to you that were we’re not open?” and with the stumped silence, I escort them out.

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