Monday, December 17, 2007

Urban Brigand

It was brought to my attention in a discussion of urban legends and myths that some things are too stupid to be real and some things have never been heard and so, can't be true. Take the tale of Jodee Berry, a former Hooters waitperson (sorry, must be PC here, I guess, in order to avoid a lawsuit.) She alleged that her employer scammed her out of the prize of a car for pushing the most beer in a contest at her job. Here's the actual newspaper clipping:
Now, there are variants of this story, but I'm going to believe that a) it's true and b) AP may get it wrong but they're not going to take their rep as a news organization and Onion it.

The good news is that Ms. Berry, despite her unlikely qualities as a Hooters professional, did win a settlement. AP followed up thusly:

Former Hooters Waitress Settles Toy Yoda Lawsuit
The Associated Press ^ | May 9, 2002 | AP staff

Posted on 05/09/2002 1:50:36 PM PDT by jpthomas

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (AP) - A former waitress has settled a lawsuit against Hooters, which she said promised to award her a new Toyota but instead gave her a toy Yoda.

An attorney for Jodee Berry said Wednesday that he could not immediately disclose the settlement's details.

"She's satisfied with it," said the attorney, David Noll. He did say that Berry can now go to a local car dealership and "pick out whatever type of Toyota she wants."

Berry, 27, won a beer sales contest in last May at the Panama City Beach Hooters. She believed she had won a new Toyota car.

She was blindfolded and led to the restaurant parking lot, but when the blindfold was removed, she found she was the winner of a toy Yoda Star Wars doll.

Berry quit the restaurant a week later and filed a lawsuit in August against Gulf Coast Wings, Inc., the corporate owner of the local Hooters, alleging breach of contract and fraudulent misrepresentation.

The restaurant's manager, Jared Blair, has said the whole contest was an April Fools' joke.

This settlement is unusual in that Hooters did not ask for a sweeping confidentiality agreement, Noll said.

"I think that's a recognition of the fact that there's been such an amazing amount of attention focused on this case," he said. "There's not a whole lot of reason to try to hide its existence."

AP-ES-05-09-02 0155EDT

So, she was able to Pimp Her Ride. Yay. My question is this: is she learning-challenged, given Hooters reputation for silly, sophomoric publicity stunts, or did Hooters willingly commit a fraud against her?

According to my sources, the terms of the contest were not published. Nevertheless, did Ms. Berry have a reasonable expectation of the nature of the prize to be awarded? Could the new "Toy Yoda" not be a new Toyota - Hot Wheels, image, ashtray? She could have said, "You mean if we sell 100 million gallons of beer this month, we will win a new Toyota automobile of our choice, without further cost to us, without obligation or signage (advertising to be carried on the vehicle, typical of vehicles awarded in promotions)?" In other words, who on this planet doesn't check the dental records of that equine reward?

Okay, so she just assumed. In law, it's said that ambiguity is the responsibility of the draughtsman, meaning that a contract or offering, statute or other private or public law instrument should be thorough in covering all aspects of the matter in question. We all know that the absence of such thoroughness is the stuff of lawsuits and loopholes. So, she worked hard for the money - after all, it is a waittressing job, oop, I mean Waitpersoning job, which means not only be consistently courteous, a good salesperson, customer relationship manager and Go-Fer, but also means being on one's feet for eight hours, running back and forth and wearing short-shorts to boot. An ex-waitress I know says that it is more than just hard work, It can be demeaning, what with cooks insisting on the waitress' juicy-ness and all, short pay, bad tips and rotating shifts. It sure sounds like a suck-ass job to me. So, regardless of whether you think Hooters wait-persons are bimbos or whatever, they are working people, real people, who would rather be sitting in an office just like yours rather than working their arses off pushing beer to the ultimate benefit of the franchise holder. So, yeah, I'd be pissed and yeah, I think the company should have made it clear rather than condescend to the employees. In that respect, they breached their responsibility to their employee and her assumption can stand as is.

If you think about it, Ms. Berry may have said, "Oh, hell, no. This isn't only about the car that I need to get my sick mother to dialysis on Tuesdays (or whatever she wanted it for, or even if she wanted it just because - ed,) it's the principle of the thing." And she'd be right. Ha, ha. Look at the stupid waitress. We fooled her. Ha ha. Not funny. Not at all. Not on top of everything else the working person has to endure. So, she marched her little booty down to the lawyers' office and did what any patriotic Merkan would do - she sued. And won. Good for you, Ms. Berry.

You might call it a stupid lawsuit or a waste of taxpayer's money. Well, taxpayers don't pay for private law suits - it's a civil matter between two private parties. Further, it can be assumed that both Hooters and Ms. Berry are taxpayers and they have the right to public facilities, in terms of a public courts system, which, by the way, is not without its fees. And, since when is defending your own sense of respect in the workplace stupid? Better ask yourself that the next time you brown-nose someone, as you know you will, at work in order to keep the friction down, get ahead, keep your job or whatever. If you put yourself in her shoes, you might have to admit that it's gutsy to stand up and say, "I mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore." (This link has the entire text of Howard Beale's classic speech from the 1976 visionary masterpiece, Network, written by Paddy Chayefsky.)

Enough of the righteous pontification. I started out talking about Urban Myths. This is most certainly legendary, but not because Ms. Berry is a dum-dum. Once descended to the status of Urban Legend, the value of her response, if taken in my speculative but likely context, is dimunuated, compounding disrespect for a fellow worker, a fellow human. Her tsouris is mitigated into entertainment. It can't have been very entertaining for her, now, could it?

The other legend/myth has to do with Eric Clapton and the song, Layla. My good friend asked whether I knew the original of the song and whether there was any truth to that story. Having been alive at the time, I felt sure that I would have heard about it. I said that it sounded like a Myth, but it wasn't a Space Alien-type of thing, and so, it could use some research. Here's what I found, courtesy of USA Today:
  • “After failing to win Boyd through emotional blackmail (by writing the song Layla), Clapton threatened to take heroin full time, though he was already addicted.
  • Once he did lure Boyd from Harrison, he lost interest and banished her from tours. “I was off having one-night stands and behaving outrageously. … My moral health was in appalling condition.”
Well, there you have it. Just because you didn't hear about it when it happened doesn't make it false. And, just because you have some of the facts, doesn't mean you can draw a conclusion. Unless you're lazy. Lazy like me.