By Nicole Belair, Staff Writer
Last week, a man from the Worcester area sued more than twenty Dunkin’ Donuts locations in Massachusetts over butter. Mr. Jan Polanik claims that, for the past four years and without his knowledge, Dunkin’ Donuts has served him margarine or a butter substitute with his bagels.
The proposed settlement could also mean free buttered baked goods for over a thousand customers of the locations in question, while Mr. Polanik will collect a measly $500 incentive award compared to his lawyer’s $90,000 payout. The franchise locations include Grafton, Leominster, Millbury, Shrewsbury, Westborough, and Worcester.
According to Mr. Polanik’s lawyer, Thomas Shapiro, the two debated pursuing legal action for a long time, but decided that they had a valid argument.
“The main point of the lawsuit is to stop the practice of representing one thing and selling a different thing,” Shapiro told The Boston Globe. “It’s a minor thing, but at the same time, if somebody goes in and makes a point to order butter for the bagel…they don’t want margarine or some other kind of chemical substitute.”
As trivial as the situation may sound, I completely understand where this guy is coming from. All the man wanted was a buttered bagel. He ordered butter, paid for butter, why shouldn’t he get butter? What if he ordered butter, specifically, for health reasons? What if he had been allergic to margarine or Dunkin’ Donuts’ chemical substitute? It’s unlikely, but you never know.
Believe it or not, there are actually butter-specific laws that explain where and to whom butter can or cannot be served. In Wisconsin, for example, butter substitutes (margarine or chemicals) cannot be served to students, patients, or inmates in state facilities. There’s even an American Butter Institute, so you know this is serious.
The main problem is Dunkin’ Donuts’ misrepresentation of the items on their menu. It may be just butter, but it’s not fair to the customers who aren’t getting what they asked for.
Not only are they not getting their correct orders, but Dunkin’ Donuts has been lying right to their faces about it.
Back in 2013, a Dunkin’ Donuts spokeswoman explained why the restaurants frequently use a vegetable spread, which is more like a chemical substitution. Due to food safety reasons, Dunkin’ Donuts does not allow their butter to be stored at room temperature, even though room temperature is necessary for butter to “be easily spread onto a bagel or pastry,” she told the Globe.
Instead, Dunkin’ Donuts frequently serves butter packets on the side of a bagel or pastry, so that the employees themselves aren’t responsible for spreading it. She also stated, “the vegetable spread is generally used if the employee applies the topping.”
This answer is not satisfying, nor was it sufficient for Mr. Polanik. In fact, I’m confused and almost angry that my sausage, egg, and cheese has vegetable spread instead of butter.
If I’m going to waste my calories on a Dunkin’ Donuts breakfast sandwich, I want to go all in. Plus, I’d much rather have real butter than a nasty chemical substitute.
Regardless, the principle of the matter is that Mr. Polanik felt deceived when he found out that he wasn’t receiving what he ordered.
I agree with his lawyer, who claimed that if something is misrepresented to you, it should be corrected. He also added, “[Mr. Polanik] just prefers butter for a number of reasons.”
I hope that, if nothing else, this lawsuit pushes Dunkin’ Donuts, and perhaps other restaurants who deceive their customers, to change their practices.
Today, it’s just butter, but some other misrepresentation of an item could pose a major health risk to a customer.
I respect Mr. Polanik for putting himself out there like this.
I just almost wish I thought of it first.