Papa John’s in racist deliverer row

By Quentin Langley    

At the weekend a Papa John's customer in Florida posted a video on YouTube of playing back a message left on his voicemail by a delivery driver.

As best anyone can reconstruct, the driver accidentally redialled the customer's number after delivering the pizza and is complaining to other people that the customer is a bad tipper then constructs a song containing a racial epithet which he sings to The Marriage of Figaro. The driver associates the bad tipping with the customer's race. 

YouTube has removed the video, so I cannot embed it on this blog. I could include a link to elsewhere on the web, and you can certainly track it down if you like. There seem to be two possible problems with embedding it here anyway. One is that it contains offensive language. We could get around that by posting a warning and saying don't play it if you don't want to hear the language. But the video also prominently displays the phone number of the driver. That seems to be why YouTube took it down as it is in breach of the site's policy on promoting harassment. Tough one, isn't it? The driver was plainly in the wrong, but should that leave him open to harassment? The site on which I viewed the video had hundreds of thousands of views and almost six thousand comments. Scanning down the page it included people on all sides. Most wanted to boycott Papa John's. A few defended the comments. Several advocated harassment or violence against the driver.

Papa John's has handled the situation about as well as it could. The local branch has confirmed that the incident is genuine and that the driver has been dismissed. The CEO has made a personal statement of apology to the customer and dissociated the company from the driver's behaviour.

This is going to be a big and growing issue for businesses. Individual staff members are going to do things which damage the reputation of the business, and companies (and other organisations) are going to have to handle issues like this.

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