Well, that was quick: I've now been asked to leave yet another cafe for taking off my shoes and sitting at a table barefoot. I swear, it just takes one employee who thinks he knows everything, to ruin things. So, I wrote another letter to the owner (below). But man, I mean, I maybe Portland just isn't my town. I swear, I'm just being a quiet writing dude, keeping to myself, not even walking around the place barefoot! I just want to be left alone.
Anyways, here's the letter:
I have been a fairly regular customer for about a half a year now, coming in a few times a week, to write and read and generally hang out in a friendly place. I have always appreciated your friendly employees, and how they remember me and my drink. So I was really disappointed about how I was just treated at the 10th Street cafe this evening.
Here's what I was doing: I was sitting at a table, writing. I had slipped my feet out of my shoes in order to tuck my feet up under me and be more comfortable. After and hour and a half of doing this (and I've done this since I've been coming to your cafe), an employee, male, came over and told me, rudely, that I would have to put my shoes back on. His explanation was because of "safety." When I inquired what he meant, he said that there could be broken glass. Again, I was seated at a table, with my shoes right under me. I was not walking around. I informed him that I would watch out for glass. He then said, "Plus there are other people here." I asked him what he meant by that, but he repeated that I would have to put on my shoes for safety, and that there were other people there. I told him I would prefer not to put on my shoes, but he repeated himself again. I asked him if he was kicking me out. He replied that if I did not put on my shoes, then yes.
I was not doing anything wrong. I appreciate that your employees are looking out for my safety, but I can take care of myself. Though I don't think that's really what he was talking about, and I'm not clear exactly what he means by other people being there?
Just to be clear, there's nothing wrong with taking one's shoes off in public. There are no laws, no health codes, nothing like that. I'm sure you know this.
What I would like is an apology for his rudeness, and assurance that if I want to make myself more comfortable in your cafe, I can, just like I've been doing for the last half year.
I would really like to not worry about this, and continue giving you my business. I would like a response.
Well, I finally received a reply from the owner. She invited me to call her, which I did, with some trepidation. She does seem to be a sincere kind-hearted person, and to really care that her customers have a good experience at her place. That said, I don't think she has all her facts straight (surprise).
The good news is that she did 'give a talking to' the employee who was rude to me, about the 'how' he talked to me, if not the what.
The bad news is she basically used the employee's 'reasoning' to say that she couldn't allow anyone to be barefoot (again, surprise). That is, it was both a safety issue, and a courtesy to other customers.
Supposedly, another customer complained about me being barefoot. The owner wasn't there, so I'm not clear if this was just what the employee in questions told her, or if other employees said this. I kind of have my doubts, since I was, at the time, in a back corner and there wasn't anyone near me. But even then, I questioned why one customers opinion/feelings was more important than mine. She didn't really have an answer to that.
Instead she switched to the 'safety' issue, claiming that there could be broken glass. Then she paused, perhaps realizing that her cafe actually doesn't have any glass, and said that broken ceramics could be a problem too. I again said that I was sitting in a chair, but that didn't seem to matter.
She then claimed that there was a general 'rule' (I think that's the term she used) for all restaurants in the area (what area? I'm not sure. Sounded like she meant Portland). When I asked her if she could provide of copy of this rule, or tell me where to find it, she backed off and invoked the 'no shirt, no shoes, no service' signs “that you see everywhere.” When I told her that those had not basis in fact, and that there was no health code, she backed off and claimed what I take to be this (http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/hotels_and_restaurants) as her reason, what she called the “innkeepers responsibility,” saying that it was an old “law.” She hadn't read any actual texts though, and just said I could find it on the internet. At least from this source, the emphasis seems to be that a customer has an obligation not to act boisterously (ie cause a scene).
At this point my patience wearing thin, as was her's, and I feared I would start to lose my temper, so, knowing she was being sincere (if misguided) I tried to politely say goodbye. I got the impression that she thought I was crazy to make a big deal out of wanting to take off my shoes in a cafe, which I think misses the point: that I just don't think I was doing anything wrong, and was being treated unfairly, based on ignorance of what is legal or not. What I could have pointed out is this doesn't seem to be about 'safety' at all, but rather the other reason: that my bare feet were causing a 'scene' and/or bothering other customers. I don't think that's true, and again, she wasn't there, and is going (I think) on what this employee said while being chastised. I could have also told her about how people in cafes do things that I don't like all the time (ie talk loudly on cellphones, have strong body odor, bring dogs in) but that I just deal with it. And I would ask her, if I complained to an employee about another customer, if she would be willing to treat them in the same way as I.
But, my heart was already racing, I already knew I was stressed out. Not worth more stress, and, like I told her, I've found other businesses that don't care, and I'm giving them my business. I just wish owners and managers had a better understanding of facts, especially since they seem so concerned with litigation. At least for safety concerns. I wonder what the legal implications are for this type of situation, ie if what they're saying would hold up in court. I wouldn't sue, I don't like lawyers and courts and stuff, but surely they're opening themselves up for something here? Maybe not?
Anyways, basta. Enough. I hate this. I just want to be left alone, and now I'm walking around with my nerves all raw. This is enough to make me re-think my desire for cafe culture, and city life, and instead get a cabin out in the woods and just have a bunch of cats.