Jollibee and ‘Jay Bee’: Losing my appetite

Kristine Sydney
'Instead, Jollibee decided to take the path of least resistance, illustrating what so many Filipinos already think is wrong with Philippines'

A week ago, a news story broke about how a man who used the pseudonym “Jay Bee” tricked a Jollibee delivery man into taking P200 (about $4) off his bill. Jollibee has a 20-minute delivery guarantee, which, if the order arrives late, the patron will receive 200 pesos in gift certificates “as goodwill.”  (READ: Jollibee: ‘Jay Bee’ fooled our delivery guy)

Though the delivery man had arrived on time, Jay Bee didn’t answer the building receptionist’s call until after a minute had lapsed, so that the delivery would arrive late. He boasted about his trick on social media, even flipping the bird in one of his photos. This cheat and bully is basking in his 15 minutes of notoriety.

In response, Jollibee has decided not to fine or sue Jay Bee for his fraudulence, saying instead that “it’s enough for us that [Jay Bee’s] wrong-doing was exposed.” (READ: Jollibee will not sue ‘Jay Bee’

In what I assume the corporation thought would come across as an efficient act of grace, Jollibee then said, “We trust that the public will treat our riders with the same courtesy, honesty, and respect that they deserve.” As it is written, the statement shows no accountability for protecting their employee’s dignity, safety, or salary. “We trust,” they say, which is a cousin to “we hope.”

Some netizens agree with Jollibee’s decision, asserting that it’s smart of Jollibee not to waste legal fees on a paltry amount and that publicly shaming Jay Bee is sufficient punishment.


Others suggest that he might be mentally ill, even though there is no medical proof of such. In a culture where “walang hiya (shameless)” is the most damning phrase, Jay Bee’s mortification is apparently contrapasso.
 

However, all these comments, which focus on Jay Bee’s arrogance or 200 pesos’ insignificance, miss the real tragic heart of this story: the invisible employee, whose role, voice, and salary are so small that we are quick to forget his side.

We do not even know his name.   

While P200 seems small, for many it is the equivalent of one day’s wages. Filipino employees nationwide and abroad risk life and limb so they can protect their salaries, yet we expect so little of our employers in protecting their rights. In spending time in the POEA waiting lounge over the last 14 years, I’ve scanned the logbooks and talked to fellow OFWs who leave for countries far away to do difficult and precarious jobs.  

Their refrain has been, “At least we’re getting paid.” We have OFWs, who refuse to leave war zones because they need the money.

We are used to hearing stories of family members who don’t take their contracted vacation days because they’re not sure if they’ll have a job to return to when they get back.

Domestic helpers tell narrative after narrative of being exploited abroad. Laborers settle for smaller pay. Wait-staff and storekeepers here will work for an insecure contract with little to no benefits, unsure if it’s going to be renewed after 6 months.

We are so accustomed to hearing these stories that they have become commonplace. Comparing P200 taken off of a bully’s bill seems like a molehill in comparison to the more painful, more urgent stories of other Filipino workers.

And yet, if we ignore smaller examples such as this Jollibee controversy, we prove that we are unable to care for our workers at all. If we cannot handle an injustice as relatively small as this Jollibee incident, how can workers expect to be taken care of and protected when their lives and livelihood are at risk?

Jollibee’s decision not to fine or sue Jay Bee is practical. After all, fining or suing someone because of P200 takes more time and money. As dean of the Ateneo School of Government Tony La Viña said: “After all he swindled Jollibee an amount of 200 pesos. There will probably be no prison time for that and certainly a very small fine.”

But, Jollibee and other fast-food franchises must also look in the mirror and reflect on the health and treatment of their workers. Jollibee has released an official statement saying that they do not charge gift certificates against their workers’ salaries – fine. Online, former employees tell a different story about taking dangerous shortcuts to make their deliveries in time.

Jollibee and other delivery services must think about the dangers of navigating an area like Metro Manila with a time limit, with factors beyond their control: weather, traffic, and, in this case, a customer’s vindictive tactic. Former employees talk about the difficulties of surviving on a tiny salary and challenging schedules. They, who are already vulnerable, are made even more helpless.

While Jollibee is not unique in its treatment of its workers, this beloved franchise could have been a leader in promoting fairer, more compassionate laborer practices by pursuing a fine or a case against Jay Bee and even changing their current policy.

It would have been an incredible opportunity for Jollibee, arguably the most popular Filipino brand, to lift disenchanted Filipinos’ spirits by showing them that the bad guy can’t get away and the innocent will be protected. They would have shown the Filipino people that there are tangible, quantifiable legal repercussions for cheating and lying. Jay Bee’s punishment, whether a hefty fine or a court case, would have been symbolic of Jollibee’s care of its employees.

Instead, Jollibee decided to take the path of least resistance, illustrating what so many Filipinos already think is wrong with Philippines: that the marginalized and poor don’t have a voice and that criminal behavior can be ignored or, in this case, rewarded. It happens all the time, Filipinos feeling ignored and weak in the face of those with more power. “Puwede na ‘yan. Bahala na (That can do. Whatever happens)” is a familiar line in the Philippines. “Nothing’s going to come of it, anyway” or as, La Viña put it, “But why bother? Why waste prosecutor’s and court’s time on this?”

Jollibee has to pick its battles, some netizens write, and this fight is neither big nor important enough to pursue it.

Jollibee’s decision to let things lie reflects the truth of that sentiment and I’ve lost my appetite.  

As a customer, I feel let down by an institution that I had trusted and had brought me joy. – Rappler.com 

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