What started off as a normal Saturday in Hot Springs, Arkansas quickly devolved when a family sat down to eat at IHOP.
William Bancroft, three years old, who was born without arms and taught early on to feed himself with his feet, was craving pancakes that morning.
However, when they arrived at the chain restaurant, the treatment they received was appalling.
The way William has to eat is not a problem for the family, and had never been an issue for the restaurants they patron.
But when the Bancrofts went for breakfast at IHOP last weekend, William’s mother told KARK that the general manager said William could not sit on the table or touch the syrup containers with his feet, citing a health department issue.
“He’s three years old,” his mother Alexis said. “That’s all he knows. That’s what he was taught from therapy.”
Alexis explained to the manager that she’d washed her son’s feet in the restroom before their meal, then demanded to know whether she asks all of her customers if they’ve washed their hands before they touch the IHOP syrup containers.
"All he wanted was some pancakes,” Bancroft told KARK.com. Instead, the family wasn't served and “chose to leave for the way [the] child was treated,” according to what she said to Newsweek.
The mother mentioned other IHOP customers were disturbed by the way her son was treated— one family chose to leave in solidarity, though their food had just arrived, and another urged the kids at the table to touch the syrup dispensers without washing their hands.
“I did make it aware to everyone in the restaurant that my son was being discriminated for having no arms,” Bancroft shared in this since-deleted Facebook post that garnered viral support and was shared over 2,500 times:
Alexis Bancroft is feeling pissed off.
For the first time in three years my little precious boy was discriminated for not having arms and having to eat with his feet! While at IHOP on central here in Hot springs Arkansas, William was on the table coloring playing and waiting for his food when the general manager came over and told us he couldn’t be there because he can’t touch the syrup that was on the table! I as a protecting mother snapped back quick and asked what the difference was from hands to feet. She told me that she worked at first step and wasn’t trying to offend us, what does first step even have to do with the situation, just cause you work there doesn’t mean you understand children with disabilities or care for them. She proceeded to ask me if he walked. Yes my son walks you idiot! But I carried him in took him to the bathroom and washed his feet so he could eat and she said she didn’t see that happen. Do you go around and ask every customer if they washed there hands before they touch the syrup no you don’t! There was lots of words passed back and forth about the situation! Then the whole staff proceeded to talk about how my kids straw wrappers where on the floor and talk about my son. He is a three year old innocent child that does things different. Big shout out to the veteran that was there with two women that left when we did and stood up for my son. And there food had just got to there table and they left. Also to the family with the baseball players who when asked if the kids washed there hands and they replied no the dad passed the syrup around for every kid to touch the syrup! In the end we left without eating or paying for our drinks. I did make it aware to everyone in the restaurant that my son was being discriminated for having no arms and I wanted the corporate number which they could not provide because they said they didn’t have it. I hope karma gets you for what u did to my child!!!!!!!!
Gerneral Manager: Angie
Social media users were upset at the way the Bancrofts were treated.
As if any restaurant cleans the condiment bottles and menus ever! They are always sticky and disgusting. This poor boy was singled out for no reason and will carry that memory with him for the rest of his life. That person should not be a manager.— Beccar (@atweet2u) May 29, 2018
Other employees working at the Hot Springs IHOP that day even wrote to Alexis and voiced their disapproval for how the family was treated.
Despite the apologies, Alexis says the damage was done.
“The very next day, he didn’t want to sit on the table to eat. He wanted to sit in a chair, which he can’t really do,” an insecurity she says stemmed out of how he had been treated at the chain restaurant.
“Other people may think it’s not a big deal, but this is my child,” the mother told KARK. “I’m his advocate, and you’re not going to treat my kid like that.”
The franchise owner has since called Bancroft to apologize personally and has promised more training for employees who work with disabled customers.
IHOP President Darren Rebelez released a statement saying the restaurant chain does not tolerate discrimination:
“For 60 years, IHOP and our franchises have strived to create a warm and hospitable dining experience for all guests, and this incident is not reflective of that ongoing commitment.”
The manager of the Hot Springs location was reportedly placed on leave following Saturday’s incident.