Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Steak and Shake Denies Service

After picking my youngest son up from school, we decided to grab some shakes at the local Steak and Shake before heading over to the middle school to pick up Lauren.

I went through the empty drive through and drove past the speaker. After waiting a few minutes at the window, I finally honked the horn and waited some more. After a second honk a few minutes later, a young man appeared.

"Hi! I didn't order back there as I can't hear," I said, pointing to my ear. "I'd like two small shakes, one vanilla and one chocolate."

"You'll have to drive around again so I can take your order through the speaker," the guy said.

"I can't hear back there, so I'll need you to take my order here," I explained.

"No, it's our policy. You'll have to just drive around and tell me your order and then I can take your order."

"I can't use the speaker, which is why I'm at the window giving you my order here!" I started raising my voice a little, as I was getting frustrated at the hoops he was putting me through.

So I told him about the Americans with Disabilities Act and I explained that taking orders through the window is an accommodation that I need because I can't use the speaker to place an order.

He kept insisting that orders need to be taken at the speaker. "If you had just let me know at the speaker that you needed accommodations then I could take your order through the window."

"But I'm DEAF! I can't hear on the speaker! When I drove up, the first thing that I told you was that I couldn't order back there because I can't hear through the speaker."

"No, you didn't tell me that," he said. "If you had told me about your disability then I could have accommodated you."

I sat there flabbergasted. I was getting more upset by the minute. All I wanted was the dang shakes! Then another car pulled up behind us.

"Look, if you're not going to take my order, I'm going to file a complaint and let the corporate office know about this."

"Well, I can call the cops on you for disrupting the business and holding up the drive thru."

"You're going to call the cops on me? I'm just trying to get service here!"

"I'm done with you." He abruptly shut the window, threw up his hands and walked away.

Good gosh, did that guy have any idea what he just did? Denying me and my son service simply because we couldn't use the speaker for an order?

I wasn't finished with him. Oh no. I beckoned him to open the window again. He looked at me with an air of superiority and opened it.

"I'll need to take down your name and your supervisor's name." I was surprised that he willingly gave that information. He took his name tag off and held it up for me to see. Then I realized something--he wasn't taking me seriously. He figured I was just playing with him.

So I lifted up my hair and showed him my hearing aids. The look on his faced changed a bit. I guess it started to sink in that even though I speak well, I wasn't kidding about being deaf. You would think at that point, he would graciously return to "serve the customer" mode and take my order.

He still didn't. I explained to him that I was going to call the corporate office and let them know that I was being refused service. "Go ahead, call them," he said. "You will need to leave, you are holding up the line."

And he closed the window again.

Steak and Shake, you'll be hearing from me.


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Anonymous said...

I am not surprised by this incident since Actress Terrylene filed lawsuit against Burger King years ago. Terrylene won over million dollars lawsuit.

One guy in Columbia, MD did the same situation through the drive thru. He parked his car and put in "P" and waited for the employee to come back after refusing the service at the drive thru. The manager told him to come in. He refused. Finally, they called the police and police found him not at fault and said the manager should have served him. They finally served him and did not charge him for the food. (at McDonald's)

I was denied service at first and I told no- I will not come in. My youngest is asleep in car! So they gave in and served me at the drive thru just this year! (At McDonald's)

Again, I am not surprised by all behind in training, especially the managers.

Many still do not bother to be prepared to communicate with deafies at the counters as well. They could not find a pen or pencil anywhere in the restaurant or took long good 5 min to find it while in line on hold is embarrassing enough. It's frustrating.

Karen said...

I hope it never happens again, which is why I'm trying to get Steak 'n Shake to make some modifications.

From the last comment, it looks like we still have a ways to go...

Anonymous said...

I am a manager for Steak and Shake in Indianapolis. It is extremely disturbing that this employee treated you this way. What bothers me more is the fact that none of the other employees or tha manager stopped this. I assume that the entire incident occured in a short amount of time, but I would hope my staff would never commit such an act.

Karen said...

Anonymous in Indianapolis,
The person who served me is a trainer for several Il Steak 'n Shake restaurants. He still has his job. I can only hope that he truly learned something from this and is serving all customers better.

I haven't given up, I'm waiting to hear from the corporation to see if they agree to make some changes.

Karen said...

I spoke directly with Terrylene about her Burger King incident and I know she did not personally benefit from it. Burger King is still operating the same way as it did when the incident happened to her. Clearly, we have to make some changes in the drive-thru industry.

Employee said...

I do regret that this situation happened to you. There have been many misjudgements of character here in my branch of service also. I have encountered many unsuccessful people in the food industry. I personally apologize for anything that was done for you and hope that our company does everything that you hope to get from them. I hope that you will find heart and be able to visit Steak and Shake in the future. Maybe just avoid the one with the bad management?

Anonymous said...

I'm Hearing Impaired Too, but my
take is a little different than yours.

The last thing I want is special
treatment, law or no law.

I would park the car and walk in
and give my order.

Because you had no problem communicating at the window , he saw no reason why you couldn't do
it over the speaker and neither
can I.

Anonymous said...

I feel for your situation and of course this could have and should have been handled more appropriately.I would like to point out that you spoke several times about the ADA and reasonable accomadation. You even threatened the associate with this.I have nothing against folks with disabilities and even agree that certain accomadations need to be made but consider this.Would it have not been reasonable for you to just go inside to order? There is nothing wrong with trying to meet these challenges of communication half away but for some reason you make it sound as if going inside to place the order was unreasonable and out of the question.The whole thing sounds silly for both sides. I wish you the best!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

next time just go in and order.

Anonymous said...

Horrible. Karen that young man's actions were absolutely unacceptable. I hope you follow through with your complaint. Good luckl

The Consumer Queen said...

I could not believe what I was reading!!!! That is so uncalled for I would love to find out what eventually happened. I found your blog while looking for Steak and Shake coupons today LOL. I have a coupon blog and was looking for this for a friend!!

Holt Gallery said...

I had been there before with McDonalds in Federal Way, WA - across street from a Mall. Lots of deaf people frequent that area. One lunch time back in 1999, I was denied being serviced and told me to pull over. I filed a complaint with management team and they discplined the worker (possibly fired) because she broke the procotol. I got few free meals.

One comment to make here... I noticed ABC local news doesnt show full video of Karen as she was signing. Cropped to her face. I am not pleased with how it was being filmed. I feel people are free to see things and they can choose to see her signing fully without partial crop her. Look at ABC news video if you havent seen,

Way to go, Karen! I hope you get a life time free shakes for yourself and family

stephanie said...

my name is stephanie and i am a trainer at steak n shake in bourbonnais, illinois. i would like to apologize on behalf of the store in bolingbrook. that behavior was completely unacceptable! there have been several times, that i remember, where a guest has passed the speaker box and pulled straight to the window. and each time they still get the same greeting from me "welcome to steak n shake!! how are you today!?"

Teresa in NC said...

Karen, I really hate this happened to you. I also hate the fact that some of the bloggers here are so ignorant. You have just as much right to use the drive thru as anyone else. Even people who have perfect hearing have trouble at the drive-thru, but that was no excuse for his behavior. I searched Steak and Shake to see the nearest location to me, as I heard the food was good. But since I read your story, I won't be going there.
For the person who couldn't walk and wants to run the marathon, they have marathons for people in wheelchairs. And for those who asked if Karen had PMS, what was the excuse for the drive-thru manager ????....he wouldn't have PMS. This has nothing to do with PMS and everything to do with a person's right to be served no matter what their disability. As a person who has worked a public job, there are ways of helping the disabled. Sometimes, it may take a few minutes longer, but they have rights to good customer service.
Karen, good luck and God bless.
Teresa in NC

Anonymous said...

Karen, as a current manager in training, I would have to apologize for what happened, although this is most likely an entirely different location and has basically nothing to do with me.

I work at a franchised Steak n Shake in Springfield, IL, mainly doing Drive-thru. ON OUR MENU BOARD, mind you, it says that customers with hearing impairments can go ahead and pull up to the window for ordering. Even being a franchised store, all stores have to have set displays and such that is common throughout the whole chain, and I can almost gurantee you that that sign was on there. I cannot fathom how a manager would not even be aware of that.

If you are ever in Springfield and come through my steak n shake, I will be happy to give you two milkshakes free of charge, and they don't even have to be Jr. sized either. :)

And an interesting note I would like to add about my Steak n Shake, we have a deaf person that works here, his wife is deaf also. She calls him often through video relay services, and I usually am the one to translate. This can sometimes be hectic and sometimes be funny. It really is fun (like you said in the comments). Luckily he can lip read a little and understand that when the interperter told me to tell William that I loved him, I turned to him and said it out loud. Both him and the interpreter laughed at me, and it really was embarrassing. Hehe.

I hope that you are able to get some retribution for the incident and I wish you the best of luck in your future.


Anonymous said...

yeah thats bad, but thats one steak n shake out of how many thousand, you ppl who say you will never go to the store again because she happened to have a prick at the window are nothing more than pricks yourselves. I am sorry for this ladies trouble but come on ppl.

stephanie said...

to the MIT in springfield....those notes on the drive thru menu board were not put into effect until AFTER this woman's incident!

Insiyah said...

Well what happened? Did you tell management?

Mary Hageman said...

Has Steak 'n Shake came through with any proactive actions yet? I am a public relations student and I feel that they should have already taken actions to better serve customers with disabilities. The Order Assist is a great and inexpensive program that could have already been implemented in Steak 'n Shakes across the country!

Anonymous said...


David said...

Sad to hear, but I bet this happens alot to you, The employee is way out of line and needs to be fired. Instead of asking for the managers name, you should have requested to speak with the manager face to face. I think you could have solved your problem.

Sam said...

I am a manager at Steak n Shake, and the fact that this happened is appaling to me. If this ever happened in my store that employee would no longer be working for me, and you would be recieving at the very least a complimentary meal. I just cannot believe they did that. I really am sorry, I hope it wasn't a store anywhere near mine!

Sam said...

Oh an at my last store we had a deaf guy come thru the drive-thru once a week and we served him every time no problem...he would sit at the menu board for a minute and write down his order and then pull up and give us the piece of paper, that is definitely not a company policy I promise!

Anonymous said...

As a worker at Steak n Shake. I do the drive thru all the time. I have never came through with this problem. I am hearing impaired myself and everytime a deaf person comes through my drive i sign to them the best i can. I want to keep my costumers happy at the same time get them out of the store as quickly as possible. I'm sorry for what that man did to you and i agree with you i would be calling the place too
good luck

Anonymous said...

I'm just curious about how you knew what he was saying if your deaf

Bsmith454 said...

to anonymous, sounds like you need to give up a few of your many jobs first you work with handicaped people then you are a manager then a manager in training then an enterpentor. find one thing to do then maybe you can understand things you have already read and commented on. and stop playing nice to get ppl to read your comments then say something stupied. PRICK

Anonymous said...

Wow...what a bitch..just go in next time! DUH!

L. J. said...

OMG, I'm almost in tears. I have never had someone go to the extent of this person, but I receive the same attitudes believe me. I am so glad that you took a firm stand. Sometimes I feel like I should wear my hair pulled back, and carry my last audiogram, just for verification. I can't help that I had perfect hearing for 29 yrs, and I don't "Sound" like they expect. Good for you :)

Anonymous said...

This is what happens when you go to a place like Steak and Shake...People who work there obviously aren't the most educated people in the world. If they are human and vertical, they are probably hired. Steak and Shake: shame on you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I work for this company. These people do not get the best applicants and the employer doesn't have a clue about trying to be an employer of choice at all. It is a pretty cut-throat outfit...

The food is good and some of the people you work with are decent people; however corporate level management treats their employees awful. Little autonomy is allowed at the store level as the stores are micromanged down to every minutae. They seem to be more concerned about cutting labor at all cost even to the detriment of the patrons and the people who work there. Many shifts are run extremely threadbare in the name of cost cutting. These people have not grasped the idea that labor cost as percentage go down by increasing same store sales volume and decreasing employee turnover rate. The corporate micromangers are frederick taylor's 'x' theory style management on steroids!

A better quality effort to acquire and retain good employees and giving trainers and individual store management some autonomy on the day to day functions would produce less bad people like the person who denied the deaf lady service!

Anonymous said...

Get a life lady get off your lazy ass and go inside dont whine about not getting service you showed him your hearing add so you must be able to hear some.I agree you held up his line and wasted his time that doesnt mean he needs to be fired and you deserve free food.

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