'Eating Out While Black': Subway employee calls police on family for using the restroom too many times

A Subway employee called the police on the Dobson family, claiming they were behaving suspiciously. (Photo: Felicia Chambers Dobson via Facebook)

A Subway employee called the police on a black family eating dinner because they visited the restroom too many times.

On Monday, while driving home to North Carolina from their grandmother’s birthday party in Georgia, Othniel and Felicia Dobson, their four kids, ages 19, 13, 12, and 8, and their children’s aunt decided to eat dinner at a Subway in Coweta County.

“One employee, a white woman named Sandra, wasn’t that friendly — it seemed like she was making our sandwiches begrudgingly — but we didn’t pay much attention,” Felicia, 40, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “We paid for our food, sat at a table, and I read a few pages of my book.” For the long drive, the family had packed their car full of snacks, including juice, which they drank from cups they had purchased for ice.

During their meal, Felicia says Othniel returned to the car briefly and passed Sandra, who was talking outside on her cellphone. “My husband heard her say, ‘They’re leaving now.’ He asked her if there was a problem, and she ran back into the store, upset.”

At that point, everyone had finished eating and cleaned their table, and Felicia told her children to use the bathroom before getting on the road. Felicia also filled up her personal water bottle with ice from the vending station, and the family left. 

Once outside, they were approached by a police officer. “He had received a call that we didn’t pay for our food,” says Felicia. “He explained that Sandra felt we were suspicious, and because she had been robbed before, she was afraid we would rob her.”

ABC news affiliate WSB-TV in Atlanta obtained a recording of the 911 call, and a woman can be heard saying, “I need somebody to come through here please, ASAP. Now. There’s about eight people in a van, and they’ve been in the store for about an hour. They keep going back and forth to the bathrooms by my back door.”

“She never clarified that we were a family, and she lied about us not paying,” says Felicia. 

A Subway spokesperson tells Yahoo Lifestyle, “Respect for every individual is a core value of Subway. It is our expectation and each franchisee’s goal to make sure that every guest will always be treated with the respect and integrity they deserve. The franchisee has personally apologized to the family and the employee in question has been placed on leave until a full review is completed.”

Franchise owner Rosh Patel also told WSB-TV, “I take this very seriously, and I am fully investigating. I have also used this opportunity to reiterate to my staff the importance of making everyone feel welcome.” 

The Dobsons’ story has hit Twitter, where people are using the hashtag #EatingOutWhileBlack, which follows #MourningWhileBlack, #SwimmingWhileBlack, and #CampaigningWhileBlack

Felicia says her toughest challenge is explaining to her youngest child, an 8-year-old boy, what happened. “He keeps asking, ‘Why do we have to keep telling people about this?’ He understands our family was racially profiled. I tell him it’s about spreading awareness.” She adds that her 13-year-old daughter cried after leaving the restaurant and that her oldest child is feeling hopeless. 

“Fortunately, the police officer who responded was well-trained and professional,” says Felicia. “He told us, ‘I am so sorry this happened to you.’”

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