Earlier in the week, I, NYRA board member Nigel Jones, tried to buy breakfast (the most important meal of the day, mind you) at our local grocery store, Giant Foods. As I was asking the baker for my morning muffin, one Giant employee, Stephen Schneider told me to get out the store. Schneider scoffed that high school students were banned from the store from 7:00 AM to 3:00 PM. I’m already the Corporate Complaining King (pretty much scouring the universe for poor customer service in need of correction), but he also didn’t realize he was messing with NYRA. And that this muffin could cost Giant a lot of customers and if nothing else, a considerable headache.
Next, I demanded to see a manager. And literally, in the middle of asking to speak with one the employee, I was speaking with asked if I was a high school student, called security, and essentially told me to G.T.F.O. I paused, looked at her, and told her to call security if she wanted, but that I was going to speak to a manager first.
Soon, a manager came. Not security. And bless this woman’s heart. It was her first seventeen minutes on the job and here I was almost shouting at her, telling her about this awful policy. And she let me buy my muffin. As I was leaving the store, two employees commended me on fighting back. The baker mouthed sorry to me as I left. And one employee shouted, “Young man!” and when I turned in his direction pumped his fist in support.
Next, Alex, NYRA’s executive director, told Giant that they were violating Maryland discrimination law and that the policy had to be stopped. I even scheduled a meeting with Charlton Clarke, Giant’s manager. I figured he would understand that he was breaking the law and get rid of the policy. I was definitely wrong.
The first time I spoke with Charlton it was on the phone to confirm a meeting. Instead of confirming, Charlton explained that he wasn’t going to waste time on a meeting about the ban. I told him the Maryland Commission on Human Relations enforces a law that prohibits discrimination in public places based on age (Article, Section 20-301) and expected the Giant to lie down and accept defeat. Clarke instead said, “Stop quoting laws to me” and explained that he had a legal team that could pretty much squirrel out of following these measly laws I was quoting.
These guys were really putting on a fight. They even may have intentionally tried to throw us off. When Alex spoke with Tasha Burns, one manager, she told him that security at the local school suggested the student ban. So, I spoke with those security guards who uniformly denied suggesting the policy. One even laughed, shook her head, and explained she’d never even heard of it.
Additionally, Tasha actually spelled out the names on two of the security guards for Alex. Unfortunately, Ms. Burns spelled them Hastings Armtrout. The reason that sounds more like the name of a grouchy cartoon character than a real person is because that’s the name Tasha gave when she was talking about security guards Mr. Hasty and Ms. Armentrout. Was it deliberate? The world may never know.
This battle was heating up. Charlton asked us to call him back in 5-7 days, so that we could hear his verdict. While Charlton may have been Giant, he wasn’t the judge that would render this verdict. He was broking Maryland law and we contacted Maryland Commission on Human Relations and like three different folks at Giant’s corporate office.
On March 21, 2011, Ilene Katz of Giant called us informing saying, “We don’t want to be the truant officers of Bowie High School.” Victory was ours. We had defeated the Giant.