Regular patrons of SmartWorld Coffee in Morristown know owner Dave Walters is a progressive, fair-minded guy.
His website says he sells “100 percent organic fair trade coffee.” He drives a gas-stingy Smart Car. “Impact the world in a positive way” is his motto.
So imagine the horror when customers saw one of Dave’s “managers” blow off two job applicants because they were deaf.
One customer stormed out, vowing never to return. Others demanded to see Dave. Another told off the manager.
Customer: “You’re one of the biggest idiots I’ve ever seen!”
Manager: “But we have an image to maintain…”
Customer: “Apparently not. They hired an idiot like you!”
Turns out Friday’s fireworks were a setup. The ABC reality show, Primetime: What Would You Do? hired actors to play the manager and job applicants, hid some cameras and microphones, and watched how SmartWorld customers responded.
“I had to run out and do some triage,” said Dave. Crew members from the show also dashed after patrons to set them straight.
The Columbia Journalism Review has called What Would You Do? the “Candid Camera of Ethics.” Past episodes have simulated a child left in a sweltering car, a loud cell phone talker, gay parents berated by a waiter, and racial profiling in a clothing boutique. John Quiñones is the host.
At SmartWorld, the actor portraying the manager was rude to the applicants, who are deaf students from the Rochester Institute of Technology, Dave said.
During their act, the manager tried to explain that he couldn’t hire them–how would he bark orders to them in the kitchen?
People from the show scouted SmartWorld in the summer, Dave said.
They did not pay for the venue. But feeding the approximately 40-person crew, which set up late Thursday and spent all of Friday at the shop, was lucrative, Dave said.
It was Morristown’s second TV shoot in two months.
The Fox program America’s Most Wanted spent an October weekend using Braunschweiger Jewelers, the United Methodist Church, the Dark Horse Lounge and Provesi Ristorante as stand-ins for European locations.
One of the extras for that episode, local attorney Jerry Levine, was recruited while minding his own business in SmartWorld.
TV was not the glamorous experience Dave Walters might have imagined.
“It was a lot of work for me,” he said.
What Would You Do? has not yet told Dave the broadcast date; the show’s publicist could not be reached Monday.
Observers of the SmartWorld taping said some customers who identified themselves as human resources workers commiserated with the “manager” and offered tips for sidestepping anti-discrimination laws.
Lawyers and recruiters also were vocal, observers said.
Dave laid low for most of the taping, to avoid loyal customers seeking to inform him of the outrage they had witnessed.
“I had to hide,” he said. “I’m always shooting my mouth off about discrimination.”