Sunday, April 17, 2005

DOUGLAS, Ariz. — Denny’s has apologized to the U.S. Border Patrol for an insulting receipt given to an agent here after he had ordered a grilled chicken sandwich to go.

The receipt, meant for the cook and not the customer, was typed into a cash register by the restaurant’s shift manager and inadvertently given to the agent when he went to pay for the $7.50 order. The receipt described the order as for the “Border Ass Whole.”

The shift manager, who was not identified, has been fired. Officials at Denny’s corporate headquarters described the manager as a “rogue” employee, adding that the nationwide restaurant chain “supports and welcomes all Border Patrol personnel and their families.”

But Border Patrol Chief Michael Nicely, who heads the agency’s Tucson sector, which includes the 450 agents at the Douglas station, said he was “outraged” by the incident.

He said the receipt that was inadvertently given to one of his agents showed “unmitigated gall” by the shift manager, and he personally called Denny’s headquarters to complain.

“I am appalled that employees of an eating establishment that is frequented on a regular basis by Border Patrol agents would conspire to degrade them or take actions that imply that they will receive a lower grade of service or quality of food,” Chief Nicely said. “We take this very seriously.”

A number of Border Patrol agents assigned to the Douglas station often frequent Denny’s here for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The Douglas area is one of the most active crossing points for illegal aliens headed north and has become one of the most violent areas for the agents.

After he left the restaurant, the unidentified agent described the incident in an e-mail he sent to all the other Douglas agents, several of whom later contacted the city’s daily newspaper, the Douglas Dispatch, to complain about an anti-Border Patrol sentiment.

The agents suggested a boycott of Denny’s unless “corrective measures” were taken. Shortly after the newspaper was contacted, Denny’s fired the shift manager.

The owner of the Denny’s restaurant here, Eddie Rivera, who also owns the local Kentucky Fried Chicken and Taco Bell, called the matter “an isolated incident,” adding that it did not reflect “how the Denny’s brand or the owner of Denny’s in Douglas feels about law enforcement.”

Meanwhile, the California-based Friends of the Border Patrol said it will pursue a nationwide boycott of the restaurant chain despite the manager’s termination. Andy Ramirez, the organization’s chairman, noted that Denny’s has had long-standing discrimination problems and called the Douglas incident “a new form of discrimination.”

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