The Slap Heard Round The Internet
A pandemic, a brunch-based holiday, and how a riot started at a Pennsylvania Red Lobster
There's a special place in both hell and the newspaper for the sort of people who commit crimes that are simultaneously desperate, dumb and hilarious.
This is my favorite true crime story of the moment.
The Location: A Red Lobster in suburban Pennsylvania
The Crime: Assault. Sort of.
What would you do for one of those cheddar biscuits and a pile of shrimp? Less than two months into a global pandemic, a woman in East York, Pennsylvania decided some things were more important than health, basic decency, and the pursuit of middle grade seafood.
Mother's Day 2020 wasn't a great one for Red Lobster. With COVID-related staffing shortages, a takeout-and-delivery-only state policy, and a customer base that wasn't yet accustomed to delays and shortages, a perfect storm brewed in the suburban strip mall. One thing was clear: the system wasn't set up to support an apparently life-threatening need for lobster tails.
According to footage shot by a bystander, the unmasked woman (whom the internet quickly named Red Lobster Karen, of course) felt she'd had to wait too long for her food and started demanding her money back in a hail of curses, insults, and eventually, aggravated assault.
(It's hard to say whether the customer or the Red Lobster employee was the more aggravated party.)
After an epic temper tantrum that involved some truly hysterical screaming, the video footage begins with the woman being pushed out the door by a manager saying, "Get out! Get out!"
While the video footage features Red Lobster Karen shrieking about how she'd been "assaulted," the bystanders are quick to point out on film that she'd hit an employee first.
Here's the wild thing, though - Red Lobster Karen is presumably furious because she wants a refund for her takeout order. The manager isn't resisting, and is in fact promising her that she will get a refund for her food.
As is the norm with both toddlers and entitled members of the shrimp-guzzling bourgeoise, getting what she purportedly wants isn't enough for Red Lobster Karen. Rather than stand outside the restaurant and wait for the thing she asked for, she tries to elbow her way back inside. An employee blocks her calmly, shielding the entrance to the restaurant with his body. In frustration, Red Lobster Karen reaches around him and slaps the manager, who, having been pushed several times past her breaking point, charges at her.
A bystander in the background tries REAL HARD not to cheer out loud as the manager breaks free and lunges for Red Lobster Karen. Fortunately, the rest of the employees quickly circle both women, holding them back. The struggle continues for a few minutes - a bystander can be heard telling the employee to "let go of her hair," and we do see Red Lobster Karen's head being released - but then dissipates, with the crowd of employees heading back into the restaurant, surrounding their manager like a herd around a single wounded gazelle.
The close the door, and hopefully lock it.
That's the moment Red Lobster Karen tries to claim, her voice like that of a toddler denied a fourth helping of Goldfish crackers, that she's been assaulted in front of a crowd of witnesses.
Said witnesses immediately, and in unison, shout, "YOU HIT HER FIRST!"
The real crime, as far as this situation goes, was Red Lobster's weak answer to the incident. They apologized in a statement for the Mother's Day wait times, and said they failed their customers. Then, they offered an even weaker followup statement about not condoning violence in their restaurants. It included the line:
We are working to better understand what occurred and how we can prevent it occurring in the future.
Let me give you a hint, Red Lobster - a spoiled, entitled, hangry child in the body of a middle-aged white woman decided to throw a tantrum. There's not much you can do about that, unfortunately. Except maybe start offering everyone a packet of crayons and a coloring page placemat to keep them occupied until it's time to eat.
Here, in all her glory, is Red Lobster Karen.