VENICE, Fla. -- A 73-year-old veteran says he was fired from a Cracker Barrel restaurant for giving a needy man a few condiment packets and a corn muffin.
He admits it was against the restaurant’s rules, but says he thinks it was the right thing to do.
For the past three plus years Joe Koblenzer has put on his brown and yellow Cracker Barrel apron and greeted those who come in to the Venice location.
“It’s a fun job. A job really suited to me,” Koblenzer said.
Two weeks ago 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,” Koblenzer 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,” Koblenzer said.
That gesture apparently cost Koblenzer his 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,’” Koblenzer 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 cup of coffee to woman. He claims she actually paid for it.
Rules are rules.
“It’s a rule. They legally can do this because I did break the rule,” Koblenzer said.
Now the Vietnam vet who was trying to supplement his social security is the one down on his luck.
“Hurt me? Oh yeah it has,” Koblenzer said.
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 page.
While some are saying it’s the company’s right the establishment’s reviews have plummeted with more than 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,” Koblenzer said.
Koblenzer says he’s sad over the situation and misses the regulars and employees he’s gotten to know. Earning the maximum amount of stars on his apron for performance achievement and responsibility.
“You know what? At 73 I was really proud of doing this. I was really proud of getting those stars,” Koblenzer said.
He says, yes it was against the rules and yes they have a right to let him go. But morally it still feels 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. Ha,” Koblenzer said.
Joe says he is looking for a new job but not quite sure yet what he will do.
A Cracker Barrel spokesperson provided the following statement to WWSB:
“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.”