Things That Matter

Mother Rejects Pizza Hut’s Apology After Her Special Needs Daughter Was Told to “Hurry Up” and Leave the Restaurant to Make Way for “Regular Customers”

Just when we think the world is making progress accepting people with special needs as human beings who are no different than anyone else, someone pulls off an eye-rolling stunt that makes you worry about the future of humanity. What should’ve been a fun and carefree trip for a group of students turned into an embarrassing day that was memorable for all the wrong reasons. 

According to a Facebook post written by concerned mother, Heather Bensch, a group of special needs children were told to “hurry up” by local Pizza Hut staff in Ripley, Tennessee before “regular people” came into the restaurant.

Image via @clickysound/Twitter

According to Bensch, her 18-year-old daughter, McKaela, was visiting the local Pizza Hut with about 20 other children from her special needs class at Halls High School. Bensch told NBC News that the school had made a reservation ahead of time explaining that this “particular group was coming by”. According to Bensch, this meant that there was no “misunderstanding” on the restaurant’s part as to who the children were. 

Although Bensch wasn’t there, a teacher who was present relayed the details to the parents. The teacher also explained that the group was forced to get their own refills, clean their own tables, and were relegated to using paper plates. 

Infuriated, Bensch took to Facebook to explain the situation and vent her frustration. 

“These kids could teach you a little something about work ethic, compassion, and humanity!!!!” she wrote in a fuming Facebook post that addressed the Pizza Hut staff directly. “Any one of them would go out of their way, even out of their own comfort zones, to help someone else, or just to make them happy. They are all the most sweetest, selfless, and special people that I know, and still expect nothing in return. For them to be treated any less, is not only unacceptable, but heartless!!!!”.

Image via Facebook/Heather Bensch

Users flooded Bensch’s Facebook post with statements of disappointment and shock over the terrible way these students were treated.  “I would love to hear their definition of a ‘regular’ customer,” said one commenter. “Shame on them for being so ignorant. What an absolute disgrace”. “These kids just wanted a special day and leave it to a group of well groomed morons to ruin it,” said another. Users also suggested boycotting the restaurant. Some called to shut it down completely.

Bensch’s post quickly went viral, racking up almost 1,000 shares and over 500 comments. 

In her Facebook post, Bensch explained that “the eye rolling and attitude began the moment that the first child and teacher walked through the door”. “Since management didn’t seem to care, nor did their employees, I think it’s time that this community remind them who keeps their doors open!” she fumed via Facebook. “You know, it’s just us ‘regular’ people, who don’t need their ‘regular’ pizza anyway!”

And Bensch wasn’t the only parent that was upset over the way the children were treated. Keith Duncan, whose stepdaughter is also a part of the special needs class, told local news station WREG that after learning about the incident, he went to the restaurant to get some answers from the management. Instead, he got no response. “They could have handled that a lot better,” he told the outlet. “Just been more professional about it. Just have a little leniency for our kids.”

Bensch’s post first caught the attention of local media before catching the attention of national outlets like NBC News and People magazine

The public outcry was swift, and soon the Lauderdale County School district felt the need to address the incident, holding a meeting with teachers and administrators in order to “get all the facts about what happened”. “I don’t want the kids to think they did anything wrong because they were just in there to have a good time, eat pizza, cut up and have a great Friday,” Superintendent Shawn Kimble told WREG.

As for Pizza Hut, their corporate office released a statement to NBC News attempting to quell the damage one of their branches caused. “Our local franchisee has been in contact with the school principal and superintendent to offer our apologies to the students and teachers and will be meeting with them this week,” a Pizza Hut spokesperson said. “Restaurant management will also be reinforcing our expectations with employees at the store to ensure that our standards of service are upheld going forward.”

Bensch rejects accusations from some commentators that the situation was being “blown out of proportion”.  

“This is not the first time that a disabled group has been treated poorly at this location,” she explained to those who were defending the actions of the employees. 

And as for Pizza Hut’s apology, it wasn’t enough  to make up for the negative experience her daughter had at their restaurant.  “The apology should’ve been given right on the spot to those that were there,” she told NBC News. “As well as initial responsibility taken for what happened.”

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