Chipotle has found themselves back-pedaling after firing a restaurant manager in one of their St. Paul locations. A man by the name Masud Ali recorded the manager, Dominique Moran, telling him and his friends that they must prepay for their meals because they “never have money” when they come to the restaurant.
On the video that subsequently blew up on Twitter, Ali and his friends can be seen acting upset and claiming that the manager is prejudiced because they are black. Moran does not answer and the rest of the employees refuse to serve them. Another employee tells them that they’ve seen them coming in before. The group of friends shout and ask customers why they didn’t have to prepay. After minutes of yelling and laughing about the situation, they pull out cash from their pockets showing they have money to pay for their meals.
The next day, Chipotle responded saying that the employees’ behavior was unacceptable, the manager had been terminated, and that restaurant employees would be retrained. Rather than putting the manager on leave and conducting an investigation, they acted hastily. No surprise in this fast-paced world where a slow response to a PR disaster can cost a company business as well as its reputation.
This was one of those cases where there was more than one side to the story. It’s a reminder that video can be misleading and doesn’t always have all the context and nuance.
The internet never forgets and Twitter sleuths quickly uncovered that Masud Ali has a history of ordering food and not paying for it. He has bragged about his dine and dash exploits, dismissing them as “just borrowing the food for a couple hours.” The tweets were posted between 2014 and 2018.
The protocol at Chipotle is to prepare food then hand the food to the customer upon successful payment. If the customer does not pay, they don’t get their food. However, the usual method of dine and dash is using an expired credit card or a gift card with no funds, which the credit card machine doesn’t reject until minutes later, buying the perpetrators time to run away.
Finally, after this information surfaced, Chipotle representatives admitted that the manager might have had a reason to believe that they were going to dine and dash, claiming that a few days before, Ali had ordered food without paying. They tweeted that the information “needs to be investigated further” and that they would “re-train and re-hire if the facts warrant it.”
The company has since offered to rehire Moran, who says she has not decided whether to accept.
A GoFundMe has raised over $4,000 for Dominique and thousands have signed a change.org petition to get her job back.
The obvious damage of this incident is that people might use it as an excuse to take legitimate cases of racism and discrimination less seriously.