Kids Eat Free *

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photography by the author

part 1: the setup

There are many nice little things about our town of Mount Pleasant, New York. For example, it contains the village of Sleepy Hollow, yes, the Sleepy Hollow of Ichabod Crane fame. Towns are weird around here, they are made up of villages and hamlets. But already I digress …

I want to bring your attention to two other esoteric points of note about our town, because they form the backbone of this little story.

One is Modern Slice, an upscale pizza restaurant that also offers salads, pasta dishes, entrées, wine by the bottle and beer on tap. Among the several hole-in-the-wall pizza shops in our neighborhood, it stands out as an aspirational establishment, and the townies have rewarded it with steady patronage and positive word-of-mouth.

The colorful WEEKLY SPECIALS sign pictured above is theirs.

The other local curiosity I want to highlight is a facebook community group called Mt. UnPleasant, an amusing and refreshing complement to other online discussion boards serving our area. Its purpose is to collect and offer up for debate various complaints about the town, usually submitted anonymously — be it rants on potholes, blackouts, or unscrupulous local business practices.

Here is their facebook banner, leaving no doubt about their mission statement:

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part 2: the twist

The following post from this group popped up in my feed on Monday:

An anonymous complainer writes, “I’d like to rant about Modern Slice. Since this place is close by, I have been meaning to check it out and was thrilled when my friends suggested we meet there for lunch on “Kids Eat Free” Mondays.

Please keep in mind that our children are 1.5–2 years old…there are 3 of them TOTAL…Not what you would call big ticket customers.
Our first visit: The pizza place opens at 11 and we arrive @11:30 (to which the staff/owner? Is not thrilled) — needless to say, already a warm welcome. Is it the kids? Is it the timing? Hard to tell….
We order 3 drinks, 3 plains slices for the kids and 3 eggplant slices for the ladies. Our bill arrives and doesn’t have the kids discount. I hate this. It automatically puts us in a weird situation to have to bring up the advertisement in store and on FB — PLUS It’s 3 slices of pizza…I’m not trying to be cheap…it’s principle. Plus we are charged for a drink we didn’t order.

Annoyed — he adjusts our bill….we all feel uncomfortable — and leave.

Fast forward 3 weeks, we decide to give it another shot.

Deja vu

[…]

The poster isn’t done yet. She goes on to explain that she and her mommy posse ordered more or less the same thing and had pretty much the same experience. (Definition of insanity, right?) But the second time, instead of cutting them a break, the manager came out and explained the caveat — that the adult is expected to order an entrée or salad, rather than just a slice of specialty pizza, to enjoy the complimentary kids’ meal.

Now, when your post gets featured on Mt. UnPleasant, there’s no telling which way public opinion will swing. You may get sympathy, or you may incite a mob of villagers to come after you with torches and pitchforks. Or some combination of both.

In this case, the original poster got her little toosh handed to her.

Not unanimously by every single person that weighed in — there were some supportive opinions as I describe further below — but the overwhelming majority did not take kindly to this attack on a beloved local institution.

The typical knee-jerk reaction was to call her and her adult lunch companions cheapskates, clearly trying to take advantage of the restaurant, and having little appreciation for what it takes to retain customers and make money in the food service industry.

Others suggested that it was the adults' responsibility to inquire about and clear up the terms of the “Kids Under 12 Eat Free” policy, up front. One responder, offering a contemporary analogy, hypothesized that if she were to bring a Groupon or similar coupon to a restaurant, she would feel obliged to mention this to the server before ordering.

As I mentioned, there were a few commenters taking the side of the plaintiff. If it says “Kids Eat Free,” then “Kids Eat Free,” end of story. The fine print at the bottom of the chalkboard did not make clear what the exclusions and limitations were. Be transparent about your rules, or suck it up — came the verdict.

Clearly, there were legal grounds, if not moral grounds, for making the case in favor of the frugal lunch bunch.

This being a small town where news travels fast, and also this being 2018 when everyone spends too much time online, it wasn’t long until one of the two owners of Modern Slice was alerted to the burgeoning existence of this thread, and he himself logged on to join the conversation.

He was unapologetic, and he did not hold back. Lamenting the high cost of labor, rent and utilities, and the long hours he and his partner put into the enterprise, he dismissed any legitimacy to the complainer’s claims, essentially joining the camp calling her cheap, and riding the wave of support that had swelled up in the comments section.

He even directly addressed the suggestion that the restaurant should change the footnote that reads

* exclusions & limitations may apply

and instead spell out

* with purchase of an entrée

The owner shot down this idea as well, reasoning that there are more conditions than just that one (for example, daily specials are not to be combined with other offers), and “they don’t make chalk boards big enough to write all that.”

So yeah, he was a bit of a dick. He emphatically rejected the philosophy that the customer is always right. He took the I-don’t-need-your-stinkin-business stance, and it played well to those already backing him up. Can you blame him?

part 3: the conclusion

There you have it — Modern Slice will likely continue running its business as it has been, serving up the same menu and the same daily specials to the same customers, minus one disgruntled customer and maybe her circle of friends.

But the thing that struck me as I was reading this thread was

why would anyone feed 1.5 and 2-year-olds pizza by the slice at a restaurant?

I mean, we have a pair of 3 ½-year-olds at home, they love pizza, we usually make our own, or if we get take-out, we cut a slice into bite-sized little squares and triangles that they can more easily spear with their plastic forks. Especially at the tender age of two, I could never imagine giving a young toddler a whole slice of pizza — he or she would be guaranteed to make a great big mess of it.

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Thanks for reading!

Were you expecting a moral? Sorry to disappoint. What I can offer instead is an interactive quiz, to see how much you paid attention to the story.

Ready?

What is the weekly special offered at Modern Slice on Tuesdays?

It’s okay to scroll up and cheat, if you don’t remember, please come back here when you’re done.

Alright — that was a trick question.

The restaurant is closed on Tuesdays.

Written by

Editor of No Crime in Rhymin' and Language Lab | the Woke Bloke ..."come for the sarcasm, stay for my soft side"

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