A 73-year-old veteran said he was fired from a Cracker Barrel restaurant for giving a needy man a few condiment packets and a corn muffin.
Joe Koblenzer admits it was against the restaurant's rules, but said he thinks it was the right thing to do.
Koblenzer had put on his brown and yellow Cracker Barrel apron and greeted those who came to the Venice location.
"It's a fun job," said Koblenzer. "A job really suited to me."
Two weeks ago the 73-year-old said a man who looked like he might be homeless came through the doors.
"He looked a little needy," said Koblenzer. "He asked if I had any mayonnaise and some tarter sauce. He said he was going to cook a fish."
The man who's job it is to be friendly obliged.
"I got it for him. As I walked out, I put a corn muffin in," said Koblenzer.
That gesture apparently cost him his job.
"The general manager called me in and said he had some bad news for me," said Koblenzer. "'Joe we are going to have to let you go.'"
He admits he's been written up before. Two years ago for getting a fountain drink on the job and a second time for giving a cup of coffee to a woman. He claimed she actually paid for it. Rules are rules.
"It's a rule. They legally can do this because I did break the rule," said Koblenzer.
Now the Vietnam veteran who was trying to supplement his Social Security is the one down on his luck.
"Hurt me? Oh yeah it has," he said.
The debate over the seriousness of the event and the subsequent firing has started a fire storm online.
In recent days the story has gotten out on Facebook. While some said it's the company's right, the establishment's reviews have plummeted with more than 30 negative comments about the firing.
"I feel badly. It shines a bad light on the company," said Koblenzer. "I would not want that on any company, but it happened."
Koblenzer said he's sad over the situation and misses the regulars and employees he's gotten to know while earning the maximum amount of stars on his apron for performance, achievement and responsibility.
"You know what? At 73 I was really proud of doing this," he said. "I was really proud of getting those stars."
He said it was against the rules and they have a right to let him go, but morally it still feels like it was the right thing to do.
"I don't think I will be working for a corporation again, so I don't know if that will ever come up," said Koblenzer.
A Cracker Barrel spokesman provided a statement to WWSB:
"During the time he was employed, he violated company's policies regarding consuming food without paying or giving away free food, on five separate occasions.
"Mr. Koblenzer received multiple couselings and written warnings reminding him about the company's policies and the consequences associated with violating them.
"Cracker Barrel is grateful for and honors Mr. Koblenzer's service to our country as we honor all service men and women and their families."
Cracker Barrel is based in Lebanon, TN.
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