Dear Aunty B,
Last week my partner and I had an unfortunate altercation with our local cafe owner.
On querying the cost of two coffees plus a half shot of vanilla syrup in each, she told us rudely, “I have to charge per coffee. I don’t know of any other cafe that would charge less for that.”
We weren’t worried about the extra 40c, but grumbled a little. While waiting for our coffees, the lady came over to us again and said, “You know the charge covers labour”, which I must say I found illogical – there is more ‘labour’ in stirring sugar into a coffee than dolloping some syrup in and you don’t pay more for sugar.
My partner perhaps made the error of saying: “Your colleagues have charged less in the past,” only for the lady to say, “Well, I’m the manager and if I catch one of my staff doing such a thing they will be sacked on the spot.”
Now, I think this lady was having a bad day, she was rude not only to us but to another customer at the same time. However, I was absolutely appalled by her saying this and I told her so. I couldn’t believe that she was speaking in such a rude way to customers, saying such a thing about staff in front of staff, and with no regard for our customer loyalty – we have been going there for three years, and now probably won’t go there again!
Just curious though, would it be legal for her to sack someone on the spot for such an offence?
Your favourite café is a place for escape and relaxation not an employment law dispute!
I checked in with employment law expert Peter Vitale who says it’s bad service, but unless the employee has been guilty of making comments which are discriminatory or offensive (probably at the more serious end of the spectrum), then summary termination is unlikely to be warranted.
“A written warning is probably the way to go here,” Vitale says.
If the employee was still in their probation period they could be terminated on the spot subject to a week’s notice or payment in lieu, to avoid any unfair dismissal risk.
But Vitale says employers could still be at risk from an adverse action and discrimination claims as possibilities, depending on the circumstances.
This advice includes no comment on the questionable practice of including syrup of any flavour in one’s coffee.
Unless of course the coffee is that bad (a potential in the Blue Mountains), in which case perhaps you should probably find somewhere else anyway.
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