If you follow me on Facebook or twitter you probably already know about Laura Ramadei. If not here’s the run down. On the 15th of September Ramadei posted an open letter to her Facebook page to Brian Lederman. While Laura was serving in a family friendly restaurant, Lederman put his hand on her butt and said he would like her “to go” (as in take-away food – i.e. leave with him – not leave him alone). Aside for being an awesomely powerful viral message against horrible customers on its own, analysis of the response reveals a bigger picture on this incident.
I would like to start out by admiring the class and articulation evident in Laura Ramadei’s original post. She handled the incident in a way that was strong and logical without brokering room for excuses. Ramadei recounts the incident in relation to herself and while it is evident she is angry she doesn’t let that devolve her message. She doesn’t call him names or make assumptions outside of her experience. She holds him accountable for his actions in that incident as a reminder that there are always consequences for wrongdoing no matter how powerful you are in a situation.
In addition to this she makes it very clear the nature of her harassment. She clarifies that while Lederman did not specifically grope her he did weirdly touch her on the butt for a sustained moment. Note for those of you who are unsure: THIS IS STILL HARRASSMENT! The action made Ramadei feel uncomfortable and was deliberate, unwanted and unprovoked. The first descriptor is enough for the action to be wrong. In her interview with Huffington post she states that she “wanted to paint a full picture of the event so as to remind readers that this sort of thing goes on all of the time, in every environment.” To do this she described the setting, the nature of the harassment and her appearance. While a person’s appearance should never be used to question harassment, Ramadei felt that in this circumstance it helped establish the setting and out-of-the blue nature of the harassment.
The incident was the final straw for Laura who resigned from her job as a bartender. “I can’t tell you how many times people have treated me horribly,” says Laura as reasoning for why she has quit her job after 5 years. Rude customers are literally the only reason Laura Ramadei is quitting her job. She enjoys the environment and her co-workers but can no longer tolerate rude, abusive and aggressive customers. For anyone who is still unconvinced that rude customers have a serious effect on service staff I suggest you pay close attention to this incident. Laura Ramadei quit her job, which she liked, to go without a primary source of income all because CUSTOMERS ARE TOO RUDE TO SERVICE STAFF. Brian Lederman was not an isolated incident and the overwhelming response to this story proves that the experience was not unique to her.
Stories like this require attention because it is not a single incident. Hospitality workers all over the world are identifying with this story because customer harassment is something familiar to them. Respond positively and vocally to Laura Ramadei’s story so that other workers out there are encouraged to tell theirs. More than that responds in a way that doesn’t trivialise the issue. My favourite article on this story was done by Huffington Post. According to Laura Ramadei’s Facebook page they were the only news outlet to contact her to use her Facebook post and talk about the incident. It shows in the article as Laura’s responses to their questions helps frame the incident in the context of wider issues. Other articles tend to focus on Lederman’s response which makes the incident more specified these individuals rather than universal.
So hospitality staff; what’s your story? What do you have to say about Laura Ramadei’s experience? Let me know here or @waiterrule on twitter or at https://www.facebook.com/thewaiterrule
NOTE: I got a bit excited about this story and my next post will also be about this incident, but focussing on bad customer Lederman