Saturday, April 08, 2006

I'm by no means a Red Lobster apologist

Armed with only a checkbook, Kay Guild learned the hard way
that Red Lobster has a no-check policy.

Kay Guild and her three children were on that most exciting of shopping expeditions, buying beach shoes and sunscreen for spring break — and paying for the purchases by check. It was getting late, the kids were hungry, and they begged to stop at the Oakdale Red Lobster for dinner.

The Guilds, who are from Stillwater, were shopping in Woodbury. Since it was a long way home, Guild agreed, even though the family rarely eats out. They had a good meal — until the bill arrived.

(What they don't tell you is at most it is 12 miles to this woman's house. Few places in the USA is 12 miles a long way home, especially if you are a yuppie soccer mom driving an SUV. Stillwater is one of the richer areas of the Eastern Metro of Minneapolis/St. Paul. The family lives at 419 Greeley St N Stillwater, MN 55082-4777 (from You can Google Local it for verification of distance if you want. The median income for this area according to the US Census data for 2000 was Median Income $54,130 within one mile of their home, and the Average Income within one mile is $65,807. That number has gone up considerably since the 2000 Census was taken.)

"I pulled out my checkbook to start writing a check," Guild recalled, and then the waitress told her the restaurant doesn't accept checks. Guild wasn't carrying enough cash to cover the $34.77 bill, plus she'd forgotten her debit card in the pocket of the slacks she'd worn the previous day. The sympathetic waitress assured her that a check would be fine this one time.

(This in a store that in the 2 months of their operation has not EVER taken checks. Not since the day they opened the doors. If you check the restaurants nearby, both family and chain restaurants also DO NOT TAKE CHECKS. The store in question has signs on each door as you enter the store. Each book the check is presented in also displays this promenantly. There is other signage throughout the store. I do not work in this store, but let's just say I am familiar with it.)

Then a manager arrived at her booth. He told Guild that he would not take a check, period, and that she was not leaving the restaurant until she settled the bill. He made no effort to lower his voice or to crouch to her level to keep the matter private, she said.

(And in the pursuit of sensational journalism, the newspaper made no effort to get the other side of the story, from the many witnesses who could verify the lady was acting like an ass, and the manager, who is very gentle and mild mannered as his long service record reflects, was by no means rude or intimadating. Plus, he has to tell you no we don't take checks. He has to verify you absolutely have no other means of payment. I don't suspect you were willing to let him go through your purse to search and see if you had another means of payment. So he has to tell you no, and possibly more than once to make sure you aren't just another scammer. They come and try to play their games all the time, anybody who has worked more than a week in a restaurant knows the type. I had a table where a lady wanted to write a check, I said we don't take checks, she said it's all I have, I said I just saw the guy here at the table with you fingering through a fat stack of cash with clearly a couple of hundred in cash in said stack. I've had tables where after they say the check is all they have a credit card magically appears, or they teleport cash to their table. It happens all the time, and this manager isn't a green manager, he's seen the games.)

Guild tried calling people who could bring her the money. But her husband was at work, many friends were already on spring-break trips, and her neighbors were 20 minutes away. She managed to contact one friend, but the woman's children were sick so she couldn't leave home. Banks were already closed.

The family was sequestered (nice inflamitory word! Why not say she was chained to the booth and threatened with a beating similar to the one depcited in "The Passion"?) in their booth while the manager informed her about a sign banning checks. But the sign was posted on the front door, she found out later, and she hadn't seen it because her oldest child had held the door open for the rest of the family when they entered the restaurant.

The younger children were close to tears, Guild said, as was she.

"I was horrified," she told the Watchdog when she called to complain a few days later. "I felt like a criminal."

Theoretically, the Red Lobster manager could have called the cops, said Oakdale Police Chief Bill Sullivan. If a place doesn't take checks, that's the customer's legal problem. His best advice is not to plan to use a check anywhere; that's especially true in restaurants, he said, since many have given up pursuing bad checks.

(In our Red Lobster, in the last year we took personal checks we had over $8,000 in bad checks. Red Lobster has over 670 stores. If each store averaged ONLY $5000 a year in bad checks, that is approaching $3.5 MILLION in uncollectable payment. Share holders love that kind of money loss every year.)

Even so, Sullivan said, "It'd be hard for me to imagine that they're going to tackle her in the parking lot. There probably were some other options. Nonetheless, the store's not in the wrong. It's just a question of how you want to handle it."

(Lady could say I'll leave you my cell phone, or here's my wedding ring, or I'll leave my spare tire or any of the other myriad of things the average upper middle class soccer mom had in tote that were of value to secure her coming back and paying with an acceptable form. Some how her being careless is Red Lobster's fault. Take some self responsibility lady, you screwed up, you pay the consequences. You are an adult, and even if you are a stupid one, there are consequences to your actions. But you silver spoon yuppie world doesn't like it when you don't just get your way.)

Fortunately for Guild, a group in a nearby booth, who couldn't help but overhear the fuss, offered to help. Mike Leasure of Oakdale offered to pay Guild's bill in exchange for her check; she gratefully accepted.

"The manager, he was way out of control in our opinion," Leasure said. "We asked him to step over to our table after she had left, and we told him that was uncalled for."

The then-apologetic manager gave Leasure a free meal along with free desserts for everyone at the table.

(So rather than let the manager deal with it in an appropriate way, as he is trained, meaning his next step would've been to take the check (it happens, our store from time to time takes them too) Mr Mike "I can't mind my own business" Leasure opened his mouth and decided to complicate things. Did you think the soccer mom was hot Mike? The average person isn't buying your story, especially not those who've ever dealt with this pleasant manager.)

"We just walked out of there shaking our heads," Leasure said. But he'll check back weekly to see if the restaurant has made the "no checks" signage more prominent.

That's also the recommendation of John McCullough, director of the Retailers Protection Association. A "no-checks" policy should be posted on the door, at the hostess stand and on the menu, he said. That could be especially necessary in Minnesota, which McCullough called a "very check-friendly state."

When Guild called Red Lobster headquarters the next day to complain, the operations director apologized and offered Guild a $35 gift certificate. Guild says she'll never set foot in a Red Lobster again but will forward the certificate to Leasure.

Red Lobster spokeswoman Wendy Spirduso wouldn't comment on the situation but said the company will be looking at whether there's a better way to handle such incidents.

(The way to handle it is to give a kick to the keister to any moron who only brings a check with them as payment. Welcome to the 21 century.)

Other options might have included having Guild leave her check and contact information; later, when she called in her debit-card number, the manager could have torn up the check. Or she could have left something of value, such as her wristwatch, until she returned to pay.

Customers can't always depend on the kindness of strangers, which turned out to be Guild's salvation.

"If it'd been anybody else in the booth, I'd still be there washing dishes," she said.

(Yeah, like that has happened to anyone since 1955. Get a grip lady. Your poor personal management skills bit you in the ass and you don't want to take responsibility for your stupidity and poor management. So rather than take it like an adult, and accept the fact that you screwed up, you go off. You won't allow the restaurant to deal with it appropriately though they did nothing wrong. You won't allow the corporation to try to "fix" it even though they did nothing wrong. You have now passed on your irresponsibility to all three of your children. Great example. So now in 10 years we'll have to wait on those spoiled self centered brats and deal with the multiplication of your poor self management. Great. Please save us all, and stay home. Eat your Mac and Cheese in safty where the check nazi manager can't get you. Eat where you are the queen and you make all the rules.)

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Anonymous said...

I didn't know that restaurants ever took checks.

On a technical note, red type on a dark background is impossible for many people to read. It's like throwing away a post. Sometimes I really wonder how people come up with the color schemes for their websites. It's like they never actually bother to check and look at them.

And the link doesn't go to the story.

Lobster Boy said...

The link in the title goes to the article. It is possible you may have to subscribe to get that direct access. I can switch the red to yellow or something, I just wanted it to be clear when I was writing, not the PP.

Lobster Boy

Anonymous said...

Ah, the yellow is much better. And the link I had clicked was the lower one that's labelled Pioneer Press.

It must've been a slow news day for them to print that story. And who wants their picture in the paper next to a story that clearly describes them as an idiot? Nobody is required to accespt a check from anybody. It's a personal note printed on a piece of paper and is backed up by nothing more than a promise.

I was surprised to see that the manager had some balls and enforced policy, or do they only fail to show spine when it's a server who's at risk?

Andrew Leonard said...

What an utterly absurd woman. I can't recall anyone in the last five years who has attempted to pay me by cheque. Given her shopping habits for the day, and the technologically advanced nature of banking systems, she prolly had no money anyway. Maxed out in debt for a lifestyle that surpasses her means.

Lashing out sounds like an overcompensating attempt to save face.

Seriously. Anyone who tries to pass a cheque in a restaurant for a family dinner deserves the statement from server and/or manager: "are you fucking kidding me?"


Anyway. Great blog. Thanks for the blog roll link, btw.

Bella said...

Um, my response to "those" people is usually, McDonalds doesn't even take checks anymore sir, sorry, cash or credit card only!

Nicole said...

I always wondered what restaurants did when someone didn't see every sign in the restaurant that clearly say "We don't take checks." Hardly anyone in the metro area does anymore, gas stations don't, restaurants don't, the only places I've seen lately that still does are grocery stores.

This time, I agree, this lady is an idiot. How about leaving your driver's license, and coming back the next day, or calling in your debit card number like you suggested.

BTW Lobster Boy, you must work in the twin cities metro area? Knowing my luck you work at the Lob that I frequent. Please don't spit in my food when you see me and my kids. I promise to tip well and "keep my damn kids quiet" as long as some old geezer doesn't complain about a little laughter or talking! :)

Anonymous said...

Most grocery stores now have sophisticated optical scanners that make it harder to float a bogus check. I can't see restaurants making the investment for the one person a year who wants to write a check. Did this fool not have a credit card?

Lobster Boy said...

Let's just say I've worked in a number of Lobsters in different cities in the Mid-West and leave it at that. As for spitting in food, never gonna happen from me no matter how much I dislike a guest. I've had some really rotton customers in my time, and that thought never crosses my mind. I don't tamper with people's food or drinks.

Lobster Boy

Lobster Boy said...

Also, it was a commenter in the previous thread who tipped me off to the Pioneer Press article. I did hear about it at work the next day, but it's been literally years since I read the Pioneer Press. I do read the Star Trib online from time to time though.

Lobster Boy

Anonymous said...

Back when i was a 'tron in New Mexico, people paying their bills by writing a check happened maybe once per week. usually the restaurants i worked out 'always' accepted checks BUT when it was time to cash out, they wouldn't accept them. We had to cash the checks ourselves as part of our tip. I never got a bad check, but i always thought that it sucked as a policy.

i used to have a boyfriend in new mexico who grew up in a small town where his family was well known. he ALWAYs wrote checks. When we went out to dinner at a places that refused to take the check, i waited in the restaurant while he went for cash. Needless to say this feels awkward as hell and when he didn't clue in to why i might object to this scenario over and over, it was one of many factors in why we broke up. i don't understand why the eldest child couldn't have been left as security while she went to get cash. i bet she just didn't want to load and unload her kids repeatedly, AND i bet she wanted to write a check in hopes that she could deposit money later to cover it since she spent it shopping.


Anonymous said...

What a bunch of bullshit. I quit serving over a year ago, but you don't have to be in the industry to notice that just about every restaurant, theater, bowling alley, and every other facility that serves the public in the entire state of Minnesota has posted a "sorry, no more checks" policy in the last 18 months.

That lady was just being a snatch. (That I do know from being a server.) God forbid she interrupt her precious day to drive 15 minutes home and back to pay her bill. How dare that restaurant expect payment for a meal. After all, this is the 1840s and she would have had to get Pa to hitch up the wagon and drive all the way into Walnut Grove to bring her money.

Nicole said...

I was mostly kidding on the food spitting comment. I've worked in restaurants as well and have never seen anyone tampering with food. Maybe leave it under the lights an extra minute ir two, but that's the extent of it.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your comments my friend. I was the one who pointed the article out the other day. It is amazing how many customers (guests my a*#) really don't understand how one-sided this article was. They come in all day long saying that they thought that the manager was in the wrong, but they only read an angry yuppy mom (and her husband) attempting to get revenge. It is sooo difficult to keep my mouth shut when these people come in. The thing that frustrates me the most is that she is really hurting the little people in the restaurant. The manager is one of the best managers I have EVER had...he acted within policy, and he will continue to get his salary. IF guest counts slow down, it is the servers who will lose tips. Slow times would result in hours getting cut in the kitchen and up front with the hosts. I just dont think that the paper or this woman understood what they were doing in this situation. In my opinion, it was very irresponsible and immature. The reality is that our numbers wont be hurt in the long run. This will all blow over because yuppies don't know how to cook, and they absolutely love to treat people like servants. Unfortunately, I serve people like this woman every day because of the area...This is why a good bottle of red wine hanging around at home is absolutely necessary!

Now, time to enjoy my two days me, i deserve it :)

Anonymous said...

A drama-free shift should be every manager's goal. Some customers know that and try to take advantage, but I don't think that's the case here.The woman was upset, she had three kids with her - maybe she just spaced. I have a friend like her, nicest girl in the world, but not very organized. I can see her doing something like that. She's not going to leave her I.D. as collateral, what if she gets pulled over? And leave one of the kids??? You obviously don't have any. If I was the manager I would have checked her I.D. and taken the check, figuring worst case, it'll bounce, but happy to avoid drama. Maybe that's what this RL Manager was doing, but then Good Sam had to come to the rescue and make the mgr look like an asshole. Sometimes you just can't win.

Anonymous said...

Anon...sorry about your spacy friend, but I have to side with the RL manager here. You're suggesting that the manager take the check just to avoid drama? Isn't that the same thing as taking a check in the first place? And I'm sure that the "no check" policy is a corporate directive...not just something that the manager dreamed up. You seem to minimize the downside of the check possibly bouncing. "Worst case, it'll bounce." No...worst case, it'll bounce and the manager will be disciplined/fired for violating company policy.

Bottom line: no merchant is required to accept checks. This merchant has a sign posted that says they don't accept checks. And besides: when was the last time you ate at a restaurant that accepted checks? This is the customer's fault. She's a self-centered idiot who expects other people to solve her problems for her.

Anonymous said...

Looks like this fool is milking the experience for all it's worth. I found another story:

"She says she began to write a check for the $34.77 bill..." and no mention of a tip.

"As for Kay Guild, she doesn't think her kids will forget what happened anytime soon." They probably already suspected that their mom was an irresponsible idiot.

She really has an incredible sense of entitlement to think that she was wronged.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. A Google search turned up a few other outlets that have picked up this attention whore's story. Her kid(s) goes to Lily Lake Elementary School. Is that in a ritzy area?

Lobster Boy said...

All of Stillwater is relatively ritzy. It's an Eastern St. Paul suburb on the St. Croix River where land values have gone up 80-100% in the past 10 years. They are building million dollar condos down by the river in down town. It's yuppie central for the East Metro. They get to have big houses, drive SUV's, feel like they live in a small town, and yet only have a 18 mile commute to downtown St. Paul and 28 miles to downtown Minneapolis.

Lobster Boy

Anonymous said...

"Worst case, it'll bounce."

Right - and the restaurant is out 30-40 bucks, maybe 10-15 bucks in cost... BUT instead, they're out a free meal and round of desserts to the Leasure guy, plus a $35 gift certificate, we have drama out the ass, and how much negative publicity has been generated for Red Lobster?? Did you even read the article? THAT's why you accept the check, so it doesn't end up in the freaking newspaper.

Anonymous said...

Right, you accept the check to avoid a little negative attention that will blow over shortly, while sucking it up the ass to every manipulative scammer that walks through the doors of the restaurant, getting free apps, meals, and desserts because they know all they have to do is make a little noise. Afterwards, they call up corporate, bitch some more, and manage to snag gift certificates for another free meal. Sure.

Once you open your doors to one scammer, every scammer in town will beat a track to your restaurant. Who wouldn't want free lobster, crab, shrimp, or fish? The cost of a comped meal plus gift certificates can exceed 50-100 in overall cost for just one table. How much of that do you want to pay for when you go to buy a meal legitimately? Guess what, corporate passes that cost right on to you in their menu prices.

Appeasing idiots isn't the way to go. Yeah, a little bad press here and there can be costly. But if you don't find a way to keep the scammers, the stinks, the brats, and all the other annoying people out that are pissing off your good customers, your business is going to suffer just as much, and will go down the tubes much quicker.

Anonymous said...

She wasn't a scammer, that's my point. You're talking about a scary network of phantom scammers, all in communication with one-another on their two-way scammer scanners. Irish travellers, or gypsies or basic scumbags, meth addicts, whatever; they're easy to spot. They're the ones you make them leave kids as collateral, and even then they might not come back!

This chick was just a ditzy soccer mom with money, lives in an nice area - that's why she was able to get so much press. And her check probably wouldn't have bounced any way.

Anonymous said...

"This chick was just a ditzy soccer mom with money, lives in an nice area - that's why she was able to get so much press." And that's why nobody has any stmpathy for her or thinks that management should have yielded an inch.

What if she wasn't a soccer mom in a big SUV? What if she was black or brown? Would you have still given her a pass?

Anonymous said...

Ahhhh, and there it is!!!! What happens if this article was a positive account of a red lobster manager going against policy and accepting a check from this white woman with three kids? You could be sure that there would be plenty of people wondering why the restaurant didn't accept their checks prior to this woman coming in. From there you get all of the usual (and sickening) claims about sex, race, social class, economic class, etc.. There are a lot of people out there who seem to think that this is something that can be kept as a 'one time thing'...yeah sure, try telling that to the customer a week later who happens to not be white like this woman...All of a sudden, the restaurant is dubbed as being racist. For those of you who think this idea is crazy, read the article again and tell me if this woman made something huge out of something small. I say this because I have had tables accuse me of being racist for telling them that I cannot accept checks. The only way I was able to pacify them was by letting them know that I do not accept checks from anyone.
Yes, I have made tables wait while a friend went to the bank to get cash. It is a policy.
If your policy IS to accept checks, you cannot go up to a table that is missing teeth and smells and say that you have decided not to accept a check as payment from them. For a restaurant that DOESN'T accept checks, they cannot accept a check because the customer 'looks' like they wont pass a bad check. It doesn't work that way. Servers and managers do not have the flexibility to tell people that "it will be ok just this once" because people can and will take advantage of you for that...And we aren't just talking about money here. Bottom line is if this is the most traumatic experience that this woman has ever experienced, then she should be counting her blessings instead of complaining that she gets treated like everyone else out there.

Anonymous said...

It's still a judgement call - one time I actually drove a guy to the ATM so he could pay his bill, all he had was a check, and I wouldn't accept it. But if the customer gets upset enough, you take the check. Regardless of what color they are. That's just how it works. Like I said, sometimes you can't win.

Anonymous said...

To be fair, Minnesota is a weirdly check-friendly state. I lived there for five years, and never got over my amazement seeing Minnesotans writing checks for movie tickets, including a few dollars over, so they could get change to use at the snack bar. So, while I agree it could have been handled better by all concerned, it doesn't seem so surprising that someone would assume checks were okay at a Red Lobster in Minnesota.

Lobster Boy said...

Let's just say I am familiar with this area (as well as the history of Minnesota check writing). I have receintly been in a number of nearby establishments (all restaurants and bars) and in EVERY one in that area checks are a no-no. The lady was wrong. She worsened her initial stupidity, then finalized it by setting such a poor example for her children and others around her, so now the world has an additional generation of self entitled brats to deal with. Yipee!

Lobster Boy

Rita said...

Here in Atlanta, there is a check verification system. When you do pay by check, the amount of the check is automatically debited from the account on the spot. Bad check - no clearance.

Seems like a pretty simple thing for most places to add to their current credit card processing system, especially a large company like Red Lobster.

Anonymous said...

After reading the comments on the incident that happened to that poor woman and her kids at Red Lobster from the obvious friend/family member of that jackass manager - it only re-enforces my opinion of this resteraunt chain- lousy seafood and trailer trash for management. And may I add to the trash who so politely pointed out the address of that poor woman that hey- you uneducated, predjudice pile of shit that obviously has issues with people that do have money- that if anything should happen to that woman/ her property or her children and yes- even the property of that school the children don't even attend- you are liable to ANYTHING that may happen. Pull YOUR head out of your ass and get over whatever insecurities/ inabilities you have as a human being. Lets be real- I myself have gone to a resteraunt that did not accept checks and they LET me leave with me leaving my license. Its a managers job to make sure that THEY suggest any avenues to assist the CUSTOMER- not the other way around. We go to resteraunts so they -YOU -can serve US- not the other way around. Its bad enough that your seafood is all BUT edible- but now the management skills are just as bad!! NO ONE in that place was looking at the customer as if she was in the wrong- NO ONE. Get your story straight and take your own advice- realize that there ARE 2 sides to every story and even if you are bending that manger over every night and giving him the stiff one- that your man is and was in the wrong. Those kids will remember how a man abused his position (and a very skinny scrawny man at that) and made their mother feel threatened in a public place. I was there- were you?? Hats off to the gentleman and his wife that assisted that poor woman. Please do us all a favor and keep your trashy self and service out of our beautiful city. To the lady that was mistreated- maybe because we are from Stillwater we just automatically assume that any currency is good currency- I mean after all- they still make and process checks right- so one is only left to believe that hey- that form of payment is acceptable. That idiot who commented probably can't even have a checking account because of you guessed it- NSF!!!!! TTFN lotsa love- LaCrosse mom from - you guessed it- STILLWATER!!!!

Lobster Boy said...

Woohoo! Another Soccer mom rampage, and right here on my blog. Must be something in the water in Stillwater. We now have two examples of what self-entitlement looks like.

As for her address, that is all public knowledge. I listed specficially where I looked it up, no underhandedness involved. Just like if I knew your name there disgrutled poster, I could look you up too.

As for checks being a form of payment, you must come out from your cave of ignorace there in the Stillwater area more frequently. Few places are taking them anymore. Sure, you can still pay your gas bill and mortgage with it, but in more public places the number who take checks is being reduced daily.

As for my having problems with people with money, far from that. I've lived on both sides of the economic equation, and I far prefer the side of wealth.

Lobster Boy

pinklotus1484 said...

omg are you kidding me!! What kind of moron tries to pay with a check in a resturant in 2006!! Reading this just made me want to call this lady and that jerkoff that paid for her then got free desserts and tell them what "beep" ignorant pieces of "beep" that they are. Seriously aggghh it's people like that, that make working at RL SOOO much harder and annoying that it should be. Before you go out to eat it should be a prerequiste that you watch the movie WAITING, actually they should make a sequel to include more things that people do that are ridiculous.

Television Lady said...

hey stillwater lacrosse mom:
if all you wonderful loving parents with money over there are so concerned about violence befalling you over a restaurant issue, perhaps it'd be a good idea to educate kay guild's husband about making threatening calls to the restaurant---i don't think violence is an appropriate way to solve problems like these but he apparently does. and as for the kids----i'm sure they're learning a lot from the way their parents function in society.