Not quite what I would have thought to be a round hole for a round peg

The owner of an upmarket restaurant in Manchester has said customers who discriminate against their staff are not welcome.

Mike Jennings, who runs Grenache in Walkden, posted a strongly worded statement on Facebook after customers refused to be served by one of the members of staff who suffers from autism.

Autism? Waiter?

I have actually been a waiter and a good one too. I’ve trained people to do the job as well. And the real skill you’re looking for in someone is the ability to read people, read a room full of people, to see what needs to be done next. No, it’s not a mechanical process, it’s far more one of reading emotions. Who is going to play merry hell if they don’t get their mustard in 30 seconds and who won’t give a fig about waiting another 3 minutes for their soup? Who would prefer to pour their own wine and who wants you to ponce over and refill every half inch drunk? Who is out to impress and wants it hammed up and who wants that best of dinner companions, a silent waiter controlled by a damn good Maitre d’?

This job and autism just aren’t to my mind at least, a good match. It’s unfair on the waiter I would say. Akin to insisting that the dyslexic kid has to do the reading in morning assembly.

30 thoughts on “Not quite what I would have thought to be a round hole for a round peg”

  1. The ‘Tele’ story seems to imply that it was just one table that complained. Interestingly, in a reply to a comment on their Facebook page, the restaurant states:

    “Hi Amelia, we haven’t published what was said… Nor do we want to believe that our waiter was treated like that. It’s happening all too often and we’re fed up of it! “

    Hmmm….

  2. So Much For Subtlety

    Starbucks lost recently when it fired a shop manager on the grounds that she had fabricated all the records – when things were cleaned, what was bought and sold. Little things like that.

    Her defence, and I could be misunderstanding her argument here, was that she was actually illiterate.

    And they lost.

    I think any customers who are rude to someone who has the brains to claim to be dyslexic or whatever is lucky to get away without being sued.

  3. This is the problem with ideas about hiring disabled people. It was never about fucking up the product/service. It was about finding things people could do to deliver it. I know a place that hired someone with Down’s Syndrome and made them a waiter. and well, nice idea, but it just doesn’t work out. Have them doing the washing up or clearing up the place, if you like. They are capable of that.

  4. I suppose it really depends on the complaint…”This waiter is crap” is valid whereas “I don’t care how good he is, I’m not being served by a mong” probably isn’t.

    On a side note – not diagnosed until his late thirties? Poor fucker.

  5. Maybe Grenache ask their customers to order by the numbers but don’t allow their waiters to write it down, in which case this guy is your man.

  6. SMFS, in that Starbucks case, I suspect the firm’s problem was not its entitlement to fire this person so much as the procedure it used to do so. In other words, it lost (I suspect) on the question of its procedural rectitude.

  7. Maybe they should also hire waiter with tourette and see how it goes with patrons.

    Ha ha. I remember a restaurant where the entire staff had narcolepsy.

  8. Her defence, and I could be misunderstanding her argument here, was that she was actually illiterate.

    Wasn’t it dyslexia?

    It was an interesting case though. Imagine the same acts which led to people dying. For example, a nurse inventing how much medication a patient has taken, how often, and when. Is the precedent of this case now that the nurse could not be sacked if they claimed the same impairment? Or are such laws reserved only for Places the Left Doesn’t Like?

  9. The owners of the restaurant is basically saying to the customers: Fuck you, there are plenty of customers who will put up with shit service because our food is so good.

  10. No.. The owner of the restaurant is saying: “If you’re going to act as a self-entitled Customer from Hell, you can jolly well Fuck Off.”

    Everybody who has ever worked in the service industry knows the type, hates them, and would wish Interesting Times upon them in a flash.
    The problem here is not in the waiter, his “disability” , or whether he is/would be a square peg in a round hole.
    The problem in this case is simply some customers being obnoxious dingleberries, and the restaurant owner is quite within his rights to call them out for being such, and protecting his employee.

  11. So Much For Subtlety

    Geoff Taylor – “On a side note – not diagnosed until his late thirties? Poor fucker.”

    Alternatively it means he is somewhere at the nice end of the spectrum. It was not so severe anyone noticed. Or rather, he is so normal that the goal posts have been moved to include him. A generation ago they probably would have just said he was a bit difficult.

    Edward Lud – “in that Starbucks case, I suspect the firm’s problem was not its entitlement to fire this person so much as the procedure it used to do so. In other words, it lost (I suspect) on the question of its procedural rectitude.”

    Discrimination. They alleged fraud. She alleged that the fact that she maintained records with fake results showing she had done work she hadn’t was dyslexia.

    Rob – “Wasn’t it dyslexia?”

    I went and looked it up and I am corrected. They alleged fraud. She claimed dyslexia.

    Starbucks has lost a disability discrimination case brought by a severely dyslexic supervisor who kept making mistakes with paperwork.

    Meseret Kumulchew, who struggles with reading, writing and telling the time, was accused of falsifying documents at the coffee giant’s Clapham branch.

    Ms Kumulchew was given reduced duties and told to retrain after failing to correctly take the temperature of the water and fridges at regular intervals and record the results.

    Starbucks said the errors amounted to fraud, which she successfully claimed was a form of disability discrimination.

    “It was an interesting case though. Imagine the same acts which led to people dying. …. Or are such laws reserved only for Places the Left Doesn’t Like?”

    Well we know pretty much all the social sciences make stuff up all the time. Especially social psychology. Although it may be unfair to tar everyone with that brush. But it looks like a systematic problem among the Left. After all, even Marx faked his data.

  12. It was an interesting case though. Imagine the same acts which led to people dying. For example, a nurse inventing how much medication a patient has taken, how often, and when. Is the precedent of this case now that the nurse could not be sacked if they claimed the same impairment?

    In the NHS they’d give her an award for quality of service and then use her as an example of why they’re severely underfunded.

  13. ‘The problem in this case is simply some customers being obnoxious dingleberries, and the restaurant owner is quite within his rights to call them out for being such, and protecting his employee.’ – Grikath

    One wonders how you can know that.

    Customers can just go somewhere else. Or, if they like the establishment, they can point out a problem, in hopes it will be corrected and they can still go there. Complaining is an act of caring.

  14. The staff member can be highly functional.
    Think closer to Sheldon from big bang theory than the kid from Mercury Rising film.
    Waiter in a restaurant can be trained to be quite manageable for taking orders and serving food. Can be pretty good at cooking too!

  15. So Much For Subtlety

    Speaking, more or less, of round pegs in round holes:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3477906/The-mucky-professor-Divorced-university-lecturer-61-moonlights-porn-star-Old-Nick-X-rated-videos-women-age-students.html

    A university is investigating one of its professors after it was revealed he has starred in porn films.

    Xxxxxxxx Xxxxxxx, 61, is a chemical engineering academic at The University of Manchester who has published dozens of scientific papers over his 25 year career.

    But the divorced father-of-three has also been working in a rather different field – adult pornography.

    Makes you proud to be British.

    Oxford educated? Academic? Chemistry? Not, you know, anyone we know by any chance?

  16. It’s getting to the point where requiring your employees be able to do the job they’re hired to do will be declared illegal.

  17. Autism (or Autism Spectrum Disorders), ADHD, asthma, allergies… have all become very fashionable and so, unsurprisingly, the number of cases are on the increase.

    In other words quacks don’t know what the hell ails thee… so here’s the nearest fashion fit.

    Similarly nobody has a Cold anymore, they have ‘a’ flu or chest infection; headaches are a thing of the past too, it’s ‘a’ migraine.

    I think caution is needed regarding correct versus convenient diagnosis. It seems improbable that anyone with autism, would want to be or be able to wait at table.

    A bit like an acrophobic working as a steeple-jack… possible, but unlikely.

  18. As it happens, my son is a high-functioning autistic and yes, a generation ago he’d just be called slow, awkward or weird. He wouldn’t want anything to do with a customer-facing job and from my experience of him and other similar folks I can’t picture any autistic wanting to be a waiter.

    SMFS – Even if the poor sod is high-functioning, there would have been support available over the last 20 years at least and he’s missed out on that.

  19. “Even if the poor sod is high-functioning, there would have been support available over the last 20 years at least and he’s missed out on that.”

    That really depends on what you mean by support. If you believe the wacko nutjobs saying you should be pitied because you are disabled then that is true. If just want to try to have a perceived normal life the average person will still treats you as the weird kid.

  20. The Meissen Bison

    Gamecock: Complaining is an act of caring.

    Crikey, I’m glad Mrs Bison doesn’t read this blog!

  21. Coping strategies, learning aids, extra tuition in social skills… all things that could have helped the guy over the last 20 years. Like I said, I know because of my son – he is 21 and has had the benefit of these resources during his life.

    Sure, plenty of people still see him as the weird kid but there are plenty who don’t because of what he has learned.

    Your dismissal of this support would be offensive if it wasn’t so completely wrong.

  22. Imagine the same acts which led to people dying. For example, a nurse inventing how much medication a patient has taken, how often, and when.

    For instance, in the operation of a public water system – five people died after drinking water contaminated by E Coli:

    “The evidence showed that under his supervision, the PUC engaged in a host of improper operating practices. These practices included mislabelling sample bottles [The sites at which the samples were collected were misrepresented] for microbiological testing, failing to adequately chlorinate the water, failing to measure chlorine residuals daily, making false entries on daily operating sheets, submitting false annual reports to the Ministry of the Environment (MOE), and operating wells without chlorination. There is no excuse for these improper practices.”

    “A number of factors help to explain, though not to excuse, the extraordinary manner in which the Walkerton PUC was operated under Mr. Koebel’s direction. For example, many of the improper practices had been going on for years before he became general manager…Although Mr. Koebel knew how to operate the water system mechanically, he did not have a full appreciation of the health risks associated with failing to properly operate the system and of the importance of following the MOE requirements for proper treatment and monitoring.”

    Note that the SJW’s attempted to change the subject from the abject (and longstanding) failure of the Walkerton Public Utilities Commission (the name contains a hint about who owns and runs the joint) to carry out its duties to the recent, and secondarily responsible privatization of provincial water testing.

    For further depressing reading, see
    http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/about/pubs/walkerton/

  23. @ John B
    It really does not work like that. A positive diagnosis only comes after consideration by the GP, a referral to a specialist assessment service, and the person being assessed by qualified team. It’s certainly not “just a fashionable label”.

    @ Geoff Taylor
    Try not being diagnosed until your fifties !
    Interestingly, I did comment to the clinical psychologist that now it’s a “real thing” I assumed they’d get less cases going missed. He replied that they still get a lot of 18 year olds being referred. I’ve since had a suggestion that in fact schools have an incentive not to spot such issues – they have no funding for the support they’d have to provide, so it’s in their interests to not spot them.

    The diagnosis alone has helped a lot – just knowing that yes there is a reason, and (contrary to what some people at work think) it’s not just me “being awkward”. The coaching I’m now getting is helping a lot – such as getting an idea of the differences between how I think and how others think, and having coping strategies to work around the problems (such as crap memory) that come with the ASD.
    As Geoff Taylor points out, I could have really used that help decades ago. As it is, I’ve gone for decades with these various problems – which has held me back work wise and socially. I wasn’t until my late forties before I was able to start a proper relationship.

    One of the most immediate effects though was that it near enough stopped the bullying I’d been getting from one person at work – he just couldn’t accept that (for example) answering a question “how many …” with a simple number wasn’t me “being deliberately difficult” when he actually wanted a breakdown rather than the number he’d asked for. I’d complained several times but the MD (it’s a small company) was just too averse to confrontation to deal with it. Once I had the diagnosis, the MD was forced to do something, and things have improved enormously since. At one point the stress and depression stopped me from working at all.

    I’m sure a few people will think depression (and other stress related illnesses) is one of those things where you just need to “get yourself together”. I used to thin that too, it’s not something I can describe – and until you’ve experienced it, you cannot imagine how debilitating it can be.

  24. One of the things I find amusing about this (and yes, as all will note, I find much of human life to be amusing) is that this all works the other way around as well. We can take, as an example, my repeated point that journos don’t seem to get numbers. Well, OK, they don’t, but then there’s a large section of humanity that don’t.

    Or my own current experience working with programmers. It’s not just a cultural thing (Czech v American or English) there’s definitely a difference between engineers and salesmen.

    OK, this can read as trivialising but that’s not quite what I mean. As readers will know I’m not a great fan (mild Tim, mild, that) of the idea that no one is disabled, we’re only differently abled. I don’t agree that the female boxer is going to beat the male, nor the amputee the non- in physical exercise. But in this sense how we view the world around us, other people’s emotions and reactions, I think this might actually be true. It’s not dis- it’s diff-…..out to a pretty wide definition of human behaviour.

    Agreed, out at the extremes it’s dis-. But, to put names to it, from some part of autism (well before Aspie’s) through the spectrum to fotheringay thomas’ hello clouds, hellos sky, it’s diff-. The importance of this being that it’s just as incumbent upon us on the other parts of that spectrum to grasp this as it is anyone else on any other part.

    To risk trivialisng again, working with programmers again. They want to know what’s going to happen. I’m the salesman here and the answer is “I dunno”. We can craft what we think is an attractive offer but whether people will buy? “But what will revenue be in months three?” “Depends”.

    The salesmen who can effectively work with techs are those who can bridge this gap in understanding, not something I’m sure I can do.

  25. Some gross generalizations being made here. Gross in more than one sense of the word. I mean, I knew there were some fucking right nasty bastards on this site but perhaps even I underestimated the full extent.

  26. There has been in the past decade or so the idea that there are many more people on the autism spectrum than are formally diagnosed.
    Highly functional perhaps, but exhibiting autistic tendencies. Might be we have a few on here besides Anon – my hat is off to you for coping as well as you did.

  27. I think labelling people as’ disabled’ or having syndrome X is not a good thing, because it tends to allow them to excuse their problems, rather than confront them.

    And I speak as someone who most likely in his teens, 20s and early 30s would almost certainly have been diagnosed as Aspergers or somewhere on that spectrum. I certainly struggled big time with anything to do with social interaction and reading people. Much happier with numbers and formal structures (its probably why I have such an interest in cricket). Had I been diagnosed as having some formal medical syndrome I might never have managed to learn (as I have) to become reasonably adept at social interactions, to ‘get’ the undercurrent of a social situation, to read a person’s body language. It would have been a lot easier for me to just say to myself ‘I’ve got Aspergers, I can’t do that sort of thing’, whereas the truth is you can learn to understand those sort of things.

    It is all still very much learned behaviour for me, and I can’t put up with socialising with new people for very long as its hard work, mentally, and generally prefer my own company, or that of people I know well. But I can function perfectly well in social situations. Its no longer a closed book to me, and I probably would no longer ‘qualify’ for a formal diagnosis.

    I know this however, there is no way in a million years you would get me waiting on tables, even now. Its just the totally wrong thing for someone with my sort of brain. Why anyone would a) want to do it if they were similar, and/or b) expect someone to employ them for a role that they were utterly unsuited I do not know. Give the guy a job in the kitchens, repeating the same things over and over again to exacting standards is a big plus in food prep, or make him a drinks waiter, a far less social role. But don’t expect him to be able to interact with hundreds of different people and treat them differently based on nothing but social cues. Its actually a kind of abuse IMO. Its like picking the smallest puniest man in the factory and asking him to unload 50kg sacks all day by hand. He just doesn’t have the attributes for the job.

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