Businesses rally around 84-year-old after family claims NSW cafe told him never to come back

restaurant cafe

Businesses on the New South Wales Central Coast have reached out to a family after a woman took to social media on Sunday morning claiming that a local café had requested her elderly father no longer be left alone to have a coffee there because the business was “not a respite centre”.

On Sunday Penelope Beveridge took to Facebook to let friends know about a “horrendous morning”, in which she left her 84-year-old father Len Fuller, who uses a breathing apparatus, at Terrigal Surf Café while she went for a walk on the beach, reports news.com.au.

Beveridge claims on her return, the owner of the café “screamed abuse at us for leaving him there as its bad for business,” and said “he is too old to be left alone and they are not a respite centre plus, he doesn’t appreciate an old man sitting there with a concentrator for breathing”.

The family has since spoken to the media and the initial complaint has been shared 7,500 times on Facebook. However, the business owner has also hit out with his own account of events.

“The old gentleman was never asked to leave,” the business said on Facebook.

“He had come to café on other occasions and the same thing happened every time. The man and woman sat him down, they ordered him a coffee and then left.”

The business said the owner of the cafe had approached the family as they went to leave on Sunday, expressing concern that Fuller had been left alone without a carer given that the business was not equipped to provide assistance to those in need of specialised care.

“I said: ‘Excuse me, may I have a word’ no raised voice no abuse! ‘I am not comfortable at you leaving your father for such long extended time’,” the business owner said on Facebook.

The response has generated hundreds of comments, with opinions split on what the responsibility of a café should be to care for those with additional needs if they are alone in the space.

This morning Beveridge posted an update on the situation, thanking the community for support and saying a number of other cafes and RSLs in the area had reached out to say her father was welcome to spend time alone there any time.

She drew SmartCompany’s attention this morning to a number of inflammatory comments that have been made online after the incident became public, and said she stands by her version of events.

“My dad would like to thank everyone who reached out and offered their support and understanding,” Beveridge said in a post on Facebook on November 29, which has since been deleted.

“Dad never intended to be the centre of attention that was between us and the owner of the cafe about the ban. It is time to put this to rest and get on with our lives.”

SmartCompany contacted the café this morning for further comment but has not received a response.

Social media pitchforks help nobody

The incident represents an “incredibly difficult” conversation that a business owner might feel they have to initiate, says crisis communications expert Nicole Matejic – and while all the details of the incident are not clear, the one truth in this case is that social media isn’t the best way to resolve emotive customer issues.

“It’s a really hard one—businesses are trying with the right intentions to have those conversations, and you hope that it’s taken in the right way,” she says.

But if an issue has been raised with a customer and they have had an emotional reaction, there’s little to be gained in taking your rebuttals online, Matejic says.

“I wouldn’t be entering into the social media pitchfork that’s evolving,” she says. While an initial public comment might be required, fighting the issue solely through social media won’t help a resolution.

“Have your say and leave it at that – don’t buy into it any further,” Matejic says.

“People are very quick to get their pitchforks out either way, so say what you need to say and walk away.”

If you encounter a situation in which you have to have a tough conversation with a customer, it’s worth thinking about framing this with a solution in mind, says Matejic. In the case, Matejic suggests the business could have suggested the family ask a friend to come sit with Fuller so that he has a companion.

“It is time to put this to rest and get on with our lives,” Beveridge says of the incident on Facebook.

“We would love to thank all the owners of clubs restaurants RSLs and cafes who wrote to us directly and offered my dad their premises to enjoy coffee and meals.”

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helma Parkin
helma Parkin
4 years ago

Ill say that the Cafe isn’t and Elderly Minding Centre and it would have been nice for his so called Family to have coffee with him instead of just leaving him for more than 15 minutes. I don’t feel sorry for them as the chap needs company and the Cafe, I guess, where frightened that something could happen if he’s left alone for to long and these people try to sue because of it.

Annette Scott
Annette Scott
4 years ago
Reply to  helma Parkin

Not so sure about that – if he walked into by himself would they be concerned that he was sitting there drinking coffee by himself? It just seems that is a convenient place for him to wait for his daughter while she goes for a walk (he has an oxygen tank after all and wouldn’t be able to go that far). And the article clearly states that they all live together so I’m not sure why he needs his daughter’s company for the time that he’s there drinking coffee. I go to that cafe and see people sitting by themselves all the time – still reading the paper after they’ve finished their coffee, or waiting for someone that they are meeting….I’ve even sat there by myself, drinking a coffee, waiting for my husband.

Andrew Cox
Andrew Cox
4 years ago
Reply to  Annette Scott

My understanding is they left him in the shade under a nearby tree and he went to the café himself to meet with his friends and have 2 coffees. They didn’t leave him at the café and the fella gets around ok, albeit with a walker. If his concentrator has an issue he would know what to do and it would likely not be a life or death situation, especially with so many mobile phones and the ambulance station a minute or so down the road.

If you read the café owner’s own replies to comments, even positive ones, on beanhunter you will be able to assess the type of person he is for yourself. As he politely states in one of many offensive replies, ‘if you’re not white or not young, please don’t come to my café. WE DON’T WANT YOU’. Is that even legal these days?

Eagle
Eagle
4 years ago
Reply to  helma Parkin

annette is wrong and judgemental, thank you helma, wise words, everyone wants everyone else to loo after their problem these days whilst NO ONE takes responsibility for themselves. annette again wold have a different opinion is they owned the cafe, NIMBY here.

Michael Ratner
Michael Ratner
4 years ago

Such concerned children. Here’s an idea …. why not put Dad in a wheelchair and take him with you for a walk.

The business owner was quite right in raising the issue. Not sure if the public are getting the whole truth but really the solutions and reasons given by crisis communications expert Nicole Matejic are spot on.

Eagle
Eagle
4 years ago
Reply to  Michael Ratner

Thank you

Grant
Grant
4 years ago

People can take their business anywhere – good on the Cafe owner.

GrumpyLocal
GrumpyLocal
4 years ago

Poor Dad, wants a coffee while the others are taking a walk. And then the cafe takes it up with the family like he’s an imbecile who can’t be treated like a sentient being. Like they can’t talk to a disabled person. Embarrassed to say I’ve actually been to that cafe in the past. NEVER AGAIN!

Paul Dillon
Paul Dillon
4 years ago

It’s probably a case of nobody’s right and nobody’s wrong. Don’t they say “there’s their version of the story, my version, and then there’s the truth.” The dad was probably perfectly happy, the children were probably justified not to take him for a walk if he has breathing difficulties, and the cafe were legitimately concerned that they are ill-prepared to care for the dad if he needed assistance. Unfortunately the business will always come out on the losing end once the gripe has been framed a certain way on social media and it goes viral. It’s a toughie for a cafe to act upon.

Eagle
Eagle
4 years ago
Reply to  Paul Dillon

Thank you.

Industry Travel Asia
Industry Travel Asia
4 years ago

As a company (www.Future.Travel) that provides accessibility services for passengers on airlines, we are acutely aware of the discrimination toward people who need supplemental oxygen to maintain a normal life. The issue in this case seems to be the oxygen concentrator that Mr Fuller was using causing a problem for the cafe owner. If the concentrator was being used by a teenager with cystic fibrosis, or a young soldier who had lost a lung in battle, the problem would remain… a connection to a machine that was unsightly. Or would it….

Australia is not known for supporting people with respiratory diesase (look to asbestosis, black lung from coal, etc) and the national carrier Qantas provides no relief in the matter with no ‘complimentary’ oxygen service on any flight worldwide. This is not a way to show inclusiveness to the ‘disabled’ community. The USA requires inclusive, Cathay Pacific, Virgin Atlantic, Etihad, Emirates Airlines… and dozens of other airlines worldwide provide service to supplemental oxygen customers at no cost. What happened Austrlalia…. are you really so offended to assist someone with a handicap?

For the cafe in Terrigal, it will need ensure that Tour Coach operators/passengers are advised not bring their handicaps with them to the cafe. If an oxygen concentrator causes this kind of issue, then the walking sticks, walking frames, artificial arms/legs, hearing aids, and any sort of life/health improvement product/device/support system should not be taken to the cafe.

Perhaps as a way to get this right again is to for the cafe them to say they got it wrong… and to invite the local nursing homes residents to come down every morning for a coffee, tea and scones. They could offer free oxygen for those needing to ‘plug’ in to some extra O2. Pretty sure Linde the bottled gas company, and the local health district, would support your efforts to help educate the public about improving the quality of life for those with respiratory ailments.

To Mr Fuller… you are our hero today. We are so happy you are out and about, having coffee and living life to the fullest (even if it is a bit slower than in days gone by). You are the center of attention because you are a great example of how we ‘young ones’ need to get it right to support our elders. Thank you for being the example we use today to better understand the needs of people on oxygen. As for the rest of the argument… George Burns at 94 years old said….’Young, old…just words’. This has nothing to do with how young you are…

Eagle
Eagle
4 years ago

get your facts right before going off like this, have you had proper discussions with the cafe owners, I bet not and comments like yours are what is wrong with our world and social media, judge jury and executioner all in one, Thatcher would have LOVED you, lots of savings having the whole justice system with one person.

Roland Lever
Roland Lever
4 years ago

Oh, the sanctimony!!!
Let’s just conveniently forget his loved ones were dropping him off at the same business day after day …

Grant Green
Grant Green
4 years ago

Perhaps it is more relevant to educate the general public on the use and risk of different breathing apparatus. If the cafe owner was aware that the risk was very low, he might not have the same inclination and concern. I also think there is not enough information to pass any judgement. There are many cases where a cafe might ask someone to leave if they are occupying a table for long periods without ordering, genuine concern for well being is another issue, we don’t know how long or how sick someone from an article. Shop owners do have a duty of care for patrons so an expression of concern may be more than fair and even compassionate.

Eagle
Eagle
4 years ago

NONE of the negative comments are from business owners……….who have to pay insurance and follow STRICT OH&S policies for staff and clients, when you people get informed then maybe make comments………….110% for cafe owners, these people are using the business as a drop off centre……..no not in 2016 in a modern country like Australia, share a coffee with your Father for sure, use a business as a drop off centre NO NO WAY………there are centres for this that are proper places with trained staff, run by most councils and church groups, STOP using social media to air nasty grievances, you need to look in the mirror before you go out USING a small business for your own personal gain…….STAND UP FOR SMALL BUSINESS and get your facts right before slamming someone and get BOTH sides………….glad these people are not friends or family of mine, “users” we would say in the 60’s.

Michael Ratner
Michael Ratner
4 years ago

Talk of mountains out of molehills?
This has really got out of hand and most probably both parties are sort of right. The difference is that the spending public always think they are absolutely right.
If you walked in both these parties shoes and were the owner of the café with all the humanity in the world – you can’t win because somewhere along the line kindness will be treated as weakness.
Walk in the shoes of the business owner who besides serving food etc expects to be at the whim of customers…. it’s part of the game unless you are Basil Fawlty of Fawlty Towers.
How tragic that this old man has to somehow be made to feel useless and how brave of the business owner not to be taken for granted. Look these people took a liberty. It wouldn’t have been that if people would communicate better.
You know ,, : Look mate – I need a milk shake for Dad who happens to be on oxygen but manages well. He doesn’t want to go for a walk so we’ll be gone for 15 minutes … which is the best table for us to seat him at.
Instead I presume the business owner was confronted by a fait accompli and it borders on them taking a liberty.
Surely there was a tree somewhere to sit under.
I used to give pensioners free Tea or Coffee Scones when I had a similar business and in fact I had a sign up that said so but the sign also said that this did not apply between 8 and 10.30 or 12.30 – 2.30 … otherwise go for it. And let me add that there were times where the public would ignore that and piss me off …. but it was their right …. they were the customer and I was just the business owner. Guess what I took the sign down, felt terrible about it but got over it.
Get over this everybody. Damned if you do and dammed if you don’t. How many times do you see cafes with signs that say ” Only food bought from these premises may be consumed here.” Most people might understand but let me tell you in the world of people power and free everything there are some peculiar expectations to fill.
The sooner we all ignore social media and don’t buy into this manipulative form of pr the better for all of us.

James Gardner
James Gardner
4 years ago

Love the hypocrisy of it all: “Dad never intended to be the centre of attention that was between us and the owner of the cafe about the ban.”
[even though I took to social media to share it with the world!!]