Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Did Charley's Grill Franchise Owner Insult Marines?

If you have a Facebook account you may have heard about this one. Popping up on the status updates of many of my friends is the following:
"Boycott Charley’s Grilled Subs. Today in Stockton, CA two Marines walked up to order lunch, the manager refused to serve them, she stated that they represented the war and she would not serve anyone in uniform. It appeared that she wanted to provoke them into an argument, but the two Marines were very professional ...and stated they would take it to go and she still refused. Here is the number 209-xxx-xxxx."
It caught my attention for a couple of reasons. One, we're a military family so I'm interested when someone claims that a place or person is discriminating against military members. And two, Stockton, CA is only about two hours from where we're heading. My initial thought? "What the hell?! I know they are more liberal out there but are we really going to revert back to the 1960s here? Are we going to get spit on too?"

I like to actually confirm that things are true, though. It's just too easy for things to get twisted out of proportion on the web. So I did a little digging before letting the panties get too bunched up. This hasn't hit the big news services yet, but I found a local news agency which had published an article about the situation. In a statement to KCRA, store owner Jian Ortman said the following:
"Military recruiters came to our restaurant and had a long conversation with our employee. We asked them to take their conversation outside of the restaurant because our employee was working. We did not refuse to serve the soldiers. We told the soldiers that we support our troops, but do not support the war. I meant no insult to the men and women that put their lives in harm's way to protect our freedom."
The Marines involved in the situation have not commented, so it's hard to get a good idea of what might have actually happened. (I suspect that they've been told not to comment to the media, although I obviously don't know that for certain.) I think there are only a few ways to fill in the blanks left by the owner's statement, though. At any rate, I feel relatively comfortable forming an opinion with the information I do have.

While I don't believe that Charley's Grilled Subs has any ownership in this, I do think that Ms. Ortman did not handle the situation as well as she could have. Obviously I don't know what went down in that sandwich shop, but my guess is that the kid asked the Marines a few questions when they came in for lunch and the Marines were answering those questions. It is, in fact, their job to give information about the Marine Corps to interested individuals. Recruiters are a funny bunch like that; if they sense interest, they are going to follow up on it.

Did the conversation go on a little too long? I don't know. Were they backing up the line during a busy time? I don't know that either. Those are certainly feasible possibilities, but why the need to make the anti-war statement to two Marines who are, by her own account, repeat customers? That part just doesn't make sense to me. There was no need to bring any anti-war sentiment into the situation; in fact, there was no reason to direct any commentary to the Marines at all. Wouldn't it have been less confrontational all the way around to simply tell the employee to get back to work?

Despite the fact that Ms. Ortman claims to have "meant no insult" she did, in fact, disrespect them simply by bringing the opinion into a situation where it was unnecessary. Although, knowing the Marines that I do, I wonder if they are more insulted by the fact that she referred to them as "soldiers" than any anti-war sentiment she may have shared.

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