aired May 2, 2015 on Dave’s Gone By. Youtube clip: http://youtu.be/FgAWY957oPY
Shalom Dammit! This is Rabbi Sol Solomon with a Rabbinical Reflection for the week of May 3, 2015.
I don’t know how much a gold nugget is worth, but I’ll tell you how much a chicken nugget is worth: $400. Let me explain.
Last month, Marissa Holcomb was working at a Popeye’s fried chicken in Channelview, Texas. We can already feel sorry for Marissa Holcomb because if there is a tenth layer of hell, it would be a Popeyes Fried Chicken in Channelview, Texas.
So Ms. Holcomb is doing whatever managers do in a Popeyes franchise—dipping claws and beaks into a secret combination of garlic and sawdust, keeping the grill reasonably free of pestilence, and coping with the kinds of customers who find Kentucky Fried Chicken too high-end. And this was a busy night for Popeyes because they were running a special: two nuggets for $1.19. I mean, why pay more for arteriosclerosis when you can get two lumps of toxic entrails for the price of a Bruno Mars download?
So Marissa Holcomb, mother of three, with another on the way, is selling customers breasts and thighs—since she was obviously giving hers away for free—when in comes a robber. He leaps over the counter, waves his big, scary gun around, and gets away with $400 out of the register.
Now, you would think this thief, this animal, this cowardly piece of garbage with a weapon in his hand and a beanie over his face—you’d think he was the villain of this story, but oh no. He’s not the Bluto of this Popeye parable.
After the robber runs out the door, one of Holcomb’s superiors approaches her. Does he ask her, “Are you okay?” No. “Would you like the rest of the day off?” No. “Do you need to change your underwear?” No. The manager says, “you owe Popeye’s $400.”
“Exqueeze me?” says Holcomb, her eyes popping. Because it’s Popeyes.
“You owe us the 400 bucks the thief took when you were on your shift.” Why? Because employees are supposed to make sure that the cash registers don’t hold that much money at one time—specifically because it encourages crime, and if a thug does rob ya, he gets away with pocket change instead of a big score.
So because this woman was too busy to unload the till, she was on the hook for what the crook took. Still, she told her overlord, “I just had a gun to my head, and if you think YOU’RE going to hold me up for 400 bucks, you know where you can put that drumstick.” They fired her, and that’s when the fire-storm began. The story went viral, with readers swearing they would never set foot in a Popeye’s restaurant—and those were just the ones trying to avoid diarrhea.
Of course, at Popeyes corporate, the high mucky-mucks were shamed into making nice-nice. They explained—and this is true—that they can’t be there to oversee every manager and every decision at every independent franchise. It’s like asking the Baseball commissioner to stop players from grabbing their nuts and spitting; he can only fine them after the fact. And heck, I can’t even get the Rabbinical council to stop doing it.
More importantly, Popeyes apologized to Holcomb, offered her her job back AND $2,000 in lost wages . . . which is a small price to pay for the company to win back a smidgen of consumer respect. Too small. As of this writing, Holcomb was weighing her options, which no doubt include hiring a lawyer to sue Popeyes for $80,000 per nugget.
To be fair to Popeyes, this woman had apparently been warned a few times to make sure the cash registers weren’t bulging wider than Aretha Franklin’s stretch pants. So she may have been due for a dressing down or even a suspension for ignoring an important rule. But that was not the time. You don’t tell a person crawling out from under a desk after a California earthquake, “I told you not to put the stemware in the breakfront!”
Like so many mega-businesses, Popeyes put profit before the proletariat. The truth of the matter is: If I was working in a store and someone came up to me with a gun, I would give them the register, the silverware, the carpeting and three of my best-looking daughters. And if I was managing a store where this happened, I would send the employees for counseling, give everyone a week off, and hire a big, shtarka security guard. I couldn’t pay him much, but he could have the leftover daughters. And if I was a thief hoping to rob the store, I’d move to Baltimore where everybody’s getting stuff for free! And if I was a customer hoping to eat Popeyes’ chicken, I’d look both ways, carry a gun, and double-check to see if there are any stray cats left in the neighborhood.
This has been a Rabbinical Reflection from Rabbi Sol Solomon, crossing the road with the proverbial chicken, to Temple Sons of Bitches in Great Neck, New York.
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