Archived Story

What goes around, comes around

Published 10:54am Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sometimes people get exactly what they deserve.

For example, take the case of Adam Smith, the former chief financial officer of a company out in Arizona. A few weeks back, Mr. Smith decided to visit a local Chick-Fil-La during lunch. Although he might have been hungry, his intent had nothing to do with consuming one of those delicious sandwiches.

Rather, his purpose was to express his extreme disdain for Dan Cathy’s (the restaurant chain’s president) well-publicized stance against gay marriage. After ordering a free water, Mr. Smith waited nervously in the drive-thru line for several minutes, His plan was to berate the employee at the window for “working at such an evil place, a place that supports hate groups.”

We know all of these details because Mr. Smith was not content on just venting his anger on the drive-thru attendant. Instead, he wanted to share his bitterness with the entire world. So, he recorded the entire incident and posted it on YouTube.

As the video unfolds, you hear Mr. Smith planning his verbal assault on the unsuspecting worker with an almost gleeful tone. It’s obvious he is looking forward to the confrontation. What he says upon arriving at the window can be summed up with a few statements, such as “your company is evil” and “how can you live with yourself by working for this evil company.”  He goes on, repeating these core claims, for about two minutes.

To most people’s surprise (and probably his as well), the response he gets in return can best be described as a patient, longsuffering professionalism. The attendant, Rachael, tells him that it’s not the restaurant’s policy to discriminate against anyone and it is her pleasure to serve him. However, she does tell him that she is uncomfortable with the conversation, but Mr. Smith continues to bully her in spite of her request.

Eventually, he drives off and the video abruptly ends. Unfortunately for Mr. Smith, the story doesn’t end here.

His boss, after viewing the video and listening to over 300 messages left on his voicemail, decided to fire him, saying the company expects its employees to behave in a civil manner, regardless of their personal political beliefs.

That’s a tough outcome, and maybe a little harsh for the circumstances. After all, Mr. Smith didn’t curse or threaten Rachael in any way. Regardless, I believe he got what he deserved and hopefully something good will come of it.

In any case, here are a couple of “food for thought” comments for your consideration.

First, intolerance of perceived intolerance is still intolerance.  Even if you agree with Mr. Smith’s motives, his bullying of a hapless employee was a clear example of narrow-mindedness, a case where a person with an opposing viewpoint was dismissed as a simpleton and idiot.

Second, if you accept the worldview of the Occupy Wall Street movement, this is a clear case of a wealthy “1 percenter” angrily trying to impose his view on a member of the “99 percent,” except this is an affluent liberal trying to impose his will on a powerless, conservative fast food employee – not exactly the kind of example the movement is probably looking for.

At any rate, it’s best to treat people with dignity, no matter their views. It’s ok to disagree, that’s healthy for a democracy. Just treat folks with respect, like you would want to be treated in return.

I’m sure Mr. Smith has learned this lesson.

Too bad it had to be the hard way.

Roger Steele is general manager and advertising director of The Outlook.