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Hangry Hippocrite!: Man Sues White Castle Over Booth Size

September 13, 2011

I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching recently, reflectively looking back on my time writing this blog while listening to “Moby” and having deep conversations with close friends, and have decided to make some important changes to the focus of the blog. This will begin next week (and I’ll explain what the changes are later on), but for now, let’s get back to nonsense as usual!

The big hype on the black hole known as the internets recently has been concerning a 64 year old, 290 pound man suing one of his most favorite establishments, White Castle, because of difficulties he has with their seating arrangements. Let’s read, shall we?

Even though we live in a supersized world, bigger is not always better. One devoted White Castle customer is suing the restaurant chain because he can’t fit into the restaurant’s booths. Martin Kessman, who weighs 290 pounds, complained to management for more than two years after repeatedly knocking his knee into the tables’ metal supports. After the 64-year-old New York stockbroker sent a series of letters of complaint to the chain, he received what he called condescending responses. White Castle sent him free hamburger coupons and promised that it would expand its booth sizes. But the booths were never changed and Kessman is now taking his case to federal court. He is suing for bigger chairs and unspecified damages because he says the eatery is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. (He compares himself to pregnant women and the handicapped.) The lawsuit, however, has not put an end to Kessman’s love of mini burgers. Now, instead of going to White Castle himself, he sends his wife.

Classy classy move, sir. On so many levels: having the nerve to complain you can’t get into a fast food restaurant booth when you weigh 290 pounds, then comparing yourself to a pregnant and/or handicapped person, then suing the company after they already sent you free hamburger coupons (what more could you ever possibly want!), then sending your wife to do your dirty work for you.  Now, of course this left me wondering who exactly this gorgeous specimen of a man could be. Take it away, Martin!

The Man With A Plan (to kill himself with hamburger consumption?)

You know, this weekend I spent a lot of time discussing what I like to call “First World Problems (FWP)” (example: I shlepped my laptop onto the Megabus and then the internet wasn’t working…rough life, right? FWP) and this is most definitely one of them. You have eaten too many hamburgers to fit into the booth where you order said hamburgers and so you sue THEM for larger seating situations. Seriously? I really hope that there’s intelligent life on other planets, because this one is fading fast…

Congrats to Martin for being our most recent Hangry Hippocrite! There really is no question about this, right? He’s clearly hangry (need a reminder of the very scientific definition?) because he can’t get his White Castle fix himself, and he’s clearly a hippocrite because….oh you figure it out yourself.

I’ve decided to leave you with a very personal photo (NSFW…NSFL? Not safe for life…) of the one time I ever visited a White Castle in St. Louis, Missouri (and have regretted it for the rest of my life). Please don’t ask me to explain this picture, just soak it in like Martin and his beloved hamburgers.

What Happens at White Castle, Stays at White Castle

(Image courtesy of BuzzFeed…addictive like White Castle apparently is)

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. September 13, 2011 6:04 pm

    Its pathetic that you can sue for not being able to fit into the white castle booths and that white castle will most likely spend millions of dollars widening their booths, while it would be ‘ludicrous’ to sue white castle for making disgusting food. What is this life? What is this America?

  2. September 13, 2011 6:48 pm

    I was there at one point in my life; i didn’t expect the world to change for me
    http://fatthenfitnow.wordpress.com/2011/09/13/i-was-martin-kessman-2/

  3. Creamonina permalink
    September 13, 2011 7:32 pm

    I actually don’t think this man is super out of line. 290 pounds is not really THAT much for a grown man to weigh (esp a tall one), and I think its is totally plausible based on this picture that a pregnant woman might not fit into one of those booths. Fat people, just like pregnant people, have just as much right to eat at white castle as anyone else, even if, as you postulate, someone is fat because they eat at white castle. This man seems mildly annoying to me – If you think this man is annoying for suing that makes sense to me. But if you think he is annoying because he is fat and how dare he ask to fit in a restaurants booths because he did this to himself, well that’s another – and i think a not fair nor comprehensive way to look at being fat. We cant only have compassion for fat people who are fat quietly – that just feels like pity to me, another way to say that being fat is disgusting and shameful.

  4. Sexy Curmudgeon permalink
    September 14, 2011 4:11 am

    I am also a bit surprised at Hangry Hippo’s tone in this article. I feel like the idea of discrimination based on weight often comes up on this blog. I have also seen you write in the past, and I fully agree, that people refuse to even open up the possibility of calling obesity a sickness or disease because they do not/will not acknowledge the psychological components of overeating are doing a disservice to overweight people. I think we are similarly being unfair if we start analyzing disability or the need for special accommodations based on how someone became that way. I agree, it’s not FUN and it doesn’t seem FAIR that our justice system would accommodate a person who is stuffing himself full of hamburgers to be accommodated/given easier access to continue doing it, but why do we feel this way? It’s because we assume he brought it upon himself. But what about people in wheelchairs? How do I know that guy in a wheelchair wasn’t recklessly driving drunk all the time and running into little kids? Ok, that is an extreme example, but judging any less privileged class (even in our privileged first world) based on whether or not we think they “deserve” help can quickly become problematic.

  5. September 14, 2011 4:53 pm

    As part of my blog revamping process, I am going to make a concerted effort to reply to comments. In theory, you’re both right: I do believe that weight discrimination is out of control in our society and I do believe that obesity can and should often be viewed as a psychological disorder as much as a physical one. But! both of these are exactly why I took the stance in this article that I did. By making a public spectacle such as this where he is putting on display unhealthy eating habits and claiming that it is “extremely embarrassing…to have to experience [not being able to fit into the booth-style seating] in front of a restaurant of customers” while simultaneously creating a media frenzy over his lawsuit (look at the now extremely public photos he has provided of evidence!) is just downright hypocritical and upsetting. I realize that 290 pounds may not seem like a lot for a grown man, and I have said over and over again that I do not focus on numbers but on health…does this seem like a healthy 290 pounds? That even after experiencing such shame over not being able to eat at White Castle, he still continues to incorporate its food as a regular part of his daily life? This is the psychological component of weight that I am so focused on: when you are leading an indisputably unhealthy life and continue these practices despite all evidence pointing to the fact that this is contributing to making weight an issue of unhealthiness…expanding the booths in this fast food chain would be feeding into the unhealthy mindset fueling an unhealthy physicality. I appreciate this discussion, but stick by my stance on this one.

  6. Creamonina permalink
    September 14, 2011 7:13 pm

    If the booths he wanted to make bigger were at a raw natural foods restaurant that served balanced meals (or whatever you would call a healthy restaurant), or if he was maybe just a really really tall guy with long legs but was thin and in shape, it seems like youre saying you wouldnt have a problem with him suing. Experiencing shame over not fitting in certain places is a very real and shitty thing that fat, bigger, disabled people have to experience on a daily basis, and ALL restaurants should have booths that accommodate people of all sizes. It is a totally outrageous assertion to say only healthy restaurants should be required to fit people of all sizes or only skinny people should eat fast food. I feel like wanting him to not make “public spectacle” of this has to do with wanting him to be fat/unhealthy quietly, which as i explained before I have a problem with. He may not be recognizing unhealthy eating habits, you may even find him annoying, but saying that he personally doesnt get to call a restaurant out on an able-based discrimination that they are perpetuating because of HIS size (or his unhealthiness) is discrimination and shaming.

    If we are to create a world in which obesity is understood comprehensively and compassionately, as more than just the fault of an individual for being a glutton, it is important that we steer away from shaming individuals and talk about this from a cultural perspective. You can call out companies or vendors of food for encouraging/brainwashing the eating of their shitty/unhealthy food for capitalist gain, but shaming individuals for unhealthiness/fatness is not cool. (And further, I think many people in this movement hide behind hating unhealthiness as a way to condone fat-phobia. We don’t just have the authority to decide who is unhealthy if we have seen a picture of them or even if we know parts of their eating habits/lifestyle. That’s not our place.)

  7. September 14, 2011 7:58 pm

    To be honest I am a bit confused as to what kind of action Creamonina’s commentary would allow for.

    – On the point regarding all restaurants should have booths that accommodate people of all sizes – I wonder if thinner individuals, or children would be able to reach or even be comfortable at plus size tables. There is a practical matter at stake here about human beings coming in different sizes and the impossibility of accommodating all of them because as soon as you accommodate someone at one end of the spectrum you detract from being able to accommodate someone from the other end. Furthermore, if the solution is to create a few plus size tables the shame factor you are rightly concerned about increases ten-fold.

    -Individual vs. societal or more over corporate – In my perspective the reason that this story is so infuriating is the sequencing of events and non events. My personal frustration with his actions is that I think it scapegoats the problem. It seems to me that there is something more than just able-based discrimination going on here and in general the sound bite that equates obesity as solely a disability I believe scapegoats the very real health crisis that we face and does a massive disservice to those who are victims of this health crisis. What I see as the underlying problem of this scenario is that we market unhealthy food to low income America. This is a massive societal problem and people make damn good money perpetuating it. It is totally understandable to me that this man wants his cut and frankly I think that White Castle should pay for this man’s medical bills. In my opinion there is an element of making the booths larger that I believe only perpetuates the problem that White Castle food is unhealthy and condones its normatively. We have come to rely on the gods of medicine to fix the corporate abuses of our food industry and this is just wrong.

    I think this discourse on individual responsibility is a further scapegoat to divert attention to the fact that this is an industrial complex. An individual who is forced to work a certain lifestyle, who has certain and limited economic means, who only has access to certain types of food that then lead to health problems equals a systemic problem and not an individual one. However, I do not think that the “Fat is Beautiful” slogan, that the yes the more pressing problem for White Castle is to accommodate plus size and not use better ingredients and sustainable methods is what will ameliorate this epidemic. This looks like a big fat desperate scapegoat and my heart goes out to this man and his struggle. If this reality of the situation where one where the majority of Americans really had the means to make a personal choice about what food they put into their body then I believe your arguments would resonate much more deeply.

  8. Creamonina permalink
    September 15, 2011 4:20 am

    In general, i dont really think it makes sense to have sized seating/table options in really any situation (transportation, benches etc) – it always either wastes space or doesnt fully accommodate someone, right? So just have benches or chairs without dividers that arent attached to the ground. Fits everyone, otherizes no one, makes the most practical use of space!

  9. September 15, 2011 3:48 pm

    It just dawned on me the reason why fast food restaurants look the way they do. I read this book about McDonalds in Asian countries and how their tactics of uncomfortable seating and fluorescent lighting that generally discourages any kind of lingering in the restaurant was not working as well in countries like China who associated food with rice to be snacks and therefore McDonalds as a snack place like a tea house where one lingers for hours. In light of this it seems completely antithetical to fast foods ethic of discomfort to do things like be accommodating. The deeper you dig the more dirt you find.

  10. September 15, 2011 3:49 pm

    food without rice*

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