Local News

Racism alleged after Pizza Inn coupon mix-up

Posted April 26, 2018 6:38 p.m. EDT
Updated April 26, 2018 7:22 p.m. EDT

— A Pizza Inn restaurant in Rocky Mount is defending itself against charges of racism after a manager refused to accept a coupon from a black customer but later accepted the same coupon from the black man's white roommate.

Link Alexander said he handed the coupon for a free buffet to an employee at the Pizza Inn at 1473 Hunter Hill Road on Monday, and the woman summoned an assistant manager.

"He looks at the card. He looks at me. He was like, 'So where did you get the card from?'" Alexander said Thursday, adding that his supervisor had given it to him.

The coupon stated, "Present this card at any participating Pizza Inn location." It also included a signature on a line marked "Presented by."

"It has to be signed by my manager, or my [district manager], and this is neither one of their signatures," Alexander said the assistant manager told him.

So, he walked out without any food.

"To go through an interrogation just for a $7.99, $8.99 buffet?" Alexander said. "It just doesn't make sense that I had to go through that."

A couple of hours later, his roommate, Rex Casey, took the same card to the restaurant himself. When he asked the server if he could use the coupon for a free meal, she invited him to sit down and help himself.

A seething Casey then asked to see the same assistant manager. He held the card in such a way as to cover the signature when he asked if such coupons were accepted.

"He was like, 'Oh yeah, that's not problem, etc., etc., and while he was agreeing to it, I took my hand off the coupon, Casey said. "As soon as he saw it, he recognized it.

"He immediately jumped into the same thing he told Link. 'The issue is I can't really read the signature. I can't tell whose signature that is. I can't make it out. I don't think the owners would allow me to accept it,'" Casey said.

Casey posted a video about the incident on Facebook, and it's drawn more than 32,000 views and numerous angry reactions.

Pizza Inn issued a statement noting that individual restaurants often create promotions that are valid only at a specific location.

"This particular restaurant did not recognize the coupon that was presented and did not accept it from either guest. Our employees were exercising caution, as customers have attempted to use fraudulent cards in the past," the statement said.

Casey disagreed with the notion that he was denied, saying he sat down with no questions asked.

"If we're checking coupons, we're checking everybody's coupons at the door," Alexander said. "If we're doing it, then it needs to be fair across the board."

Steve Stancil, the franchisee who owns the Pizza Inn on Hunter Hill Road, apologized to Alexander on Facebook and asked him to return to the restaurant for a free meal.

"We try to make our procedures clear on coupons but it does not always work," Stancil wrote, adding that he likely would have accepted the coupon. "I take full responsibility in that all our managers should be on the same page and obviously they were not."

He went on to say, "I believe if you look at our staff ... you would agree there is nothing racist about us."

Alexander responded on Facebook that he "cannot see myself patronizing or recommending your establishment" until policies are changed and Pizza Inn managers and staff receive diversity training.