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Saturday, August 02, 2014

Cracker Barrel: Re-hire Joe Koblenzer, a 73-year-old Vietnam veteran who was fired from Cracker Barrel after giving a homeless man a corn muffin

Alex Schmithorst 
Cheswick, Pennsylvania
A 73-year-old Vietnam veteran named Joe Koblenzer says he was fired from a Cracker Barrel restaurant in Venice, FL for giving a needy man a few condiment packets and a corn muffin. He admits it was against the restaurant's rules, but beleves it was the right thing to do. The 73-year-old says a man who looked like he might be homeless came through the doors. "He looked a little needy. He asked if I had any mayonnaise and some tartar sauce. He said he was going to cook a fish," he said. The man whose job it is to be friendly obliged. "I got it for him. As I walked out, I put a corn muffin in," he said. That gesture apparently cost him the job. "The general manager called me in and said he had some bad news for me. Joe, we are going to have to let you go," he said. He admits he's been written up before. Two years ago for getting a fountain drink on the job and a second time for giving a woman a cup of coffee. He claims she actually paid for it. Rules are rules. The Vietnam veteran who was trying to supplement his social security is now the one down on his luck.
The debate over the seriousness of the event and the subsequent firing has started a fire storm online. In recent days the story has gotten out on Facebook, pages like the Venice Scoop and even the restaurant's own home page. While some are saying it is the company's right to do so, the establishment's reviews have plummeted with at least 30 negative comments about the firing. "I feel badly. It shines a bad light on the company. I would not want that on any company, but it happened," he said. Koblenzer says he's sad over the situation and misses the regular customers and employees he's gotten to know. He said "You know what? At 73 I was really proud of doing this!" He says, yes it WAS against the rules and yes, they DO have a right to let him go. But morally it still felt like it was the right thing to do."I don't think I will be working for a corporation again, so I don't know if that will ever come up." Joe says he is looking for a new job, but is not yet quite sure what to do.
A Cracker Barrel spokesperson provided the following statement: During the time he was employed, he violated the company's policies regarding consuming food without paying or giving away free food, on five separate occasions. Mr. Koblenzer received multiple counselings and written warnings reminding him about the company's policies and the consequences associated with violating them. Cracker Barrel is grateful for and honors Mr. Koblenzer's service to our country as we honor all service men and women and their families.
Cracker Barrel should change their policies regarding giving away free food. He had been written up twice before for similar occurrences. Was this simply a good deed or a fire-able offense? Personally, I believe he did the right thing, and it sounds more like a good deed to me. This can make a difference because if people do things like this, they should be rewarded, not written up.
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