A cafe in Sanson, Manawatu, is under fire on social media for the way it addressed a customer's request for a change table in the men's toilets.
A customer wrote to Viv's Kitchen on Facebook suggesting the addition of a change table in the men's toilet only to receive a less than positive response from the business.
"Hi there! We love your cafe, and often stop on our way to our Turangi holiday home from Wellington," Rebecca Williams wrote in a message to the cafe. "Just some feedback - please consider putting a change table in the men's toilets. It is dad's responsibility too to change their baby's nappy, and not just fall back on mum. It sounds pedantic but it's a super important way of messaging that looking after our children's needs is a parental responsibility, not just a mum's job."
Williams sent the message on October 21 but got no response so followed up a few days later. This time, she received a reply:
"The reason for the delay in a response is due the fact that we have a lot more on our plate to worry about than another change table being put in the men's toilet," Viv's Kitchen cafe replied. "I have however asked numerous people about their opinion on this and have to say your request is very much in the minority.
"At Viv's Kitchen we endeavour to create an atmosphere of times gone by when mums were the ones who changed their babies, however fathers are more than welcome to use the changing table in the ladies if they request to do so," the cafe added.
Popular New Zealand writer and blogger Emily Writes shared a screenshot of the conversation.
"'Times gone by' Good lord that's a new f******g spin on 'In my day' what a load of s**t. Good on you Rebecca for saying something. Ugh. Definitely file this in - people who are happy to take money from parents and also be pricks to them when it suits ...This was such a polite request and they not only replied in a s****y way, they also shared it on their Facebook page further have a go at Rebecca," she posted along with the screenshot.
The vast majority of Facebook users who weighed in on the issues disagree with the cafe's response, calling it "ghastly" and "disgusting".
"I doubt most men would feel comfortable asking to use the women's bathroom to change their child. Women wouldn't feel comfortable using a men's bathroom to change their child. Men are parents, not just weekend warriors," someone said.
The cafe also took to its Facebook page to gather people's opinions on the issue.
"To be honest we can't believe what some expect from us. We have a brand new changing table at a cost of $500 in the womens toilet, but obviously that is not enough for some," Viv's Kitchen posted in a post that has since been deleted.
The cafe considers Williams' request part of the "PC world we live in", although it does not clarify how.
"That's not the only thing that bugs us, it's the PC world we live in and are expected to conform to!! Why does what this woman believe in, be the way we are expected to run our business. As we say, we base our cafe on the way things use to be ... before the world went mad and so damn PC."
"I too am a regular passing through customer but I'm pretty disappointed to see the way you are publicly naming and now everyone shaming a customer," a customer replied.
"I'm appalled that you are not willing to support fathers in their role as fathers in current times by hiding behind your 'trying to create an atmosphere of times gone by'. A simple thing as a change table or unisex toilet allows us to move forward from the misogynistic parts of those "times gone by" we as society should be moving on from," someone else said.
"I think it's reasonable to make suggestions, a change table is about $100 and as a customer I would have contributed if cost is an issue. I don't like the negative way in which Viv's has publicly posted the exchange and asked for opinions when it's clear from the comments you want people to criticise the poster. Your response of supporting a 'time gone by' where only woman change children is really disappointing. it doesn't represent the values of NZ now and I thought you were about celebrating the best of the past in the here and now," someone else said.
Social media 'at its worst'
Contacted by the Herald, Viv's Kitchen co-owner Kevan Withers said he and his wife pour their heart and soul into the business and, while they did not expect this "over the top" reaction on social media, they will "stick to their guns".
"We are honest and upright and we speak from our hearts," the cafe owner said.
"We are being told what to do by everyone. We are going to run our business as we see fit," he said.
Withers, who owns the cafe with his wife Viv, says the couple has recently invested heavily in renovating the toilets, including the $500 change table in the women's toilet, that any parent is welcome to use.
The cafe also includes an outdoor playground for children, which Withers says was another big investment made for customers. If any dad visits the cafe and needs to change a nappy, Withers says it'd be a quick matter of asking a staff member to use the toilet with the change table.
"We are not going to be led by a minority," he said.
"The cafe is themed on yesteryear. We don't have fettuccine or avocado. Our customers are not millennials.
"My wife and I will stick to our guns. There is a facility there, there is a change table."
Withers remembers those "times gone by" when his mum would change her children's nappies in the back of the car if needed be, while the family was out. "Now we have to supply the facility and we have to clean up the 's**t' and take the nappies away," he says.
The cafe owner says that, while he could have handled the customer feedback differently, that is not how they operate. "We speak from the heart".
He adds that the business donates to the "I Have a Dream" charitable trust. "People can paint us as bad buggers but we are not."
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