If you've ever wished restaurants would stop bending over backwards to accommodate horrible customers, I've got a really fun story for you.
Via Rachel Leah Blumenthal at Eater Boston, a pair of horror show customers showed up at Michael Scelfo's restaurant Alden & Harlow recently with no reservation, sat themselves, "insulted and berated" the staff, and then refused to leave (one eyewitness also claims that before they sat themselves, they loudly told a bartender they weren't tipping because they couldn't get a table quickly enough), all while threatening to leave Alden & Harlow a bad Yelp review. So far, this sounds pretty normal — restaurants have to deal with self-aggrandizing jackasses like these all the time. Where it gets fun is Scelfo's response: he posted a picture of the customers on Instagram, along with a description of their terrible behavior that included the hashtag #wedontnegotiatewithyelpers. The instagram post has since been deleted (it's unclear as to why), but BostInno.com has screenshots (apologies for poor quality, and thanks to kinja user zhandi for the link):
Scelfo added: "It's one thing to be entitled, but mistreat my family. Hell no." His follow-up comment is even more illuminating:
We tried to have them leave, they refused. Taking their drink away and being forceful is not hospitable. So in lieu of calling the police (only other recourse imo) which seemed too strong a response, we opted to kill them with kindness until they left. We as a team endured a ton of abuse but ultimately chose the high road. My choice to post this is not to slander on them per say [sic] but to call attention to a major flaw in the current 'online review system & entitled mentality.' Ultimately, it's about protecting the integrity of our (well documented) humble and gracious staff. Feel free to vilify me for posting, but I stand by my post.
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The fact that Scelfo not only publicly shamed them but posted a picture brings this story to a whole other, surprising level. We've seen restaurant owners complain about terrible customers on occasion, and we've seen places like Botto Bistro in California go at the broken concept of Yelp, but this is the first time I can recall a public shaming quite like this. It's worth noting that the fact that an owner did this is the only reason could happen — can you imagine a server or even a manager doing something like this, even at a locally-owned restaurant? Hell, imagine what would happen at any place with a corporate office: not only would the employee responsible be fired as fast as corporate could dial the phone to call it in, the customers would probably be given free steak dinners for a month and the right to publicly flog the restaurant employee of their choosing.
The customers' threat to leave a terrible Yelp review apparently has amounted to nothing (there are currently no negative Alden & Harlow reviews that would make it even easier to identify them), but that hasn't stopped calls from others within the Boston restaurant industry to ban them from other eateries. Regardless of what happens, it's just really, really nice to see an owner standing up to terrible customers on behalf of his employees.
Update: As Scelfo explains in a new post, the original one was pulled by Instagram, not him. It's unclear specifically why, as he makes no mention of them notifying him about it:
looks like @instagram pulled it.#wedontnegotiatewithyelpers stands true though, and I would encourage more people to be responsible with it. Uber allows for service providers to rate customers, we should move to that system. I will always stand by my staff, always.
Image via Alden & Harlow/Facebook.