Chocolate Pillow | Discrimination – truth or perception?
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Discrimination – truth or perception?

17 Jul Discrimination – truth or perception?

I recently read about an incident at a restaurant that would normally be enough to make my blood boil, but then I heard the restaurant’s defence, and it made me realise that in the current world, many things are thrown under the banner of ‘discrimination’ or similar, without actually being so.  Let me start at the beginning with this post on Facebook which started a rampage of response from people all stating how horrendous the actions of the restaurant were:

[box] FB page Boycott the Royal Highland Hotel

Posted by Claire Cumming

Today for lunch we went to ASH RESTAURANT INVERNESS beside the train station during our holidays & as soon we went in the door the staff were giving us dirty looks and tried to put us off by saying that it would be a 20minuet wait for food even though the place was dead! We were obviously not there clientele little did we know it was because of my Down syndrome uncle!! We never got offered drinks and after 10 – 15mins someone finally came over to take our order, we order for my uncle Willie fish fingers off the kids menu as that’s all he can eat is small portions and every where we go he has always had it! But they then turned round and said no he can not have that then for a supervisor to come over to say they CAN NOT SERVE MY UNCLE TODAY. This is clear DISCRIMINATION and I want to make every one knows what a horrible place that is. That staff were rude from the word go! We made our opinion clear to the staff as we walked out. Noone should be told what they can and can’t eat especially when it’s a treat for them. Please LIKE AND SHARE so that everyone can hear what this “award winning restaurant” is really like![/box]

Okay – clear cut case… or so you would think from reading just that… In a statement released by the hotel, here is the series of events that occurred:

[box]From Caterer and Hotelkeeper:

Regional manager Indranil Banerjee disputed the allegation, saying that it was “distortion”.

Speaking to Caterer & Hotelkeeper, he explained that the restaurant has a ‘kids eat free’ deal on Sundays – the day on which the incident was said to have taken place and that the waiting staff were therefore unable to pass the request through the till as a meal for an adult, because it would automatically register it as a child’s order and not charge. The kitchen would “not normally” prepare a dish from the child’s menu without an appropriate till ticket, he said.

“We see every human being as a human being, but they’re either an adult or a kid, and that is that,” Banerjee said. “The kids’ menu is only for people under 12, as the prices are lower and the portions are very small.”

Banerjee claims that the waiter had said the fish fingers order wouldn’t be possible, but that an alternative of fish goujons, a dish on the adult’s menu, cut into smaller pieces, had been offered. And yet, it’s claimed that by the time the waiter had returned from the kitchen to check the fish goujon order, Ms Cumming and Mr Forbes had already left.

“We were surprised; they left without telling anybody,” said Banerjee, disputing the claim that his restaurant had simply refused to serve the meal on discriminatory grounds. “What basis could we have in refusing food to somebody?” he said.[/box]


So is this discrimination?  Lets be fair, the comments about a 20 minute wait for food and no drinks etc are  no strange occurrence if many of the TripAdvisor reviews are to be believed – it appears this restaurant does have a run of instances where these delays have been reported.  Needless to say, it can be fairly believable that this delay happened.

But that is where the story splits in to massive polar opposites – the lady claims she was told they cannot serve her uncle, but the restaurant say he was offered an alternate; she said she made their opinion clear on leaving but the restaurant say nothing was said…. things are not adding up somewhere and one party is being less than honest here!  And as reported by the Daily Mail, the story is even more different according to the same lady who reported this ‘blatant discrimination’:

[box]Extract from Daily Mail:

Miss Cumming said the trio went into the restaurant at the Royal Highland Hotel for a meal, but were told Mr Forbes could not have the fish fingers from the children’s menu because it was only for those aged under 12.

‘I tried to explain he had Down’s Syndrome and had special dietary requirements,’ she said.

‘He can’t eat big portions, only little portions. The waitress went and got a supervisor but he was like, “No, you can’t have that”. We just got up and left.’
Read more: [/box]

So three guesses who is not being entirely honest here…. This is unfortunately an instance whereby one refusal of something has been blatantly blamed on discrimination… but who is really discriminating here?  The truth is she is!

The facts of the situation here, disability aside, are that someone over the age of 12 asked for something off a kids menu which is for under-12’s only; they were refused.  Is this discrimination?  No.  So why does it become discriminatory when the person involved has Downs Syndrome?  It doesn’t… what makes it discriminatory is someone pinning the refusal of service on the disability as opposed to the real reason – the restaurant had a policy it adhered to.

Add to this the fact that the restaurant was doing ‘Kids Eat Free’ – doesn’t this add a new twist to the scenario in that they just were peeved off that he would be charged for his meal?  I understand special dietary requirements and am more than well-versed in discrimination (I have worked in hospitality for nearly 20 years and my husband is a social worker dealing with mental health and learning disabilities, so believe me when I say I know a thing or two about society and discrimination!); but the situation here escalated when the party were told he cannot eat from the kids menu?  Why not just get an adult alternative and leave what is not eaten, or check with the restaurant before ordering, rather than just making the assumption that you will get your own way?  I appreciate that people with Downs Syndrome or any other form of intellectual disability can be very determined and stubborn when they make their mind up (well, can’t everybody?), and that if he wanted fish fingers and was determined, there may well be no ‘changing his mind’.   I also get the argument of dietary requirements,with needing smaller portions of food, but there is nothing that says it absolutely has to be a child’s portion of fish fingers.

I am not entirely vindicating the restaurant here either, as concessions could have been made, but are they really wrong for sticking to their policy?  After all, if they allowed this gentleman to have a kids meal because he has Downs Syndrome, then surely they are discriminating against every single able-bodied person, or every person with a different disability who is refused a kids meal.  This becomes positive discrimination that can be just as harmful and alienating to other groups of people.  Surely having a rigid policy and adhering to it is not discrimination?

I hold no grudge against the business, and hold no grudge against the customer – after all, she feels wronged, but the business were adhering to their policies; my point here is that this is a prime example of discrimination being thrown in to the argument for the sake of using it as a ‘whipping stick’ against a business – there was no discrimination, just an example of at worst, a business unable to fulfil someone’s request, and at best, a business upholding their policy.

I do not disagree that she feels aggrieved, and I am not saying definitively that either party is being honest or lying; both stories will probably vary from report to report and I am just analysing what information I have available to hand.

This story serves as a prime example of how businesses can be lambasted with claims of discrimination because of one incident such as this and how damaging the perception of things can be!  Unfortunately these instances are becoming more and more common as people cling on to compensation culture and feeling wronged for the slightest reason.  There is no way to really guard against these instances, apart from shutting the doors for good – the point with this story is that there was actually no real discrimination based on disability, but even so, a claim of it has been made – discrimination is not just about whether it does or does not happen, its about whether someone perceives it has happened!

Matt Shiells-Jones

Husband, Author, Hotel Manager and ambitious 'old cat lady'

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