Sunday, April 18, 2010

going to the restroom after a nice lunch

17 April 2010

Dear Mr. Davies,
I am a regular diner at the Crossroads Cafeteria, and I have always been treated with respect by the staff. At least 3 times a week, I find it a great place to study and eat. I am writing to tell you of an incident--apparently not the first-- that has forever soured me about this cafeteria and Cal Dining.
At approximately 1220 today, I was walking to use the restroom. I had finished my meal, dropped off my dishes in the dish room, and, to avoid the Cal-Day crowd of students and visiting families amassing at the exit, opted to go out of the dish room the way I had come in since there were no people entering the dish room at that moment.
I was walking up the stairs on my way to the restroom when Mr. David Campos, one of the managers, walked speedily up the ramp adjacent to the stairs, confronted me on the stairs, and, without asking any questions, said that he had seen me enter the cafeteria illegally. He demanded that I go stand in line or else he was calling the police. He seemed so certain of what he (thought that he) had seen that at first I didn't even think he was talking to me. I have often seen Mr. Campos around the cafeteria and attempted to say hello to him, and initially didn't figure him for one who would treat me with any disrespect. Also, because of the noise and the commotion of my fellow diners, I had not actually heard his question (a witness I talked with later confirmed for me that Mr. Campos had said, "Sir, you have to stand in line or else leave."). Giving Mr. Campos the benefit of the doubt, I asked him to repeat what he was asking me. He then gestured to the door and told me to just leave or he was going to call the police. I tried to calm the situation by asking him if he had me confused with someone else. I told him that I was just trying to go to the restroom. I told him calmly that I had already eaten. Each time he interrupted me before I could explain to him that I was there entirely legally. I tried one more time to signal gently to him that I was just going to the restroom. He blocked my path, pulled out his phone, and began dialing. I assumed that he was indeed dialing the police.
Even if he was not actually calling the police, I realized that he was clearly trying to intimidate me out of the cafeteria. I was more or less paralyzed as to my options. How do you reason with an unreasonable person who wields his authority wildly-- who goes from zero to calling-the-police with blinding speed-- and all in front of families who are forming their first impressions of Cal Dining? To make such a scene out of an uncertain--and ultimately wrong-- accusation struck me as the work of an irrational person. At that moment, it dawned on me that I was one of very few African American diners. It seemed to me, based on similar treatment I have endured in other places, that Mr. Campos had singled me out to be treated like a criminal, refused to hear me out, and proceeded to initiate my contact with the criminal justice system, based on little, if any (and wholly incorrect) evidence, because of my race. This is what ultimately made me decide that I had to take action. If I had been able to reason with Mr. Campos, even after those initial accusations, you wouldn't be reading this complaint. In a matter of nanoseconds he had threatened me with arrest, and inside of 20 seconds, he had begun the process of trying to have me arrested. Inside of 20 seconds, I had gone from being someone who has never had a problem with this cafeteria to someone will never come here again without thinking of how I was humiliated in front of people I know and how I almost got arrested for taking the most direct route I could find to the restroom. I don't think this is any kind of way to treat anyone-- an employee, co-worker, intern, or customer.
What saved me from Mr. Campos' imaginative accusation was that I remembered that my card had been scanned when I entered. I assumed that even if the greeter didn't remember my face, I might at least be able to get some kind of receipt to prove that I had paid. I told him I would go ask the greeter to prove that she had scanned my card. I pulled out my wallet, flashed the card his direction, and then began to go toward the greeter whom I hoped would treat me with even a modicum more of respect than Mr. Campos had. Mr. Campos saw my card. He put his phone away as quickly as he had drawn it. He walked away without apologizing to me in any way.
I decided I was not about to be intimidated out of a cafeteria that has until now been one of my favorite places. After finally being allowed to use the restroom, I informed Michael Laux of the incident, and he said he would address the situation. He gave me his card. I don't know if you have heard about this from other students before, but I understand that this is not the first time this has happened with Mr. Campos. I am writing to you to ask why this kind of behavior is apparently being tolerated, to inform you of this incident, and to ask what action you intend to take to make sure this doesn't happen again. Is this the behavior of an individual, or is such behavior actually systemically tolerated or even encouraged? I am going to be at UC Berkeley for at least another 4 years. There are lots of places I could spend my money for good food and a place to do some of my schoolwork. I do not intend to eat at a place where I have to be worried about being treated like a criminal. I am certainly prepared to adjust my dining environments in accordance with this need, as would any self-respecting individual.
Mr. Davies, you need to understand that Mr. Campos was totally out of control and not professional in his handling of this incident in any way. I'm sure that your managers must have advised him before now that a professional would have approached a customer of whom he was suspicious while remaining aware that (a) he might be wrong and (b) there are other customers around. Accusations risk alienating not only the customer one accuses but all the customers who can hear-- especially when threats of calling the police are being thrown about wildly. A professional might also have asked if a suspicious customer could prove that she or he had entered legally. After such proof was provided, a professional would issue a sincere apology. Of course, everyone, even a professional, makes occasional mistakes. At the least, Mr. Campos’s professionalism should have impelled him to issue even a small apology. That Mr. Campos was unapologetic is very telling about the kind of conduct Cal Dining tolerates from its managers. Mr. Campos's behavior was less like that of a professional and more like that of a predator or a prison guard. He pounced without thinking about the consequences of his behavior. Indeed, I consider such behavior unacceptable but unsurprising in a prison guard, but unacceptable and very surprising in a Cal Dining cafeteria manager. I sincerely hope that you will take immediate action to address this apparently repetitive problem.
Respectfully yours

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