Culvers Decorah Threw a Handicapped Kid Under the Bus

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Dear Culver’s Inc.,

I trust this message reaches you in good health. I am reaching out to share an unsettling experience I recently encountered at your Decorah, Iowa location, where I had the unfortunate opportunity to witness what appears to be a discrepancy in policy enforcement and a concerning response to questions about it.

Culvers Decorah Threw a Handicapped Kid Under the Bus

As a devoted patron of Culver’s and someone who has previously celebrated your establishment in my book, “100 Things to Do in Wisconsin Before You Die,” (#10 – Eat a Butterburger) I felt it was my responsibility to bring this matter to your attention.

On a recent visit to the Culver’s drive-through in Decorah, I ordered a meal for my college kid, consisting of a 4-piece chicken tender basket, cheese curds, and a Dr Pepper – complete with extra ketchup. I was picking up the meal for my college kid, who was in between exams at Luther College.

Time was of the essence, and I needed to return promptly. However, after paying and eagerly waiting for the order, I was surprised to find only two ketchup packets included.

When I inquired about this oversight, I was informed that the location had implemented a new policy – additional ketchup packets were now priced at $0.40 each by a nice young man, who even mentioned that Craig Culver had been there himself, just the week before and was very aware of the new policy.

This led me to question whether this was a decision made at the local level or if it was a broader policy across the Culver’s franchise, as I had not encountered such a practice before…so after I went across the street to Kwik Star to get a bottle of ketchup and head back to Luther, I called and asked for a manger.

“Can you help me understand how someone is supposed to eat 4 chicken fingers and a package of fried curds with only 2 ketchup packets? Especially when I asked for extra ketchup when ordering and nothing was mentioned about any new additional charge.”

The response I received was unexpected and disheartening.

The manager on duty agreed with me that it wasn’t nearly enough and that their new policy didn’t cover ketchup or mayo. This is where I really lost it: she asked for a description of the employee I had talked to. Then she went on to say that the young man who explained the policy was a handicapped kid who “gets confused easily.”

Yes, a management representative told me that over the phone and I was stunned. I replied, “Well, he certainly had a very engaging conversation with me and seemed to know exactly what he was talking about.

–>And she did it AGAIN – put him down.

This not only frustrated me but also struck a personal chord, as my kid brother, who now resides in assisted living in Fort Atkinson, WI, has held various jobs, including at a grocery store and working at McDonald’s…and is disabled. Heck, even I qualify for a handicap hang tag between arthritis, PTSD, Chronic Migraines Fibromyalgia – you get the idea.

Would I have been the employee “going through menopause and often gets confused”?

She threw that young man under the bus – which was totally uncalled for. NO ONE should have been told that about ANY employee.

Cognitively challenged, physically limited, etc – those are words that should never be used to define an employee. “Handicapped Kid”?

Unacceptable…and someone needed to say something.

There are millions of Americans living with disabilities. Here is some basic and easily searched information:

Living With Disabilities[Source: U.S. Census Bureau]

It gets better though – I was unable to speak with the general manager. Instead, I was offered a free side dish as a resolution – on my next visit. While I appreciate the gesture, I no longer wanted to talk about the dang ketchup. I believe it is crucial to emphasize the importance of respectful communication and accountability.

In sharing this experience, my intent is not to disparage Culver’s but to encourage a reflection on policies that may inadvertently contribute to the marginalization of disabled individuals. I urge Culver’s Inc. to promote inclusivity, provide adequate training for all employees, and foster an environment where everyone feels valued and respected.

Culver’s has been a positive presence in my life and the lives of many others. Let’s work together to ensure that it continues to be a beacon of hospitality and respect for all.

Dannelle Gay, A Concerned and Loyal Culver’s Patron

P.S. They also gave us a Coke instead of the Dr Pepper we ordered. (Sigh)


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