At 3am on Sunday, four customers at a McDonald’s in Taipei got into a shoving match with the store manager because they were unable to buy ice cream at the fast food outlet, police said in a report.
A woman surnamed Huang (黃), one of the customers who was involved in the scrap, posted a video clip of the incident on her Facebook page later that day.
Huang accused the manager, surnamed Chen (陳), of physically assaulting her. The video clip she posted shows a man wearing a tie and striped shirt confronting her angrily, warning her not to film in the store and knocking her mobile phone from her hand.
Huang, a female fitness instructor, also has a photograph of bruises on her thigh that she says were sustained during the confrontation.
However, Huang’s attempt to elicit the public’s sympathy with the clip backfired when a police report and eyewitness accounts of the incident emerged, contradicting her version of the story.
According to the report, Huang entered the McDonald’s on the corner of Changan W Road and Chengde Road with three female friends in their twenties at about 3am on Sunday.
They wanted to buy a NT$15 soft ice cream cone, but were told it was not available because the ice cream machine is always shut down for maintenance during the early morning hours.
Huang then became irate and started banging on the table, verbally abusing the McDonald’s staff, the report said.
“If the ice cream machine is out of service, why is there no notice posted? Why are the things I want to buy always unavailable here? Are you doing this to me on purpose?” the report cited her as shouting to the employees.
“We work in the service industry, but that does not mean you can abuse and insult us,” one of the staff replied, according to the report.
According to the police report and the employees’ accounts, as the shouting match continued, Chen came out to mediate, but Huang and her friends continued to yell and swear at the workers.
When Huang took out her cellphone to film what she said was mistreatment at the hands of the McDonald’s staff, Chen warned her not to film inside the store, smacked the phone out of her hand and some shoving ensued, the employees told the police.
The staff called the police, and the officers who arrived at the scene said they smelled alcohol on Huang and her friends.
The women said they wanted to file a complaint against Chen for assault, but were dissuaded from doing so by the officers, who advised both sides to settle the matter privately.
Monday, McDonald’s executives and Chen apologized for the incident.
“The store manager hit out at a customer as she was filming in the store. The action is wrong and our company does not condone this type of treatment,” McDonald’s Taiwan said in a statement.
However, the statement also said that Chen had been attacked by the customers and also sustained injuries, adding that the company may file charges against Huang and her friends.
It was the second incident of negative publicity for McDonald’s in a week.
Last week, company executives issued a public apology after staff in one of their outlets in Greater Kaohsiung mistreated a customer with Down syndrome.
However, in contrast to the backlash triggered by the Greater Kaohsiung case, the majority of netizens were on McDonald’s side in the Taipei incident, with many calling Huang and her friends ao ke (奧客) — a Taiwanese term meaning customers who are rude, unreasonable and excessively demanding.
Although some commentators said the manager was in the wrong for hitting a customer, most felt the women were to blame for causing the incident with their unruly behavior.
“Huang and her friends posted the clip to try and convince the public that they were badly treated by McDonald’s staff, but they have failed miserably. It’s obvious that they were the ones abusing the employees,” one Web user wrote.
“The store manager was understandably riled up by the women’s abusive language. He was protecting his employees. He did what is right. If I had been in his position, I would have also smacked these ao ke to teach them a lesson,” another wrote.
Yet another blogger said: “These customers had been drinking, were insulting the employees and tried to pick a fight. We support McDonald’s if it decides to press charges against them.”
Others requested that the fast food restaurant show its surveillance footage of the incident in its entirety so Huang’s edited clip would not mislead the public.