Isaac Becker is officially over social media.
It started when Bar La Grassa manager Michael Lecy fielded a late-afternoon call from the concierge service at American Express. Could a party of five take a 7:30 table that evening? Sorry, we wish we could accommodate you, but we can’t, was the response. “I couldn’t even get a table for five if I was calling on a Saturday for that night,” Becker said with a laugh.
AmEx followed with a second call (“They said, ‘The customer is willing to release his name,’ ” said Becker, left) and a third, but there were no tables at 7:30. Honest. “The only way we could accomodate them is if we screwed someone else over, and we don’t do that,” said Becker. Other available times were offered but not accepted.
The customer? Bob Harper, aka Bob the Trainer on NBC’s “The Biggest Loser,” in town for a Mall of America appearance. Enter Twitter. “OMG!! The manager at Bar Lagrasa in Minneapolis was SO RUDE to me. I wanted to have dinner there. Why are people so mean sometimes?”flashed across Harper’s Twitter account. Next up: “And Minneapolis is one of my favorite places...why did the manager at Bar Lagrasa have to be like that?? I still love it here!!:”
There’s just one hitch. “This guy never talked to Mike, and he’s portraying himself as a victim, and getting people wound up about how rude we were to him, and he never spoke to anyone at the restaurant,” said Becker. “He has 125,000 Twitter followers, and we don’t have any kind of recourse.”
Nancy St. Pierre, Becker’s spouse and hyper-hospitality focused business partner, did some investigating. She called American Express, and guess what? All the conversations were recorded. They reviewed them.
“They were very cooperative, and they agreed that it was all very civil, that there was nothing inappropriate on any of them,” said Becker. “How he got this rude thing is so far-fetched.”
Still, Harper’s tweets bounced around Twitter and Facebook, and the phone at Bar La Grassa started to ring. And ring. Lecy estimates talking down about 15 angry Bob the Trainer followers.
“I sat in the back office and fielded calls, not exactly the most entertaining thing to be doing on a busy Saturday night,” he said.
Talk about an image-buster. “He’s got this lady [Jillian Michaels] who is his sidekick, her comment was, ‘They are going to be so sorry,’” said Becker. [Actually, Harper tweeted, “I need @jillianmichaels to unleash on the manager at Bar Lagrasa in Minneapolis. He should be very afraid!!” and Michaels’ response was, “I’ll go beat him up. What’s his name?”].
“Jeez,” said Becker. “You see them on TV, and they look so happy and nice. He says his role in life is to inspire people and make them feel better.”
If Harper had made the call himself, he might have learned that the 20 seats at La Grassa’s pasta bar — my favorite place to soak up the restaurant’s considerable energy — are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Not ideal for a party of five, but a workable solution for anyone hungry for Becker’s unbelievable gnocchi with orange-flecked roasted cauliflower.
“We sure got the Bob the Trainer experience,” said Becker. “And we haven’t lost any weight.”
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