A Toddler, a Cell Phone, and One Big South Philly-Style Brouhaha
UPDATE 2/12/2016 1:50pm: We watched the entire surveillance video of Francesca Depasquale’s 45-minute visit to B2 Cafe, and we call bullshit. For our full report on that video, click here.
We also got a copy of the video showing the woman who comes into the cafe and threatens the B2 Cafe barista with a bottle of spray cleaner. To view it, go here.
In most places in these United States of America, an unpleasant experience in a restaurant is forgotten by the next morning. Maybe it leads to a bad Yelp review. Maybe. But in South Philadelphia, where shoveled-out parking spots are protected by an unspoken promise of bodily harm and where conflicts sometimes take the form of the “I’m funny how … like I’m a clown?” argument in Goodfellas, things are handled much, much differently. And so we bring you the story of what heretofore will be known as The Cell Phone Incident at B2 Cafe.
On Tuesday evening, 26-year-old South Philly mom Francesca Depasquale visited Passyunk Avenue’s generally well-regarded B2 Cafe with her 3-year-old daughter, her sister and a friend.
The gals were sitting at a table, chatting about business and other subjects of zero interest to toddlers, and so Depasquale gave the girl a cell phone to keep her occupied, as 21st Century parents are wont to do. She played games. She listened to music. And the music, which was loud enough for others in the cafe to hear, was what prompted an employee to visit the table.
And that is where the undisputed facts of this story end.
According to a Facebook post that Depasquale made that evening, the female employee snatched the phone out of the toddler’s hands and said, “I don’t want to listen to your music right now!”
“Like, what?!!!!!” yelled Depasquale in her status update. “She’s fuckin’ 3 … I will never spend a fuckin’ penny in this place. This lady is lucky I was in such shock and din’t go off. I’m speechless.”
This being Facebook, a virtual vigilante army formed. The post was shared several hundred times, and people took to the cafe’s Yelp page as well as other review sites to express their outrage.
“Your staff is lucky they weren’t assaulted, as you assaulted a three year old,” wrote one irate Yelp user. “I’ll be boycotting B2 and I’ll be passing this story along to my friends as well as posting this review on multiple websites that u can’t delete..”
But B2 Cafe owner Nancy Trachtenberg says that her 7-year-old business is getting a raw deal here and that the facts are not as Depasquale alleges. According to Trachtenberg, the employee approached the table briefly and said, “You have to turn that down,” and then she walked away.
As the complaints grew in both number and volume and as the cafe’s phone was ringing off the hook with unidentified callers giving the employees some what fer, Trachtenberg checked her surveillance camera for footage of the incident. According to Trachtenberg, the group’s visit lasts about 45 minutes, and she says they stayed for a while after the server approached the table. She adamantly denies that the employee touched the child or the phone, and she released this clip that she says documents the server’s only interaction with the table:
She also published the following statement on the B2 Cafe Facebook page:
B2 Cafe respectfully submits this video clip for your review. We hope that this clarifies to the public that nothing rude or unprofessional transpired yesterday. Please note that the interaction was less than 2 seconds and that the employee touched nothing. Please feel free to direct any further questions to me, should any details need clarification.
It’s a little hard to see exactly what went down in that video, and the angry masses were not quelled by Trachtenberg’s evidentiary submission. “This proves nothing,” insisted one commenter. “How do we know this is even when it happened? Video is obviously edited.”
Trachtenberg retorts that she only published that part of the video, because at the time, she considered it to be the only relevant section, since it was, she insists, the only time the server went over to the group. She says that she’ll consider releasing the party’s full visit but that she has no idea how to download a 45-minute video from her system and onto the Internet.
As for the clip she did release, a quick Zapruder-like analysis seems to indicate that the employee did not touch the phone at that time:
In fact, after the employee walks away, the woman sitting with her back to the camera extends her hand toward where the phone would be, but then, sadly, the video cuts off:
In the end, it turns out that no one is quite sure what happened here. When we spoke with Depasquale on Thursday morning, she admitted that no one at the table actually, you know, saw the server touch the child or the phone. “It all happened so quick,” she says. “She was listening to a Pink song. It wasn’t even a cursing song. And all of a sudden this lady comes up, gets in her face and says, ‘I’m not in the mood for her music.’ As I looked over, I see the phone on the table, and I asked, ‘Did she just take that out of your hands?’ ‘Yes, mommy.'”
So why did this erupt online instead of being quietly resolved in a conversation between adults? Depasquale said she was in shock and reacted by posting her message on Facebook, but the next day, she did talk to Trachtenberg on the phone, after much of the online damage had been done. Alas, that conversation went nowhere fast. Depasquale characterizes Trachtenberg’s end of the call as “rude” and “arrogant,” while Trachtenberg says that Depasquale and her friend (it was a three-way call) had no interest in talking sense. “They both started screaming at me in tandem,” she recalls. “It was a classic shitshow of a three-way. A lot of screaming and name calling.”
But wait, there’s more!
According to Trachtenberg, shortly after Depasquale posted her rant on Facebook, another woman — not one from the table — came in and demanded to know who the perpetrator was. “When she figured out who it was, she grabbed a bottle of spray cleaner and threatened to bleach her,” Trachtenberg alleges. “My male employee physically ushered her out.”
The cops were called, and the Philadelphia Police Department confirms that a report was filed, but they couldn’t offer specifics other than that there was a complaint made by a B2 Cafe employee of a verbal altercation. Trachtenberg says that the police have surveillance video of the woman in question.
(Philly Mag has dutifully viewed a copy of that surveillance video, which Trachtenberg asked us not to share. We can confirm a woman comes into the cafe and threatens the female employee with a bottle of spray cleaner and generally screams her head off, while the female employee never breaks a sweat and a guy reading nearby barely flinches.)
Depasquale says she has no idea who the woman was — after all, the post was on Facebook for all the world to see. But she insists that she harbors no ill will toward B2 Cafe. “I don’t want nothing to happen to her business,” she says, adding that she would like to receive an apology, something that doesn’t seem like it’s coming. “All I know is, my friends and I won’t be going there anymore. If something’s bothering you, you say something to the adults — not to my child. It’s as simple as that.”
It never is.
Follow @VictorFiorillo on Twitter.