HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (KARK) — The IHOP in Hot Springs, Arkansas will retrain its employees after a mother said the manager discriminated against her son, who was born without arms.
This was the first time the three-year-old and his family had eaten together at IHOP. They said it was also the first time a restaurant has ever had a problem with the way he has to eat.
“Thank you! Bring it here,” Alexis Bancroft told her son, William, as he got a gallon of Kool-Aid from the refrigerator. “Do you want some of this?”
“Yes!” he responded.
William helps his mom make one of his favorite snacks: punch and cookies. He was born without arms but that doesn’t stop him from feeding himself or sharing with others.
“Can I have a bite?” Bancroft asked.
William threw his leg up in the air with the cookie in between two of his toes and fed his mom, giggling. He eats the same way when he and his family go out for a meal: with his feet while sitting on a table.
“He’s three years old,” Bancroft said. “That’s all he knows. That’s what he was taught from therapy.”
William carried on as usual when the family went to IHOP Saturday morning for breakfast.
“All he wanted was some pancakes,” Bancroft said.
But William never got them. His mom said the general manager told her he could not sit on the table and touch the syrup containers because it was a health department issue.
“When we got there, I carried him in, took him to the bathroom and washed his feet so he could eat,” Bancroft said. “I asked her, ‘Do you ask all of your customers if they washed their hands before they touch them [syrup containers]?'”
Bancroft said the manager later apologized, but the damage was already done.
“She was the one who discriminated against my son for having a physical disability,” she said.
The family got up and left without paying for their drinks.
Bancroft then took to Facebook to explain the situation. Her post has since gone viral. Several servers messaged her that they were “deeply ashamed” of what happened and “completely shocked” that their manager did that.
The manager even messaged her, saying in part, “I really think this was all a misunderstanding. I would never do that to your son intentionally or otherwise. That’s not what I was trying to do.”
“Apologizing, saying it wasn’t intentional, but my son can’t get that back,” Bancroft said.
“The very next day, he didn’t want to sit on the table to eat. He wanted to sit in a chair, which he can’t really do.”
But days later, William was back at his table, while his mom invites more in their community to sit at it.
“Other people may think it’s not a big deal, but that is my child,” Bancroft said. “I’m his advocate, and you’re not going to treat my kid like that.”
Several sources confirmed to us the manager is on leave.
In a statement from corporate, IHOP President Darren Rebelez said the owner of this location will continue to work with Bancroft to resolve the issue:
“IHOP and our franchisees do not tolerate actions that are or allude to discrimination of any type. The franchisee at this location has been in touch with the guest to express his sincerest apologies and will continue to be in communication with her to resolve the issue. Additionally, the franchise will also retrain his team members to ensure IHOP’s level of service, particularly regarding guests with disabilities, is provided to all. For 60 years, IHOP and our franchisees have strived to create a warm and hospitable dining experience for all guests, and this incident is not reflective of that ongoing commitment.”