IHOP manager terminated after video tirade airs (Video)

Jessica Priest By Jessica Priest

May 29, 2013 at 12:29 a.m.
Updated May 30, 2013 at 12:30 a.m.

A Victoria couple hoped video they shot on their smartphone of an irate IHOP manager would catch corporate's eye.

Almost 13,000 YouTube hits later, it has.

Manager Samy Mohamed, 45, is no longer working at the Zac Lentz Parkway location after Tiffany Bateman's family recorded part of a four-minute argument Mohamed had with two customers Monday.

It started about 3 p.m., when Ed and Pat Sager, of Cuero, made a comment about their waitress needing a break, Bateman said.

"My husband and I looked at each other in disbelief," Bateman said. "A video says so much more than a letter or an email. A video is hard proof that something is going on and, in this case, isn't right."

Bateman, 33, has complained to corporate about service before through traditional means to no avail.

Larry Lewis, the director of operations for this and 14 other IHOP franchises in Texas, learned of the video via a Google alert.

He flew in from North Carolina earlier this week with plans to take the Sagers to dinner to make amends.

He terminated Mohamed, saying it was irrelevant why the argument between the two parties started.

He's since found Mohamed's replacement.

"Based on what I saw in the video, the manager instigated the situation. ... If they (the customers) leave unhappy, we didn't do our job. A manager should be able to see what that issue was and correct it immediately," Lewis said of the company's monthlong training course.

Mohamed, when reached by phone Wednesday, meanwhile, said he chose to leave because he was fed up with how he was treated.

He lives in Houston and said he has driven more than hour and a half to work every day for the past three years and has been in the restaurant business for more than a decade.

Monday was going relatively well, he said. He was giving a 10 percent discount to veterans and had already told the Sagers' waitress that she could take a 10-minute break.

He said he didn't become upset until the Sagers made a racial comment toward him.

"We are all here for freedom. The reason I'm here is for freedom. He came in and harassed me in my home. My job is like my home," Mohamed said.

Pat Sager declined to comment until after visiting with IHOP officials.

Mohamed said he was not upset about the video. He hasn't watched it and doesn't plan to, he said.

"I don't want to see something fake," he said. "I'm right. I have not done anything wrong."

But since the video was made public, some residents say this is not the first time Mohamed has acted out.

Samuel Sweat, 23, and friend Melissa Cantwell, 24, both of Victoria, received criminal trespass warnings from the Victoria Police Department in August after they refused to pay for a meal they didn't eat. Like the Sagers, Sweat said he became upset because he saw Mohamed mistreat employees. He just wanted to leave, he said.

"I wish somebody would have recorded what happened when I was there," Sweat said.

Technology has given much more power to individual consumers, said Jun Yang, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Houston-Victoria, who declined to talk specifically about this case.

The latest studies show that more than 50 percent of Americans use their smartphones daily. In adolescents, that number could be even higher when they share their experiences via Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, said Yang, who has a doctorate degree in marketing.

"It is actually very common for someone to complain, but how the owner or the manager responds and whether they can give a reasonable explanation is what matters," she said, suggesting businesses monitor references to them on those sites.

People generally pay more attention to negative reviews on sites like Trip Advisor if there are a lot of them, and customers usually only review a business or product if they've have something especially positive or negative to say, she said.

"Incidents like this cannot be completely stopped. Anyone can post anything, and it's very difficult for them to track down," Yang said.

Lewis said this is the first time in his 25 years in the customer service industry that someone's posted a YouTube video to get his attention.

"I remember back in that day and age it may take two weeks to get things done," he said.

Now, he lets store managers set up Facebook accounts on their own. He fields each complaint personally, but oftentimes, things don't come to light, or he must grapple with he-said-she-said accounts.

"A video doesn't lie," Lewis said. "I think good can come of this, and that's exactly what my goal is."



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