The six of us were returning from IAFP in San Diego in 2002.
It wasn’t a fun trip, and after returning I proclaimed, that’s it, we’re getting a divorce.
It was a mess, and we helped clean up.
We all have those stories — maybe not the divorce part — but Imagine if that happened in a restaurant?
It did to an Australian family at The Glasshouse Bistro on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.
Ms Harnett wrote that her son became ill and vomited on the floor while they were waiting for their food.
She said she didn’t expect staff to clean it up, but she was left shocked when she had to pay extra to do it herself.
“The lady in charge comes over after we’d finished eaten and said, I heard you had a little accident. The standard charge in any restaurant is $30 if you want us to finish cleaning up.”
Ms Harnett said she mopped the floor herself and claims when she went to pay her bill was increased by $10 as someone had to disinfect the mop.
“I was taken aback,” she told The Chronicle.
“They could have shown a bit of compassion.”
According to the publication a spokesman from the eatery said: “The incident caused us a loss of income because that section for the restaurant wasn’t able to be used for a period of time.”
The restaurant reportedly acknowledges the situation would have been embarrassing for the family, and that it was an unfortunate situation for both parties.
“We thought at the time that our nominal charge of $10 was fair considering we had to allocate a staff member to clean up the mess to our satisfaction after they left – to make sure the area was properly sterilised.”
The spokesperson reportedly said the cost to the restaurant was more than $10 and the staff member who sterilised the area after the family left felt unwell and had to sit outside.
“If we were given that set of circumstances again, we probably wouldn’t charge $10 but just accept it as our lot,” the spokesperson reportedly said.
In response to the news, the Sunshine Coast Daily asked other restaurants of their policy and found many were surprised by the bistro’s decision to charge a customer extra for cleaning after her child vomited on the premises.
Dion Spadaro, general manager of The Boat Shed at Cotton Tree, was shocked to hear that a Montville bistro had charged a customer for the loss of space and staff time while the mess was cleaned up.
“It’s not something that we would do. It’s not like we don’t have buckets and cleaning equipment,” Mr Spadaro said.
“If customers make a mess in the toilet, we clean that up. If someone makes a mess elsewhere, we clean that up, that’s what we do.”
Gavin Murray, of Murray’s Cafe, at Cotton Tree, said there was “no way in the world” he would charge a fee for cleaning up after a child had vomited at his business.
“On the weekend, we had a mum whose little girl was sick at the table. She made it to the toilets but must have made a bit of a mess. The mum was very apologetic and we said it’s not a problem,” Mr Murray said
“We ran out, grabbed the mop and bucket and between us, got it done and got back to work.
“We’ve all been there, we’ve all got kids.
“There’s no way we would charge someone for their child being sick. It’s something that no-one can predict. You just deal with it.”
Michael Mulhearne, the owner of Tides Waterfront Dining at Caloundra, said the restaurant business was about customer service and he would not charge a fee to clean up after a customer.
“I understand it but I wouldn’t do it,” he said.
“They are going to lose that customer for life, they have lost a heap of other customers. They are not going to get anything good out of it except for their name in the paper.”
Another restaurant figure, who declined to be named, was also surprised at the fee.
“We would never do that in our restaurant. If the mum helped clean up, even better, but we would never charge them,” she said.
Five people shared their thoughts with the Sunshine Coast Daily on cleaning up after unfortunate incidents involving bodily fluids:
- Andrew Hebron said his work in public transport exposed him to some unforgettable things.
“Let me tell you about cleaning up other peoples’ mess,” he said.
“Name an orifice and I’ll paint you a picture.”
Mr Hebron said making a mess was an unfortunate consequence of life.
“We eat, we poo and sometimes things don’t go to plan in between … and out it all comes to much fanfare (in my case) and colour,” he said.
“I have had people offer to clean up their mess and very reluctantly decline, because I’m the one in charge.
“I’m the one with the keys. I’m the one who will get it done in short order and put out the yellow cone.”
- Miranda King: “I work in a chemist and every time a child vomits or wees, which is disgusting, we are the ones who clean it. While dry retching.”
- Bev Wilson: “I work at a school as a cleaner and we always have to clean up vomit.”
- Alicia Williams: “I clean up my kids vomit at the shops.”
- Jenna Lubbock: “I work at Woolworths and I clean it up as well as feces and wee.”
You can earn some credibility holding back a woman’s hair while she vomits; you can lose credibility when a 2-year-old vomits all over the car seat, and then while attempting to clean it up, you vomit in response, like in Stand By Me (see below).
I’ve done both.
Researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control investigated a 2009 outbreak on a cruise ship and concluded infected passengers were significantly more likely to have an ill cabin mate, and to have resided or dined on the deck level where a vomiting incident had occurred during boarding.
That’s right: someone barfed while passengers were boarding the ship and just watching and trying to contain that little bit of throw-up that just happened in your mouth was a statistically significant risk factor.
Questionnaires about when people did or did not seek medical care, hygiene practices, and possible norovirus exposure were placed in every cabin after the outbreak began. The ship had 1,842 passengers on board, and 83 percent returned the questionnaires. Of the 15 percent of respondents who met the case definition for acute gastroenteritis, only 60 percent had sought medical care on the ship.
Less than 1 per cent of the crew reported illness, and their low attack rate may have been due to the few crew members who had direct contact with passengers. This included separate sleeping and dining areas and alternate passages for boarding and exiting the ship.
"Cruise line personnel should discourage ill passengers from boarding their ships," according to study author Mary Wikswo, MPH, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Once on board, passengers and crew who become ill should report to the ship’s medical center as soon as possible. These quick actions are crucial in preventing the introduction and spread of norovirus on cruise ships and allow ship personnel to take immediate steps to prevent the spread of illness."
What I conclude, based on this and other studies, including our own, is that telling people to wash their hands has almost no effect — and that the best way to control the spread of norovirus – on cruise ships, in restaurants, in schools – is to break the infection cycle because these noroviruses are crazy infective: stay home, isolate yourself, tie your hair in a bun, and barf away.