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Cornwall, P.E.I., business owner takes stand online after customer threw sundae at teen employee

Supervisor Aman Singh stands at the dairy bar window of J.R.'s Pizza & Dairy Bar in Cornwall. Singh, who has worked there for almost 11 months, said what happened to his fellow worker was "a very embarrassing thing" and he urges the man involved to remember "she was just a kid".
Supervisor Aman Singh stands at the dairy bar window of J.R.'s Pizza & Dairy Bar in Cornwall. Singh, who has worked there for almost 11 months, said what happened to his fellow worker was "a very embarrassing thing" and he urges the man involved to remember "she was just a kid". - Michael Robar



CORNWALL, P.E.I. — P.E.I. businesswoman Carolyn MacFadyen believes in her young employees.

So, when a weekend outburst by a customer at J.R.’s Pizza & Dairy Bar moved a teenager to tears, she knew she had to do something to address the latest example of behaviour that seems to have become a reality in the service industry.

So, she made a post on Facebook.

“I really do hope that people do understand the reason why I posted it. It was not to shame this man as much as it was to remind people to, like Dr. Morrison says, be patient and be kind.”

The incident happened Saturday evening. MacFadyen, the owner/operator of J.R.’s Pizza & Dairy Bar, got a phone call from a young employee, who was still crying after a man had thrown a sundae at her through the dairy bar window 20 minutes earlier.

“I really do hope that people do understand the reason why I posted it. It was not to shame this man as much as it was to remind people to, like Dr. Morrison says, be patient and be kind.”

After talking to the employee, MacFadyen turned to her husband.

“I really feel like I need to say something.”

The something was contained in a post that detailed what happened to the teen, who is four weeks into her first ever job, and how much MacFadyen loves being able to provide young people with their first jobs.

It ended with, “(w)e wish you well but our staff come before temper tantrum ice-cream throwing adults.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, the teenager was doing well and had gone back to work. The post was also doing well as it had over 2,000 reactions, 2,200 shares and 615 comments, in addition to making the rounds on Twitter.

While nothing this extreme has happened in her 20 years of operating J.R.’s, MacFadyen has noticed customers are more on edge when they come to the restaurant compared to before the coronavirus (COVID-19 strain) pandemic.

“I think people are anxious when they come into a restaurant. They’re following the signs, they’re following as best they can the arrows on the floor, but you can sense that people … want to get in and out really quick.”

That anxiety is something people working in human resources have noticed, too, if only anecdotally, though outbursts are usually related to COVID-19 regulations, said Chris Montigny, a consultant with HR Atlantic.

“It’s not hard for people who work in HR to recognize that our frontline staff members are being asked to do things that aren’t always popular with the public at large.”

While Saturday evening’s incident at the Cornwall business was not over COVID-19 regulations – it was actually an irate customer who had ice cream on his hands – Montigny says there are ways businesses can help reduce customer or client anxiety. 

“The first, easiest, obvious thing is to make the rules really clear to everyone – really clear to the public and really clear to staff, too.”

Once things move online, though, it’s harder for businesses to maintain control despite the best intentions, something MacFadyen has seen since posting as some people accused her of taking advantage of the situation, she said.

“It wasn’t a publicity stunt. Nobody wants to see their staff cry.”

Those few comments were easily outweighed by the outpouring of support for both her and the young employee.

“One person actually dropped off an anonymous letter and a tip for her, and somebody else dropped a letter off today on being a great boss.”

Of course, MacFadyen’s motivation was to remind people how to treat others and to protect her staff.

“I love my staff, they’re like family. Especially the kids. I love training them, I love working with them, they’re just the best. They really are.”

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