Cronut Inventor Shows How Not to Apologize for a Mouse Infestation

Slate's Culture Blog
April 8 2014 4:38 PM

Cronut Inventor Shows How Not to Apologize for a Mouse Infestation

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Not pictured: "several hundred mouse droppings."

Photo by Ari Perilstein/Getty Images for Barneys New York

Shockwaves went through the New York food scene late last week when Dominique Ansel Bakery—birthplace of the Cronut and the chocolate-chip cookie shot—was shut down by the Department of Health for a mouse infestation. After a customer posted a video on YouTube featuring a mouse skittering across the floor from underneath a rack of fresh baked goods, a team of inspectors showed up and ordered the bakery to close until they took steps to address the problem. (Although the inspectors didn’t find any live mice on site, they did find “several hundred mouse droppings,” according to Gothamist.)

Ansel’s team worked quickly, passed a re-inspection, and re-opened this morning. All’s well that ends well, right? Wrong. The bakery’s public response has been astonishingly tone-deaf, pointing fingers at everyone and everything except for Dominique Ansel Bakery. Some highlights from a public letter written by “The Dominique Ansel Bakery Team,” published by Grubstreet yesterday:

In the past year, we have woken up daily knowing that our success has made us vulnerable to more malicious attacks than any small, one-shop business should ever have to suffer. But we refuse to believe that we live in a world where success turns people into targets of spite and contempt. …
Looking forward, our hope is that honest, hard-working businesses should not have to face cruel and sensationalized attacks that are not framed in the proper context. And systems should not be abused to single-out any one business over another. We urge our customers to seek deeper details and answers before jumping to conclusions.
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The bakery staff also claim that they’re “deeply sorry for any disappointment that we may have caused you” and promise to “take every chance and criticism as a lesson learned and work harder to rise to the expectations you have of us and that we have of ourselves.” But the overall message of the letter is that Dominique Ansel Bakery blames haters—i.e., the person who posted the YouTube video, the customers who reacted to the YouTube video with disgust, and the Department of Health—for their problems.

It’s perfectly understandable that Ansel’s team might feel frustrated by the experience. Running a small business is difficult; the Department of Health has been known to apply rules unevenly; and anyone who lives in New York knows that pest infestations can be very difficult to eradicate (and often have nothing to do with how clean you keep your place).

But the place for complaints about how life isn’t fair is behind closed doors. In public, businesses whose violations of the health code have been caught on camera should release statements that contain nothing but expressions of remorse, acknowledgments of responsibility, and promises to do better. When you’re trying to prove to customers that you value their health and happiness, accusing them of “malicious attacks” is, to say the least, counterproductive.

L.V. Anderson is a Slate assistant editor. She edits Slate's food and drink sections and writes Brow Beat's recipe column, You're Doing It Wrong. 

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