Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Steak 'n Shake Customer Says That I Owe an Apology

Here's an interesting comment that was left on the Steak 'n Shake post:

My dear aunt is physically handicapped and has a tendency to take things personally. For example, even when family members give her corrective feedback, she easily gets hurt. When she doesn't receive the special treatment she expects, she assumes she's being mistreated for her disability.

I've been to the Bolingbrook Steak n Shake. As a customer, I know this manager and he is a nice person. I'm sorry you were hurt Karen but I think you were both having a bad day and you were both being rude to each other and you both owe each other an apology. He denied you service because he FELT he was being abused, not because you are deaf. And perhaps, maybe you are taking the situation too personally, as my aunt would.

Again I'm sorry you were hurt by the situation but it's not the end of the world, right? You and your loved ones are healthy and alive and that's all that matters. You shouldn't let your world revolve around this one incident. Forget about what happened and do something fun today.

Dear Anonymous Commentor,

When I drove up to the Steak 'n Shake drive thru, I wasn't asking for "special treatment" as your aunt perhaps does. I was asking for "equal" access to a service, one that I have used at that very same drive thru several times before. With a simple modification, Mr. Manager could have taken my order as other Steak 'n Shake employees in the past have done, and I would be just another satisfied customer happily drinking a shake along with my son.

Unfortunately, Mr. Manager decided that he could not accommodate me that day. I'm a pretty patient gal, and I've done this countless times with other drive thru employees. Even after explaining it once, twice and explaining the Americans with Disabilties Act and showing him my hearing aids, Mr. Manager still could not make the decision to serve me, the customer.

Of course, after all of that explaining, I was frustrated and not to mention upset that I was being denied milkshakes on the basis of not being able to physically use the speaker. If Mr. Manager has translated that into rude behavior, well that's his view and it should not have prevented him from filling a milkshake order. From my training as an employee of a retail store years back, customer service is a high priority.

And for the record, I was having a wonderful day until I pulled up to the Steak 'n Shake. I decided to treat my son to one of my favorite shakes and he was all excited about that. All Mr. Manager had to do was make a simple modification to take the order at the window, especially when it was explained to him several times WHY the accommodation was needed. He failed to deliver on that, stated he could call the cops and asked me to leave. He must have been having a heck of a bad day.

In your comment you stated, "You both owe each other an apology." That is not going to happen on my end. I was blantanly discriminated against by Mr. Manager. I will not apologize for raising my voice when my rights were violated.

You say that I shouldn't let my world revolve around this incident. I have heard from others who have had similar struggles at the drive thrus. In the large majority of the time, it comes down to the attitudes of the people doing the serving.

There comes a point where one must stand up and say "we need to change this so it doesn't happen again."


Dawn Colclasure said...

FAT CHANCE! You were not going there to start a fight or go hunting for people discriminating against the deaf. This reminds me of how hearing people tend to think we are too sensitive to things like this. The truth is, you were denied service because of your disability, and no matter how you look at it, that was WRONG.

That man owes YOU an apology. It should not be any other way.

Oh, and I blogged about this on my blog, too:

Tallahassee Lassie said...

Yep! I'm with you Karen. I have been reading this blog since I found you mentioned on Jennifer's site last week. I am 100% behind you and your beliefs. I am deaf too. My blog doesn't really talk about it though my feelings mirror yours.
My hearing husband got upset about the Steak n Shake situation, printed the articles out and is taking them to our local restaurants.
THANK YOU for raising awareness about the issues we face each day.

Anonymous said...

Your Aunt doesn't know what she is talking about. She never had "refused" to serve before did she? No, you don't owe an apology, just because she is very good friend of the owner! Your aunt owe you an apology! Good luck. Steve

Paula said...

Amen, Karen. You said that very well. :) I admire your restraint! LOL

FosterAbba said...

Personally, I think you are being too nice to the folks at Steak and Shake.

Don't let anonymous comments bother you.

LS said...

Right on, sister!

deafk said...

hi, karen,

i am glad you are doing this. I am proud of you!! he owes you an apology, period! you did a great job for bringing the awareness to us!! thanks!!


Ann_C said...

To the Anonymous Commenter whose aunt is physically handicapped and "too sensitive"-- work a mile in your aunt's shoes and you'll see why Karen spoke up. You take your abilities to walk and hear for granted, and don't see the difficulties that deaf and disabled persons encounter on a DAILY basis. We deaf or disabled people are not the ones throwing up the barriers to access.

K.L. said...

Hi Karen,
You are exactly right. As a manager, he should have been on the front lines of good customer service. And for his employees to be doing a better job of serving you than he does, shows that the wrong person is in that job. He is an idiot.

Judge said...

Hey Karen,

You are doing right thing! You are *NOT* apologizing to anyone.

The manager (or some icehole) should be the ONE to apologize. The customer is *always* right!

Stay strong!

Kirk M said...

Now that I've read all the chapters to this amazing saga of yours I'm sorry I didn't read it earlier. Unfortunately my own service type disabilities had me under for a few days plus this wonderful flu that hit our area hasn't helped any. Either way, never to late to join in.

By the way, and I'm sure you know this already, those who post insulting, flaming ignorant comments and hide behind the term "anonymous" aren't even worth wasting the time to answer. They do it on purpose and will never stop their tirade. Some may actually be disabled themselves but chose to wallow in self misery and self pity rather than working with it and moving forward. Those types despise people like you, me and all the others like us since it reflects on their own failure to deal with their disability.

Sheeesh, listen to me will ya'?

No excuse for the "manager's" conduct. None at all. Keep on 'em and don't let them up until they change their ways. Or at least until they're paddled sufficiently.

Do I sound a bit sensitive about this?

mishkazena said...

The anonymous commenter was arrogant in telling you what to do. He/She had no idea what had transpired. You were denied a service and rightfully, you got annoyed. Does that person expect you to be meek? Heck, no!

A hearing person would be annoyed if service is denied, so why cannot a deaf person feel the same way?

RLM said...


I do owe you a heartfelt apology from what I am not aware of the full story within you and your son.

I am for the full "deaf" access within the service industry.

The Steak 'N Shakes did make a costly mistake by denying you and your son "very simple order" like milkshakes. Smile!

I am on your bandwagon now. I have some ideas for an effective protest against the Steak 'N Shakes for not f--king around with deaf customers. :)

Robert L. Mason (RLM)

kw said...

Karen- I find all these comments from Anonymous people so very disheartening. On the one hand, I appreciate that you post them. On the other hand, it's such an eye-opener to me to realize how little understanding there is in the real world.

In my job, . . .If I refused a disabled person service because they needed a simple accommodation I could provide, but failed-- I would probably be let go. Do these people NOT realize that WE also have jobs and accommodate others all the time?? It's a two-way street.

Kirk M said...

Well better late than never. I added my own post about this situation over at my place. Hope this all turns out for the good *and* that you can still get your shakes when you need them. :)

kw said...

I also want to say one other thing to ANONYMOUS. I do not know how how he or she is, but the majority of disabled people are not born that way.

7 out of 10 disabled people became that way at some point during their lifetimes due to injury or illness.

Remember that statistic PLEASE.

All of you Anonymous commenters out there, please realize these ADA laws exist FOR YOU! Because one day YOU might find yourself among the "disabled."

The older you get, the higher your chances of becoming disabled. I hope you ALL live good, loooooong lives. hahahaha!

Kusala13 said...

ANONYMOUS said: "You shouldn't let your world revolve around this one incident."

Anonymous, apparently you have very little knowledge as to what people with disabilities encounter on a daily basis. If you think it's this "one incident" you are sorely mistaken. People with disabilities have to get through life dealing with a million "incidents" which is why people like Karen should be admired for standing up for her rights and for the rights of millions who have had similar experiences.

ANONYMOUS said: "Forget about what happened and do something fun today."

If everyone forgot every discriminatory act that occurred against them, the Americans with Disabilities Act, along with countless other laws supporting minorities, gays, elderly people, etc. would never have been enacted. Karen, good for you for not "forgetting about it" and taking this opportunity to hopefully educate and enlighten those, such as "Anonymous", who would otherwise never know the difference.

Angela said...

I have slight hearing loss in my left ear, and my right ear is a little better. My own family thinks I'm rude for asking them to repeat themselves, especially when they say things away from my direction. For example, if I'm walking behind my mom at the mall, she will say something to me, but I can't hear it. Then I'm "rude" for asking her (politely) to repeat herself.

I can't imagine how frustrating and pissed of I'd be in your shoes, Karen. I know how mad I get at my mom!

Jenna said...

I stumbled upon this whole ordeal you are going thru by way of a reeaally random series of leap frogs around the net - but however I hit the site... Whoa.

Thanks for sticking to your guns, thanks for handling this in such a determined and yet still gracefull manner.

Hearing difficulties run rampant in my family - running from the manually caused (dad was a helicopter pilot in the Marines... 20 years of chopper blades will pretty much cause total nerve death in your ears) to those multitude of cousins born with the challenge. (God help me if I call them disabled... I can't run fast enough to avoid the fallout from that!) I'll be sending out links to your page to the family as I know they will want to be following what occurs (and, frankly its always good to find a well written site!).

Ridor said...

Karen, we do not see things on the same level but in this matter, I'm on your side.

Anyone who drives through at any fast food restaurant and could get what they wanted, Deaf people has the right to do that as well.

I highly recommend you to get the media involved to nail this manager.

Any fast food restaurants does not like the negative attention upon them all.

do it.


Laurie said...

"Do Unto Others As You Would Have Others Do Unto You" is my motto. . .

Mr. Manager made the choice. . .

Hang in there, Karen, and keep smiling! It makes people wonder what you are up to!

And the commenter needs to walk in your shoes, too.

I am Trish Marie said...

My daughter is deaf. I cannot begin to count the ways she is discriminated against DAILY, and how many times people don't realize how they are treating her is wrong. It is almost like people go out of their way to not be accommodating.

The comment made about how you should apologize enrages me. No way. Under no circumstances should you apologize. He was wrong plain and simple. It would be one thing to say that he cannot accommodate special treatment that would interfere with the operations of this business, but in no way does this fall into that category. His argument with you probably disrupted the operation of the business more than allowing you to order at the window did.

I am glad you stood up for yourself (and you know, also for everyone else out there with a dissability).

drmzz said...

My impressions is that anon commenter is incredibly paternalistic and professes a sterotypical view on disabled people as confused or incapable of rational thoughts. Comparing her deaf aunt to Karen, sorry, no dice.

Karen is far from that assumption. I can see she is an independent and well rounded Deaf adult and obviously capable of making logical thoughts for herself. Read her blogs. It's a non-issue really.

Steak 'n Shake have handicapped parking, do they? So it means they do accommodate "unique" customers. This time, a certain somebody failed to do so for a deaf customer who couldn't be accommodated by the speaker order box.

Henry said...

Your picture is on the piano, Karen, and it will remain there for a long time to come.

I have to agree with the comments about anonymous posters. Evidently their belief in their own arguments is so weak that they cannot muster the courage to affix their names. It's nothing but gutlessness.

Keep on keeping on!

Jim said...

Karen, You are doing a great job educating the ignorant people about what was really happening. Of course, it is very logical that "it takes two people" to make things worst. However, it takes one person to start the problem which was the manager's who refused to order through the window in the first place.

Yesterday, I was discussing in my blog about an incident I ran into in a store:

"I had to go to a store to get something and I was waiting in line with other people to pay when a woman in an electric wheelchair came by cutting us and went directly to the cashier. I got by her and tried to say something, she ignored me. This is ONE example of why the public gets disgusted by those who abused the laws. I stand in line like everyone else, waiting for my turn and she should too. People in line was swearing, complaining and I was dumbfounded.

When I see negative comments in Karen's blog about her situation, this is probably one example of why the public gets disgusted by certain group of people with disabilities. We need to educate our fellow people with disabilities about this situation because their actions and attitudes are NOT helping our causes."

Anyway, we are still educating people about the structural and attitudinal barriers that we face daily.

Karen said...

My picture on the piano? Henry, you're a dear. How about you fly out to my town, we grab some shakes and go for a ride?

Karen said...

Thanks for the support. Media has already picked up on it. Today, it was on the radio up in Wisconsin and in several local newspapers. It will be in the Joliet Herald on Sunday.

Karen said...

And to all of the rest of you, thank you for your support.

Stephen Hopson/Adversity University said...


I continue to follow this saga with great interest and admiration. It's amazing the kind of response you have been getting and I see the whole thing snowballing, probably to the faceless corporation's dismay.

The manager apparently thought you were "small potatoes" and that his tussle with you wouldn't amount to anything.

It goes to show others who are thinking of acting the way he did to think twice before taking action.

Who knows, maybe this will end up getting you speaking engagements, teaching companies teach customer treatment awareness!

You hang in there!

deafsingle said...

Most of disabled people are hypersensitive

Carol said...

I have added things to my order at the window many times. If things ca be ADDED, then orders can be TAKEN. Were you rude? NO! Was Mr. Manager? YES! I wear a pin that says,"Plesae speak clearly I'm hearing impaired" at work and many people have trouble believing it as I manage very well. Then I explain I really AM, see my hearing aids? And they become apologetic. THAT is normal. Not rudeness! Sheesh.

Cyborg Queen said...

Hey Karen, Not sure if you'll actually read my comment, but you rock! It's that simple.

You know what? Even though Steak and Shake denied you service big time, and you should get free shakes for a lifetime.

You can also stand up, and teach Steak and Shake at the same time....there's a lot of drive thru windows here in NJ that has "If you are hearing impaired or visually impaired, please drive up to the window" (While the word Hearing Impaired is not really politically correct, but they're trying). Maybe that will give Steak and Shake a method to change.

Keep up the blogging! I would be having a bunch of gray hairs if I had so many comments! LOL!

Anonymous said...

Karen, excuse me for laughing but I was thinking that this manager was just looking down his nose and commenced a power trip. Ooopsie for him; there was no turning back for this scum-bag. Heck, he could have, in the time it took dealing with you, served 14 Karens with a milk shake!

Say, what do you say to checking to see if this guy's at the window tomorrow and if he is, drive up to the winda and ask for a shake? Lol....


Jim said...

A comment from an investor. A Strategy guy:Being Stupid "Being a fan of Steak 'n Shake (and a stock holder) I was intrigued."

Miss-Delectable said...

Am following this with interest.
Like many others, I'm on your side.

I hope you get that lifetime of free shakes ;)

Sam said...

This is all so very interesting. I feel very fortunate in that I have never (in my opinion) received any overt discrimination.

But then it got me thinking - I actually avoid situations like this by parking and walking into the fast food shop and order that way because I just know how difficult it is to use the speaker thingies!

But it's not just fast food places - there are so many other places that require you to press a button and wait for someone to speak to you and for you to then identify yourself before letting you in - how do I do that!?

I usually manage to find a work around even if I end up with someone who lets me and complains why didn't I use the speaker! Of course, once I have explained they are usually a bit apologetic!

You keep going! Steak n' Shake should have far better customer service than this!

Deb Ann said...

You said that very well and he is the one who owes you an apology, not you! It's still no excuse for him to do a such thing. Oh my, I don't agree with the manager and it'd make me mad.

Phil Gibbons said...

You do not need to apologize to anyone for asserting your civil rights. Title III of the ADA requires places of public accommodation, like restaurants, to provide equal service to individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing. This includes providing access to the drive-thru window. In addition, by the threatening to call the police, Steak and Shake may have violated another provision of the ADA that prohibits interfering with your right to request equal service under the ADA. I am an ADA attorney in Indianapolis who represents numerous deaf individuals in ADA cases involving equal service and denial of interpreters. If you have not done so, you should contact the NAD or an ADA attorney to learn more about your legal rights. You may also want to visit the website for The Midwest Center on Law and the Deaf, which operates out of Illinois (http://www.mcld.org). In the meantime, I applaud you for taking a stand.

Loudest Mom said...

The ignorance of some people is amazing. Thank you Karen for taking a stand on this, and just ignore the people out there who choose to turn this around. All the sane, rational people out there know that what went on was wrong on so many levels. I spent my college years working at a coffee shop, as well as at a restaurant, and we were told that customer service always comes first (even without a valid reason, which you HAD). On a sidenote, I tried to link to your story, but my blog will not let me link- bummer. I love the energy behind the story, and the fact that it has taken on a life of it's on.

Great job!

Anonymous said...

Hope everybody saw and clicked on "Jim" a few posts above me. This guy's an investor. I liked what he said so go read it if you haven't.

Karen, best of luck with your meeting. Should be a slam dunk!

Jeanne Dininni said...


As if he weren't treating you badly enough already, that manager put the icing on the cake (and his foot farther into his mouth, as I see it) by threatening to call the cops. Absolutely incredible!

Perhaps your anonymous commenter's aunt wouldn't take things quite so personally if she didn't give her so much "corrective" feedback. Maybe she should try putting herself in her aunt's place (as well as yours) and see how hurt or offended she herself might feel in such situations. It's always easy to tell someone else to "get over it" when you yourself have never experienced what you're advising them to "get over."

That's my two cents worth!