British Columbia

Vancouver restaurant says bad review came from customer harassing staff

The owner of Mount Pleasant's Rumpus Room hopes the review and her response to it will lead to a rethink of power dynamics in the service industry where women employees are routinely harassed by customers.

Review was left by anonymous person who provided no contact information

The owner of Rumpus Room in Vancouver says a member of her serving staff was harassed by a man who later complained about the restaurant online. (Facebook/Rumpus Room)

A Vancouver restaurant responded to a negative online review over the weekend by accusing the writer of aggressively harassing wait staff and making threats to walk out on his bill.

The owner of the restaurant, Mount Pleasant's Rumpus Room, says the episode is about more than a bad rating: it's about pervasive harassment of women working in the service industry.

"We're in this industry because we want to do things that people appreciate and enjoy," Rachel Zottenberg said. "[But] you need to understand that there are boundaries.

"Even though we are in servitude to you, because we're asking you what you'd like to eat or drink, that doesn't give you free rein to treat us like we're lesser-than at any point."

Rumpus Room owner Rachel Zottenberg responded to this review, which she says was posted by a man harassing a member of her serving staff. (Google)

Zottenberg says the reviewer harassed a member of the wait staff several times and was asked to leave. He did, after protesting.

But she told On The Coast host Gloria Macarenko that this was far from the first time a woman working in the service industry has been harassed.

She hopes the conversation over this review and her response will lead to a rethink of power imbalances and how men and women interact in restaurants and elsewhere.

Harassment, threats

The reviewer, writing under the name "kal vin," called their time at Rumpus Room "one of the worst customer service experiences I have had!"

"I understand that sometimes restaurants have their 'off' days but the utter disrespect and lack of understanding from this business is disgusting," the review read. "Would never step foot to Rumpus Room again!"

Zottenberg said there was much more to the story.

"You approached one of my female staff and cornered her aggressively as she tried to leave the bathroom," she wrote in response.

"At that point, you attempted to make her dance with you. You tried several advances towards her throughout the next hour, and she politely let you know she was not interested over and over, yet you felt the need/right to continue approaching her.

"My GM, Lindsay, then asked you to pay your bill and leave and you threatened to walk out without paying."

And the reviewer's point about never setting foot in the restaurant again, Zottenberg retorted, "sounds good to us."

Women feel 'endangered'

Zottenberg isn't identifying the person involved in the alleged incident but says she knows who he is. "Kal vin" only has one review on Google and their profile has no contact information.

And while Zottenberg says the incident itself was a small one, it shows a great deal about consent, boundaries and power dynamics that still exist between men and women.

"Women, quite frankly, feel endangered," she said.

"It's important to take this opportunity, for me, to give voice to those moments so my staff understand that I want them to feel safe and protected and I want my customers to feel safe and protected."

With files from Matt Meuse and CBC Radio One's On The Coast

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