Papa John’s Pizza NY racism case 2012: “Lady chinky eyes” receipt gets employee fired


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Hi Blog.  Still deep into my project at the moment, so I’ll be brief.  Going into my Drafts folder once more, I uncovered this little gem of “Pinprick Protest” from more than two years ago — the Papa John’s “lady chinky eyes case” where an individual took action against another individual (representing a corporation) for a racial slur at a pizza chain, and through the pressure of public outrage and social opprobrium made somebody take responsibility.  As in getting that idiot fired for making the slur.

Not sure this would happen as successfully (or at all) in Japan — where the tendency would be to dismiss this as some kind of cultural/linguistic misunderstanding (or else — shake your head — claim that this differentiation was meant in a positive light; hey, we like chinky lady eyes/big gaijin noses etc., and there was no intention to discriminate).

The best example I can think of right now where social opprobrium worked was in the Otaru Onsens Case, where media pressure got two racist bathhouses to remove their signs.  Eventually.  The third bathhouse, of course, left their signs up.  And it took a court case to get theirs down.  And there are lots more exclusionary signs and rules around Japan, so social opprobrium clearly isn’t enough.

Anyway, here’s the story.  I cite this as a template for nipping discriminatory speech in the bud.  Arudou Debito


‘Lady Chinky Eyes’: Papa John’s Store Calls Woman Racial Slur In Receipt (PHOTO) (UPDATE)
The Huffington Post, Laura Hibbard
First Posted: 01/07/12 03:22 PM ET Updated: 01/08/12 12:08 AM ET

Minhee Cho went to Papa John’s for some fast food goodness. Little did she know, she would get it served with a side of racism.

At around 12:30 p.m. today, Papa John’s customer Minhee Cho tweeted a photo of a receipt she received at a Papa John’s restaurant in uptown, New York City.

In it, under the customer’s name section, the restaurant employee who rang up the order used the racial slur “lady chinky eyes” to describe her.

Minhee Cho @mintymin
Hey @PapaJohns just FYI my name isn’t “lady chinky eyes”
January 7, 2012 5:06 pm via Twitpic

Cho posted the photo to her Twitter page, where it was quickly retweeted by hundreds of people. By 3 p.m., the photo had been viewed over 25,000 times.

When The Huffington Post reached the Papa John’s in question for comment, the assistant manager — who only gave her first name as Marjani — said she was unaware of the incident.

“I apologize,” she said in a phone interview. “I’m sure they didn’t mean any harm but some people will take it offensive.” She added that she “had an idea of who it was,” based on the time of the receipt.

Marjani went on to say that this was the kind of behavior that would result in disciplinary action, but declined to go into further detail on what she planned to do.

Papa John’s has yet to respond to the incident in a statement or its Facebook and Twitter accounts, but with such a PR disaster on their hands, they most likely will soon.

UPDATE: Papa John’s has responded to the incident on Facebook. A post on its official page reads:

We were extremely concerned to learn of the receipt issue in New York. This act goes against our company values, and we’ve confirmed with the franchisee that this matter was addressed immediately and that the employee is being terminated. We are truly sorry for this customer’s experience.

The company has also addressed the matter on its Twitter feed, tweeting to multiple people that “We have issued an apology, are reaching out to customer & franchise employee is being terminated.”

4 comments on “Papa John’s Pizza NY racism case 2012: “Lady chinky eyes” receipt gets employee fired

  • “…franchise employee is being terminated.”

    That’s a bit harsh isn’t it? Can’t they just terminate his employment instead? 😉

  • Bitter Valley says:

    These sorts of examples are extremely useful, and will easily help convince those Japanese people with open minds who are unaware of discriminatory behavior (should they do it) of why its discriminatory. However, it will not help the nativist brigade who will turn round and say, “ahh, but we are Japanese, we are different and unique, so your rules don’t apply to us because …you don’t understand us… the context is different…our nature…language misunderstanding… …our intestines are longer…our snow/ radioactive garbage is special…etc. etc. [sorry, couldn’t resist running with Japanese balls for a while] oh you wouldn’t understand because you’re not Japanese…”

    What’s needed is clear and unambivalent legislation. Fat hope in Japan…

  • @ Bitter Valley,

    I agree with you.
    When it’s too late. When Japan hits rock bottom. When they’ve exhausted all delusions and scapegoats. That’s when Japanese society will demand these changes if only in the self interest of survival. But that’s a long way off. Too many have still got it too good.

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