ABC reality show shoots episode at Smart World in Morristown

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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.

John Quinones, host of ABC's 'Primetime: What Would You Do?," conducts interview on Morristown's South Street last Friday. He taped an episode at SmartWorld Coffee in which actors provoked patrons by faking discrimination against two deaf job applicants. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
John Quinones, host of ABC's 'Primetime: What Would You Do?," conducts interview on Morristown's South Street last Friday. He taped an episode at SmartWorld Coffee in which actors provoked patrons by faking discrimination against two deaf job applicants. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

“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?

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Dave Walters, owner of SmartWorld Coffee in Morristown. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

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.”

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SmartWorld Coffee on South Street in Morristown will be featured on ABC's 'Primetime: What Would You Do?' Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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3 COMMENTS

  1. I am an avid viewer of ABC’s “What would you do” and think it’s one of the best things to watch on tv, even among cable shows. However, I experienced an unexpected OPPOSITE effect of this very show in this very café, and I am so relieved to have found this article. – It explains a whole lot, and softens my hardened heart.

    I am a victim of sever bantering from a monster customer in this café a year later.

    When I recant my tragic story to loved ones, I add that the women’s instigation of her abuse towards me was so much out of left field, it really seemed like she thought she was on the abc show called “what would you do”, and that she was saving the world from little old me.

    Well eureka, I just found this article about the 2010 ABC episode in this café and that is exactly what the monster seems to have thought. She thought that ABC came back and that she had to perform accordingly before Mr Quiñones walked through the door (again). So what the show is actually trying to accomplish went quite over her head and she was only concerned about her own 15 minutes of fame. (I’m sure ABC has better news to report, than to return to this location, unless this unfortunate opposite effect of the show might be of interest.)

    Unfortunately this small-minded monster is not a more aware human being as a result of watching tv, but has a numbed sheepish sense of reason and has exchanged civility for opportunism.

    I and my family were very frequent and ideal customers at SmartWorld, Morristown. But since I don’t accept abuse from strangers lightly, I can only assume we’re the ones that are not welcomed back.

    This article helped me realize the cause, but until now I was much dismayed that a fellow human would actually chastise me without provocation in such a manner. I wracked my brain trying to understand what to learn from this miserable day, but now I see that there was ulterior motive from a single monster, and I have a little more faith in our mankind. – Just in case, though, I’m left with drinking fair-trade-green-tea at another establishment.

  2. In a way, I’m glad that the human resources people stepped up to give “helpful advice” to the discriminating manager. They exposed a hidden problem that plagues Deaf jobseekers…the hidden screening that occurs and is so easily covered up by using weasel words.

    This kind of problem is pervasive and insidious, and hard to catch. Proof is not possible unless one has witnesses to direct admissions. Since it is so easily masked, ADA laws virtually have no impact on companies that do not comply.

    Hopefully this starts a dialogue that ends up with positive results.

  3. Thank you Dave Walters! Maybe you could actively recruit a deaf employee to show you mean what you say. I mean, what better way? 🙂 And you’d have the positive image to boot. Who knows, ABC could come back for a followup episode.

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