Thursday 16 April 2009

Down and Out in a Pizza Chain

A well known pizza chain is the lastest organisation to suffer from a "social media quake" of sorts (check out the view from Twitter) - on this occasion, a couple of employees uploaded to YouTube a series of (what they claim to be) prank videos showing them doing disgusting things during food preparation. The company responded with its own YouTube announcement and the employees have now been fired and may face legal or criminal action.

Its very easy to blame social media for causing so much damage to this company's brand:

"The opportunities and freedom of the internet is wonderful. But it also comes with the risk of anyone with a camera and an internet link to cause a lot of damage"
But this whole episode actually reminds me of this quote from George Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London, from the time he was working in a hotel kitchen - he describes the filthy conditions behind the scenes:

"It was amusing to look round the filthy little scullery and think that only a double door was between us and the dining-room. There sat the customers in all their splendour--spotless table-cloths, bowls of flowers, mirrors and gilt cornices and painted cherubim; and here, just a few feet away, we in our disgusting filth. For it really was disgusting filth. There was no time to sweep the floor till evening, and we slithered about in a compound of soapy water, lettuce-leaves, torn paper and trampled food. A dozen waiters with their coats off, showing their sweaty armpits, sat at the table mixing salads and sticking their thumbs into the cream pots. The room had a dirty, mixed smell of food and sweat. Everywhere in the cupboards, behind the piles of crockery, were squalid stores of food that the waiters had stolen. There were only two sinks, and no washing basin, and it was nothing unusual for a waiter to wash his face in the water in which clean crockery was rinsing. But the customers saw nothing of this. There were a coco-nut mat and a mirror outside the dining-room door, and the waiters used to preen themselves up and go in looking the picture of cleanliness."
Thanks to the modern food and health regulations that didn't exist in Orwell's time, I don't think that pizza chain in question is any better or worse than any other similar commercial take away operation. But lets not kid ourselves. Do you think you really know what happens behind the scenes in any organisation? But is it worse that we know about it or worse that it happens at all?

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