The owner of a frozen yogurt outlet in Dollard-des-Ormeaux says he never set out to challenge the Office québécois de la langue française when he posted an update on his store’s Facebook page last Thursday evening. The reaction to the item on the social media site has sparked another chorus of public outrage against the provincial language law enforcement agency – especially in the anglophone community.
The response from the public has been incredible, said store owner David Lipper. The expression of support for his company reflects a growing sentiment of outrage in the community triggered by an anonymous complaint that his store was using plastic spoons with English-only slogans. “We’re seeing a reaction that is much bigger than a spoon.”
The reaction also caused the OQLF to issue a statement last Friday accusing “certain media outlets” of taking comments from social media sites and turning them into news without verifying the facts.
An OQLF spokesman, Martin Bergeron, said Friday the Menchie’s outlet in
Dollard has not been fined, nor ordered to take any action. An inspector visited the outlet merely to verify a complaint the Office had received. The dossier will now be studied.
Bergeron said the store owner was handed a letter explaining why the inspection was being carried out. “That is all.” If there is an infraction, the owners will be notified. “We will treat this file as we normally do, with much rigour.”
An OQLF inspector visited the Menchie’s store on St-Jean Blvd. on June 14 to verify a complaint that the outlet had English slogans on plastic spoons it provides to customers.
“(The inspector) examined the spoons and said, ‘You only have English on the spoons,’ and ‘you can’t have that.’ So we took them out,” Lipper said.
Lipper then had his manager run out and buy generic white plastic spoons and immediately started using them.
In the days that followed, Lipper said customers kept asking staff what had happened to the store’s colourful spoons. The distinctive plastic utensils have franchise characters in the handles and slogans that
say “It’s my mix” and “It’s mooosic” moulded into them. So to answer customers, Lipper posted a note on the store’s Facebook page.
The post read: “Many of you have been asking “What happened to the Menchie’s spoons?” We were visited by (the) Office Quebec (sic) de la Langue Francaise and they cited us for having English moulded in the spoons, apparently responding to a complaint. We are working
as fast as we can to get new spoons made just for our Quebec stores, at a large expense to us. Unfortunately, they all come from Menchie’s HQ right now and the spoons have a few English words moulded into the stem. So we are looking to have a new supplier just for our soon-tobe 3 Montreal stores. Thank you again for your patience as we work hard to meet all the Quebec standards. Your team at Menchie’s DDO!”
Lipper said he simply wanted to comply with the law, and admitted the spoons might have slipped by him as they are supplied by the Los Angeles-based franchise. He had no intention of igniting a political battle.
“I really don’t want to go head-to-head with these guys,” he said. “I’m not fighting them; I’m trying to be compliant.” But within minutes of posting his explanation on Facebook,
people started commenting.
“Within seconds, we started to get comments. And within hours, we had hundreds of comments.” As for the statement issued last Friday by the OQLF that the media incorrectly reported that he had been told not to use the spoons and that its investigation was not complete, Lipper said the inspector was very clear. She told him to stop using the spoons until he heard back from the Office.
The outlet has since resumed using the original franchise-issued spoons that have the English slogans moulded into the stems last Friday evening, after Lipper received a notice from the OQLF informing him that he can, in fact, use them until the Office completes its analysis of the complaint. He also spoke with a OQLF official on the phone who informed him that a ruling should be rendered in the coming week. Lipper said he has invested a lot of money to translate all the company material to open the first Menchie’s franchise in Quebec. He is now in the process of opening a third store in the Montreal region.
“It shows how difficult it can be to open a new business in Quebec from the States,” he said. “Is there a bigger issue going on here that this has ignited? It’s clear to me that there is.”
To read Brenda O’Farrell’s blog: What should you do when the language police come calling?” click here.