Halifax — On Tuesday a 12-year-old Halifax boy called 911 to report that one of his parents made a salad he didn’t want to eat; later, the boy called again to ask when police would arrive and to reiterate just how much he hates salad.
These misplaced phone calls — and others like them from grown adults — have amounted to a teaching moment for RCMP, who say that as a result, they’re launching a full-time food complaints division in 911 dispatch centres.
“People aren’t calling 911 just for life-and-death situations anymore, as evidenced by the salad incident,” said Sergeant Matthew Kline. “This new service will be for those situations when Yelp just isn’t enough — like when you ordered a steak medium-rare and it comes closer to well done.
“Instead of fining people for tying up emergency resources with crazy calls, we’re simply diverting them to our full-time food complaints division and dealing with them there.”
Local complainer Georgia Peters said she can’t wait to make some poor sucker listen to her daily food-related griping.
“I bought a donair from one of Halifax’s fine establishments and there were only about two measly strips of meat on the thing! What a ripoff!” she hollered. “I wrote a nasty review online but no one ever replied. I think it’ll be a lot more satisfying to rant at a human being over the phone when this kind of thing inevitably happens again.”
According to Sgt. Kline, dispatchers are already being trained to decide whether incoming calls require “action,” or merely “empathy.”
“For ‘empathy’ calls, the employee will simply listen to the caller’s complaints, adding comments like, ‘Oh really? That sucks!’ or ‘Totally, I hate green beans too!’ or ‘She seriously tried to make you eat that? Gross!’ …You know, just to calm the caller down and help them move on with their lives.
“The ‘action’ calls are more serious, though,” he explained. “In these cases, the dispatcher will send local police to follow up on food complaints and to fine restaurants or individuals whose fare falls short of civilians’ expectations.”
RCMP believe that, at the very least, this new measure will force chefs and cooks to up their game.
“With better food to eat, everyone wins, right?” said Kline with a shrug. “Whether you’re served a stale muffin at Tims or a bland lasagna at your mother-in-law’s, we’ll look into it for you. No one should have to suffer through that.”