On 25 March 2017, a video clip went viral in India. The video was taken inside a Cafe Coffee Day outlet in Jaipur. Cafe Coffee Day is a large chain of cafes in India. The video shows an ice cream freezer and a male voice could be heard saying that the freezer contains cockroaches and the staff had placed menus on the glass-top to hide it. Then the camera points at a female staffer who is also seen filming with a phone. The male voice says that this particular staff member had shouted at him and told him to stop complaining. At this point, the female staffer rushes towards the camera and the resounding sound of a slap is heard. She could be heard saying, “Why did you take my picture?”
The video was shared and reshared several times on the social media. People complained about the overpriced beverages served at Cafe Coffee Day and their unhygienic cafes. Several vowed that they would boycott the company. Soon mainstream media picked up the story. After the issue was forced into the spotlight, the company responded with the following statement:
“This incident has been brought to our notice and is currently under thorough investigation. The lady team member referred here hails from rural Orissa and is part of the programme run by NGO Gram Tarang to uplift weaker sections of society and girl child specially. She underwent rigorous training on joining us to become a team member and was posted in Jaipur. As per lady team member, she had objected to her video being taken by the customer and her repeated requests were also not heard, thus invading her privacy. Till the time thorough investigation is being done, lady team member has been kept off duty.”
The statement is quite sly because of two reasons. First the company tries to shift the focus from how unhygienic its outlets are to how its social welfare programmes are benefiting the society. Then instead of apologizing of the aggrieved customer, they accuse him of violating the waitress’s privacy. Given the current public sensitivity towards crimes against women in India, this is a very clever attempt to put the ball in their court.
Soon afterwards it was reported that the woman had filed a sexual harassment complaint against the man. In the complaint, she claimed that the man and his friend had threatened to grope her and called her a bitch and a slut. Now the social media has split on the issue whether the woman was actually sexual harassed or not. The fact that there were roaches in the fridge and a man was assaulted has almost been forgotten. The man who is the victim in this case has now tweeted that companies’ lawyers are bullying him so that he would withdraw the cases. He has also tweeted to the Prime Minister’s Office’s Twitter handle requesting intervention in this case of blatant misuse of sexual harassment laws.