A Vietnam veteran has been “terminated” from his job at Cracker Barrel in Venice, Florida, after he gave a corn muffin to a man who appeared to be homeless.
Joe Koblenzer, 73, says he was working his shift earlier this month when a men entered the restaurant and asked only for mayonnaise and some tarter sauce. The veteran gladly provided some packets of condiments and also added a corn muffin as a kind gesture.
"He looked a little needy,” Koblenzer told WWSB-TV. "He said he was going to cook a fish. ... I got it for him. As I walked out I put a corn muffin in."
A short time later, Koblenzer was fired.
Cracker Barrel issued a statement after the story started to go viral. The company says Koblenzer has a history of giving away food for free:
Mr. Koblenzer has worked as a host at Cracker Barrel’s Sarasota [County] 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.
Regardless, the situation has created a PR disaster for Cracker Barrel. Many of the commenters on their Facebook page are expressing outrage at the firing.
“Disgraceful! I used to love Cracker Barrel, unfortunately I have a conscience that will not allow me to visit establishments like yours,” one user wrote.
“Used to eat at Cracker Barrel from time to time but their corporate social responsibility doesn't line up with my values. I also feed and clothe the homeless, so Joe Koblenzer, I double salute you! No more of my consumer dollars going to CB,” another commented.
Other Facebook users also vowed to “never” eat at the restaurant again. The majority of voters in WWSB-TV’s poll (49 percent) said they “see both sides, though I wish they could work something out.” Additionally, 36.1 percent of respondents said the employee did the right thing and 14.6 percent said the company was right to fire Koblenzer because he repeatedly violated company policy.
Koblenzer said he feels bad that his firing “shines a bad light on the company.”
“I would not want that on any company, but it happened,” he said.