ELKINS, W.Va. — A Facebook post depicting local fast food workers playing with an ice cream dispenser put a cold chill up the backs of some social media viewers this week.
Three local teens are in the spotlight after screen shots from a Facebook post showing the now-former employees of the Wendy’s restaurant in Elkins were shared from videos they posted on Snapchat Monday night.
The Facebook post displays two teenage girls taking turns unceremoniously ingesting soft-serve milkshake directly from the frosty tap while a third teen recorded the entire episode.
“They actually thought it was a big joke. They thought it was funny. They were laughing in the video, thinking that it was hilarious to do something like that,” said a local teen who posted the screen shots on Facebook, noting she was disgusted by the incident.
The videos have since been taken down, but not before screen shots of the video were captured and a Facebook post publicly expressing disgust with the individuals in question was created. Since then, the post has been shared more than 1,300 times.
“It’s disgusting. They said the only reason they did it was because they were closed and they were the only people there. But that’s no excuse to do something nasty. I mean other people have to go there and eat. And even though they said they sanitized it, it was disrespectful to their workplace and other people,” the teen told The Inter-Mountain Wednesday.
Editor’s Note: The Inter-Mountain typically does not identify juveniles in stories, but because of the viral nature of this report, names are included.
The restaurant’s managers were apprised of the situation during an electricity outage Tuesday morning, and the Frosty machine was dismantled and thoroughly sanitized before any milkshakes were sold. Officials said the restaurant was only open for business a brief time Tuesday morning before officials learned of the Facebook post.
“We have been a proud part of this community for many, many years and our customers are very important to us. This incident was inexcusable. We have taken this matter very seriously. The employees who were involved have resigned and are no longer with Wendy’s,” said James Huber, franchise president of Wendelk Corp., in an official email Wednesday.
Although many comments on the Facebook post were negative in nature, some were a bit more tempered, reminding the public the individuals in question were all juveniles and prone to mistakes.
“I think they were just being kids … they made a mistake … as we all have. I think the adults who are sharing the original post (that if you read it… the stuff she writes and the foul language she uses is much more appalling to me then the frosty incident) is very immature. I feel like its a modern day version of a public flogging, via social media,” said Jamie Rush, Elkins resident, in a private Facebook message to an Inter-Mountain reporter.
“The kids got fired. And publicly called out. But the fact is they are still minors. They didn’t steal, they didn’t do anything ‘illegal.’ They made a bad decision. Thats part of growing up is making mistakes and learning from them. Meanwhile I wonder if the adults who keep sharing those girls pics know what THEIR kids are up to,” Rush continued.
Due to the nature of social media and the inflammatory images that have been posted, the public outcry spread like wildfire. In the midst of this, many of the individuals involved have been publicly shamed.
“They’re making cartoon pictures of it now and everyone’s posting about it. They’re telling them to kill themselves, they’re calling them sluts. That is just absolutely unnecessary,” Logan Gripper, area resident and friend to one of the teens involved, told The Inter-Mountain in a phone interview Wednesday.
Gripper explained how she identified with the girls, having been bullied as a high school student, and said she didn’t want anyone else to feel the way she did at that time.
“I honestly didn’t think that it was that big of a deal. You have to take into consideration that these girls are really young,” Gripper continued. “I think they should have been fired. It really was gross, and it violated health codes and things like that. But I don’t think that people should be bashing them on Facebook and taking it into their own hands to take care of the situation because it’s not their situation to take care of.
“It was wrong. It was stupid. And they shouldn’t have done it. But it was a mistake and you know we all make them,” she said.
Gripper said she considered some of the comments, name calling and horribly inappropriate suggestions to be “cyberbullying.”
By definition, cyberbullying is when a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child, preteen or teen using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones. Cyberbullying is a crime and it is punishable by law in the state of West Virginia.