Joe Koblenzer, a Venice, Florida, Cracker Barrell host and Vietnam war veteran has been fired after after giving a homeless man a muffin.
The firing tells the restaurant chain came after the 73 year old veteran broke company policy, his fifth recorded transgression in recent times.
Nevertheless some have come to wonder if the chain was too heavy handed in letting Joe Koblenzer go, who in the end had only sought to aid a homeless man.
The fracas came to pass whilst Joe was greeting guests at the Cracker Barrell outlet where he worked when a homeless man arrived seeking a few condiment packets.
Told Joe Koblenzer who until being sacked had worked for Cracker Barrell for 3.5 years via ABC 7: ‘He looked a little needy. He asked if I had any mayonnaise and some tarter sauce. He said he was going to cook a fish,’
The man whose job it is to be friendly, obliged. ‘I got it for him. As he walked out I put a corn muffin in.’
That gesture thought would cost Joe Koblenzer his job. ‘The General Manager called me in and said he had some bad news for me. Joe we are going to have to let you go.’
Joe would tell although he had been written up before, he believed the writer ups were for what in his mind were the most trivial of things.
Once he was reprimanded for getting a fountain drink on the job and on a second occasion he gave a cup of coffee to woman, which he claims he paid for.
He admits that rues are rules. ‘It’s a rule. They legally can do this because I did break the rule. I completely forgot about it. I am a host at Cracker Barrel with a little above minimum wage job.’
The debate over the seriousness of the event and the subsequent firing has a debate online.
Joe’s niece, Penny Robinson Hockey says that she is appalled by her uncles’ treatment.
‘He is truly such a wonderful and friendly guy. He was such a joy to those he greeted at CB. They wronged him in the worst possible way!! Shame on Cracker Barrel!! I will never step foot into one again.’
Others, like Mike Cecil, have been less sympathetic: ‘I worked at Cracker barrel when they first opened. They were very strict about their products.
I think it is horrible this vet lost his job over a muffin. But the store has rules the food is their property. Where does the employer draw the line. Maybe next time it would be a sandwich, a full meal? He violated the policy’s he was well aware of.’
While some are saying it’s the company’s right, the establishments reviews have plummeted with more than 30 negative comments about the firing.
‘I feel badly. It shines a bad light on the company. I would not want that on any company, but it happened,’ says Joe.
He says he’s sad over the situation and misses the regulars and employees he’s gotten to know; earning the maximum amount of stars on his apron for performance achievement and responsibility. ‘You know what? At 73, I was really proud of doing this. I was really proud of getting those stars.’
The Vietnam vet who was trying to supplement his Social Security is now looking for work.
Since the incident, Cracker Barrel has released the following statement:
‘Mr. Koblenzer has worked as a host at Cracker Barrel’s Sarrasota store since April 2011.
During the time he was employed, he violated the Company’s policies regarding consuming food without paying or giving away free food, on five separate occasions.
Mr. Koblenzer received multiple counselings and written warnings reminding him about the company’s polices and the consequences associated with violating them. On the fifth occasion, again per Company policy, Mr. Koblenzer was terminated.
Cracker Barrel is grateful for and honors Mr. Koblenzer’s service to our country as we honor all service men and women and their families.’
And then there were these comments that made me wonder:
I worked at a health food store, and when homeless came in, I often gave them something to eat, but, I paid for the items. His generosity is his business, and he can’t decide to give away product at the expense of his employer. If the employer allowed it once, it could spiral into something that could cost significantly more money. Yes, this is a national chain, and they should be charitable, but, business is business, and a few pennies to them is more meaningful than the employee could understand. If he decided to be the good guy, let him do so, at his own expense.
This guy should not have been fired over a muffin, or 5. Greedy owners, I’m staying out of that cholesterol shack from now on. On a side note…I worked at an Einsteins Bagel shop before I joined the military and we donated all the leftover bagels we didn’t use for croutons to a homeless shelter. The amount of food wasted that could feed someone is really sad.
There could be a lot more to this story. This “needy person” could have very well have been a problem customer/frequent issue for that location. He may have been kicked out some times before for causing problems with paying customers, as in harassing, stinking up the place or being a general nuisance. Want to help the hungry? Then give to a local food bank. Don’t encourage drunks, drug addicts or ex cons to become like stray cats in your nice establishment
Way to go Joe! You are one of the few kind-hearted people left in this world, now if only your selfish, cheap superiors had the same kind of morals! I will not be visiting CB again, not only have I had bad experiences with customer service, er, lack there of, but they certainly just proved their greedy, insensitive tendencies, and I won’t be a supporter of that. Sure, rules are rules, but I mean really, you didn’t hand out free meals, or empty the cash drawer, you had a coke, and gave the needy man a muffin! Hopefully you find a better paying job that appreciates you and gives you the chance to make people’s day better.
Would Joe have still gotten fired if instead the person he gave the muffin to wasn’t a homeless man but a celebrity who just randomly walked off the street telling that they too are down on their luck?