food / travel

When A Restaurant Offers Discounts For Well-Behaved Kids

It seemed like a good idea to a German restaurateur: attract more family clientele who wouldn't disturb other patrons. But putting an idea into action can be a messy affair.

A discount for you?
A discount for you?
Katja Schnitzler

MUNICH — Luigi's was nearly full, and most of the tables were occupied by families with kids. Only one table right next to the bar was still unoccupied.

"Great," says dad, "right under the noses of the wait staff. We’ll never get the five-euro discount."

"Should we leave?" mom asks.

"I’m hungry!" their son whines.

"SHUSH!" his parents tell him in unison.

Hadn't they just gone to a lot of trouble to explain to the child that for the next hour he had to be on his very best behavior? That he should only speak when spoken to? Had they just asked him something? No!

"All because of the dumb money," the boy gripes. The waiters at the bar look up.

"SHUSH!" the parents say again as they get their son settled in his chair and send forced smiles back at the waiters.

They had recently read in the paper that Luigi had decided to adopt an idea hatched by a Japanese restaurant in Calgary — to give families with kids a five-euro discount. But there was a condition: It was only valid if the children were models of good behavior during the meal.

In the newspaper article, Luigi had confided that not only were his guests' kids sloppy eaters, but that they also tended to run around chasing each other in the restaurant.

Many parents ignored the unruly behavior, enjoying the chance to be alone together, although they had to raise their voices considerably to be heard above the din the kids were making. Others wolfed down the rest of their food — "all that good food, made with so much love," the article quotes Luigi as saying — so that the family could leave as soon as possible. Childless guests were also leaving, never to return.

"I only want well-behaved kids at Da Luigi, and I’m prepared to pay for that," the restaurateur said.

At first, the concept appeared to be working. Parents were conversing with one another in normal tones when they weren't busy hissing instructions at their progeny: Stop fidgeting! Be quiet! Sit down! Stop slurping! Who burped?

Please don't drug the kids

But there was problem at the third table from the entrance, where a man was saying loudly to his wife, "I told you one sleeping pill was enough!" as she lifted their daughter's tomato-sauce-smeared head out of her dish of spaghetti. In her induced sleep, the child was spitting little bits of noodle and tomato onto the white tablecloth.

"Add five euros to the bill at table three," Luigi instructed the waiter.

Source: looseONtheGoose via reddit

Meanwhile, back at the table with the little boy, Dad gives mom a meaningful look. They order pizza, not pasta, for their son, and no drink. "But I’m thirsty," the boy whines.

"SHUSH!" again, and they pull his chair so close to the table that the boy claims he is choking. But his mother is having none of it, insisting he stay that way so that the pizza doesn't wind up underneath the table. Surreptitiously, the kid begins moving his chair from side to side, hoping to free some space up between him and the table edge.

But dad’s on to him, and tells him to sit quietly as he points to a little girl at a neighboring table. "Sit like her!" But what the father can't see is that the girl's parents have used one of Luigi's white cloth napkins to tie the girl to her chair.

At another table, a woman sits with a flyswatter. Whenever her child starts picking up food with his fingers instead of using a knife and fork, she swats him lightly on the hand. Luckily, she doesn't require both hands for this and is able to eat her pasta with her fork, all'italiana.

How it all goes to hell

Meanwhile, the little boy with the pizza isn't enjoying it much. "Don’t make such a face," his father tells him. "The five euros are as good as in the bag." The son just grumbles. A child at a nearby table gets a slap, and parents at all tables continue hissing instructions.

After 45 minutes of good behavior (and 346 rebukes), dad asks for the bill "with the discount, per favore!"

"No, Signore," Luigi says, shaking his head, "I can’t give you the discount."

"Why not? He was really quiet!" the parents say, pointing to their son — except that when they look over in his direction, they see an empty seat.

The boy is under the neighboring table, using a pizza knife to cut through the napkin restraining the little girl. The other kids have spotted this, and some of them leap up from their places. Noise levels in the dining room are getting louder and louder. Glasses are knocked over, table cloths ripped clear off some tables, and one father reaches for an empty bread basket to use as a shield when his daughter starts hurling pieces of bread at him. A boy rips his napkin from his neck, drops his spoon, leans down over his chocolate ice cream and just starts lapping it up.

The wait staff flee into the kitchen, and Luigi can be heard yelling, "It’s the end of civilization!"

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How Thailand's Lèse-Majesté Law Is Used To Stifle All Protest

Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.

Pro-Democracy protest at The Criminal Court in Bangkok, Thailand

Laura Valentina Cortés Sierra

"We need to reform the institution of the monarchy in Thailand. It is the root of the problem." Those words, from Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan, are a clear expression of the growing youth-led movement that is challenging the legitimacy of the government and demanding deep political changes in the Southeast Asian nation. Yet those very same words could also send Sirikan to jail.

Thailand's Criminal Code 'Lèse-Majesté' Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family.

But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.

The recent report 'Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand', documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations."

Criticism of any 'royal project'

The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. Nineteen of them served jail time. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.

Juthatip Sirikan explains that the law is now being applied in such a broad way that people are not allowed to question government budgets and expenditure if they have any relationship with the royal family, which stifles criticism of the most basic government decision-making since there are an estimated 5,000 ongoing "royal" projects. "Article 112 of lèse-majesté could be the key (factor) in Thailand's political problems" the young activist argues.

In 2020 the Move Forward opposition party questioned royal spending paid by government departments, including nearly 3 billion baht (89,874,174 USD) from the Defense Ministry and Thai police for royal security, and 7 billion baht budgeted for royal development projects, as well as 38 planes and helicopters for the monarchy. Previously, on June 16, 2018, it was revealed that Thailand's Crown Property Bureau transferred its entire portfolio to the new King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

photo of graffiti of 112 crossed out on sidewalk

Protestors In Bangkok Call For Political Prisoner Release

Peerapon Boonyakiat/SOPA Images via ZUMA Wire

Freedom of speech at stake

"Article 112 shuts down all freedom of speech in this country", says Sirikan. "Even the political parties fear to touch the subject, so it blocks most things. This country cannot move anywhere if we still have this law."

The student activist herself was charged with lèse-majesté in September 2020, after simply citing a list of public documents that refer to royal family expenditure. Sirikan comes from a family that has faced the consequences of decades of political repression. Her grandfather, Tiang Sirikhan was a journalist and politician who openly protested against Thailand's involvement in World War II. He was accused of being a Communist and abducted in 1952. According to Sirikhan's family, he was killed by the state.

The new report was conducted by The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Thai Lawyer for Human Rights (TLHR), and Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw). It accuses Thai authorities of an increasingly broad interpretation of Article 112, to the point of "absurdity," including charges against people for criticizing the government's COVID-19 vaccine management, wearing crop tops, insulting the previous monarch, or quoting a United Nations statement about Article 112.

Juthatip Sirikan speaks in front of democracy monument.

Shift to social media

While in the past the Article was only used against people who spoke about the royals, it's now being used as an alibi for more general political repression — which has also spurred more open campaigning to abolish it. Sirikan recounts recent cases of police charging people for spreading paint near the picture of the king during a protest, or even just for having a picture of the king as phone wallpaper.

The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them.

Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind. In October 2020, Twitter took down 926 accounts, linked to the army and the government, which promoted themselves and attacked political opposition, and this June, Google removed two Maps with pictures, names, and addresses, of more than 400 people who were accused of insulting the Thai monarchy. "They are trying to control the internet as well," Sirikan says. "They are trying to censor every content that they find a threat".

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