Question: I was assaulted in front of a McDonald’s in France, and I need your help.
My husband and I were visiting Paris last spring. We saw a McDonald’s and wanted to take a picture of the menu board to show my six-year-old grandson. I knew he’d get a kick out of seeing how different it appeared from a McDonald’s in the United States.
I went directly to the counter and took a picture of the menu board and turned around to leave. A woman behind the counter said something in French which I didn’t understand. Assuming she asked me if I wanted to order something I acknowledged her by saying, “Non, merci.”
As I reached the door this same woman was right be hind me yelling and screaming in French. She grabbed me by my arm and jacket and threw my back against the open door, all the while grabbing at different parts of my coat with one hand and pinning me there with another. Within seconds another woman appeared at the scene and put her arm across my chest.
My husband pulled them off me and placed himself between the women and me to impede any further physical attack.
Then a male customer came up to us and said she wanted me to erase the picture. I attempted to find the picture in question but I was shaking so badly it took several attempts to locate it and erase it. All the while these two employees continued to try to grab and scream at me.
We complained to the police and to McDonald’s corporate, but so far we’ve gotten nowhere. The police report couldn’t be filed for mostly bureaucratic reasons and McDonald’s has only sent us a form response. I’ve furnished it with it a detailed account, which includes photos of my injuries. What now? — Penny Sheldon, Boise, Id.
Answer: McDonald’s owes you an explanation for what happened, and at the very least, an apology. I can’t think of any reason for an employee to yell at a customer or pin her against a door. Even if you’d somehow managed to rip the cash register out of the counter and walk away, you should have expected better treatment than that.
The bureaucratic barriers from the Paris police (paging Inspector Clouseau!) and the form reply from McDonald’s only made the situation worse.
How could this have been prevented? It’s hard to say, since I wasn’t there, and since there are conflicting accounts of your assault.
You might have asked for permission from the employees before taking a photo of their menu, but I don’t think that was necessary. French law permits photography in public, but you have to obtain permission from a subject before publishing the photo. When I checked with McDonald’s corporate, a representative told me that taking a photo of the menu in a restaurant was allowed.
When someone spoke to you after you took your photo, you might have stopped and tried to answer the question before leaving the restaurant. Even if you didn’t understand what she was saying, you might have been able to find another way to communicate with her.
I checked with McDonald’s and it said an investigation was underway. But today, you received a reply from McDonald’s France that said your version couldn’t be substantiated. Interviews with employees and a client suggest you had nothing more than a polite disagreement with the employee.
“The restaurant’s employees – and also a client who was present – have all confirmed that only an oral discussion has occurred between yourself and the lady asking you to delete the pictures you took,” the representative said. “She did not hurt you at any time, neither did other restaurant’s employees.”
Also, the documentation you sent “do not evidence an injury directly linked to the incident you are alleging,” according to McDonald’s.
In a follow-up conversation with McDonald’s in the US, a representative described this as that an “unfortunate misunderstanding” that had been compounded by language barriers. She said that although the company had reached out to you and “expressed regret,” you had been combative, uncooperative in its investigation and had made repeated requests for money.
But she also said the confrontation shouldn’t have happened, and that a manager at the restaurant “had a conversation with the employee in which he emphasized that crew members are to remain calm and professional at all times, in all circumstances.”
The company has denied your request for compensation.
I’m not sure if I’m lovin’ it. McDonald’s investigated itself, so there’s an obvious conflict of interest. Even if your account is exaggerated — and I’m not saying that it is — it’s still clear that you had a less-than-ideal experience at this McDonald’s. This is no way to treat a customer, and an obvious fan of McDonald’s.
Make that a former fan.
(Photo: MPD01 605/Flickr)