Woman asks McDonald’s for apology

Cover story published in 24 Hours Vancouver | August 20, 2013 | Circulation: 251,700

Syndicated by QMI on Canoe.ca (10.29 million unique monthly) & in the Toronto Sun (574,000), Calgary Sun (48,247 print; 700,000 online), Edmonton SunLondon Free Press (73,961), St. Catharines Standard (17,801) & Sun News Network 

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A Richmond resident is demanding a McDonald’s restaurant apologize after a manager at the chain’s No. 3 Road franchise allegedly refused to serve her, then asked her to leave, because staff couldn’t understand her English.

Hai Xia Sun told 24 Hours she was mistakenly given a mocha coffee after she ordered a hot chocolate on Aug. 15.

But when the 51-year-old Chinese-Canadian hotel worker – who speaks English as a second language – tried to correct the mistake, she alleges the outlet’s manager was dismissive, saying: “You don’t understand English.”

“I was amazed and very angry,” Sun said during an interview conducted in English. “This is discrimination.

“They said they didn’t speak Mandarin. But I was speaking in English. She wouldn’t serve me. She said, ‘Don’t stay here. The line is long. I want to serve other people.’ She made me leave.”

Sun alleges that even when another McDonald’s staffer asked her what was wrong, the manager scolded him for interfering.

A spokesman for McDonald’s Restaurants of Canada Ltd. said the company is taking Sun’s allegations seriously, and representatives plan to meet with her to discuss the complaint.

“At McDonald’s Canada, we have a diverse and multicultural guest base, and our organization reflects a similar diversity of cultures and backgrounds – from our crew to our local owner and operators,” John Gibson said. “We are looking into a customer complaint regarding an isolated occurrence where a lone customer in one of our Richmond restaurants did not receive her intended order due to a language barrier.

“Our restaurant and franchisee are working directly with the customer to resolve the complaint.”

For Victor Wong, executive director of the Chinese Canadian National Council, the allegation raises many questions, but he’s waiting to hear from McDonald’s before jumping to conclusions. If true, however, he’d consider the incident “disappointing” and “unacceptable.”

“McDonald’s is a multi-billion-dollar corporation,” Wong said. “They have to provide an explanation for what happened. We haven’t heard from McDonald’s – the other side.

“An employee might be flustered, but it’s unacceptable for a manager not to solve the situation. Sometimes you see a big lineup — maybe you’re just so anxious that you’re not hearing what the customer’s saying — I can understand that. But I find it hard to excuse the manager for not solving the problem.”

Sun hopes next week’s meeting with restaurant representatives will resolve the complaint. But she wants a printed apology from the franchise owner and the manager who dealt with her — not only to her, but to other Canadians who don’t speak English as their first language.

“If someone speaks not-very-good English, you can’t just refuse to serve her or him,” she said. “In Richmond, 50% of people can’t speak very good English — it’s their second language.”

Attempts to contact the franchise operator were unsuccessful. McDonald’s Canada said he was on vacation.

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