Wendy's gives consumers the finger

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Wendy's gives consumers the finger

Postby Patrick M » Fri Mar 25, 2005 10:22 pm

Sales drop at Wendy's after woman finds finger in chili

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Sales have dropped sharply at Wendy's fast food restaurants in the area of northern California where a woman claimed she found part of a finger in a bowl of chili, a company spokesman said Friday.

Franchise owners have informed the company's corporate headquarters in the Columbus suburb of Dublin that business is down, said Denny Lynch, spokesman for Wendy's. He said he could not release specific sales figures because Wendy's does not own those restaurants.

"It is an isolated incident. However, it is dramatically affecting sales in that market," Lynch said.

Health officials said the fingertip was about an inch-and-a-half long. They believe it belongs to a woman because of the long, manicured nail.

The woman, who asked officials not to identify her, bit down on the finger before spitting it out, said Joy Alexiou, spokeswoman for the Santa Clara County Health Department.

Authorities in San Jose, Calif., planned to search a fingerprint database on Friday to try to determine who lost the partial finger that a woman said was in the chili she was eating Tuesday night.

Capt. Bob Dixon of the Santa Clara County coroner's office said he did not know when their fingerprint expert might have a match. "Nobody's claimed it yet," he said.

Peter Oakes, a restaurant analyst with Piper Jaffray in New York, said he doesn't expect Wendy's business to suffer long term. The hamburger chain serves about 6 million meals a day across the country and has a "national reputation for both quality and cleanliness," he said.

"To me the yard stick here is whether the single incident prompts the consumer to loose confidence in the brand. It's understandable to see some kind of knee-jerk reaction," Oakes said.

The financial markets were closed Friday. Wendy's shares rose 43 cents, or 1.1%, on Thursday to close at $39.43 on the New York Stock Exchange.

The county's environmental health department was seeking permission from state and federal food and drug regulators to contact Wendy's suppliers, which are located outside Santa Clara County.

The chili ingredients will be traced back to their manufactures to determine whether the finger came from "a can of kidney beans or can of tomato sauce or something else," said director Ben Gale, who estimated it could take several weeks to hear back from all the companies.

San Jose police have not been asked to investigate, spokesman Sgt. Nick Muyo said.

Suppliers of Wendy's chili ingredients have not reported any finger-related incidents to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and all restaurant employees had all 10 of their fingers, Lynch said.

Wendy's is confident the finger did not come from one of its suppliers because of product coding that allows the company to trace where a product comes from, the day it was produced, when it was shipped and when it arrived at the restaurant, Lynch said.

"If an incident like this occurs, it's relatively easy to trace it back to its source," Lynch said. "And that's why we were able to verify in a short period of time that our suppliers had no accidents."

However, he acknowledged the process was "not absolutely 100% perfect."

Matt Baun, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service, said it was doubtful a person working at a federal beef producer would have lost the finger in an accident.

"The production line would have stopped, there would have been immediate need for medical attention and the meat products would be destroyed and not used for food," he said.

A Louisville, lawyer who has handled similar cases said he doesn't expect Wendy's image to take much of a hit.

Bo Bolus, who has represented plaintiffs over foreign objects found in McDonald's food and defended insurance companies against those claims, said consumers tend to realize that incidents like the one at Wendy's are accidents.

"I haven't found any big institutional problems in the fast-food chains," Bolus said. "I still go to McDonald's with my four boys."
Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Postby MK » Mon Apr 11, 2005 9:49 pm

She may be full of shit. The AP reported that the woman has a history of lawsuits:

Wendy's accuser no stranger to lawsuits
April 9, 2005
Author: Ken Ritter, Associated Press.

The woman who says she bit into a human finger while eating chili at a Wendy's restaurant has a history of filing lawsuits--including a claim against another fast-food restaurant.

Anna Ayala, 39, who hired a San Jose, Calif., attorney to represent her in the Wendy's case, has been involved in at least half a dozen legal battles in the San Francisco Bay area, according to court records.

She filed a lawsuit against an ex-boss in 1998 alleging sexual harassment and sued an auto dealership in 2000, alleging a wheel fell off her car. That suit was dismissed after Ayala fired her lawyer, who said she had threatened him.

Speaking through the front door of her Las Vegas home Friday, Ayala said police are out to get her and were unnecessarily rough as they executed a search warrant at her home Wednesday.

"Lies, lies, lies, that's all I am hearing," she said. "They should look at Wendy's. Why are we being victimized again and again?"

Ayala acknowledged, however, that her family received a settlement for their medical expenses about a year ago after reporting that her daughter, Genesis, got sick from food at an El Pollo Loco restaurant in Las Vegas. She declined to provide any further details.

San Jose police have joined the Las Vegas police fraud unit in the investigation into how a 11/2-inch-long fingertip ended up in Ayala's bowl of chili at the San Jose Wendy's on March 22. Ayala said Friday she had not filed a claim against Wendy's, and it was unclear whether she had filed suit against the franchise owner.

The company maintains that the finger did not enter the food chain in its ingredients. The employees at the San Jose store were found to have all their fingers, and no suppliers of Wendy's ingredients have reported any hand or finger injuries, the company said.

On Thursday, Wendy's offered a $50,000 reward to anyone providing verifiable information leading to the positive identification of the origin of the finger.

Investigators would not say what they were looking for in the search of Ayala's house. Ken Bono, a family friend who lives at the home, said officers searched freezers, a picnic cooler in the back yard and the belongings of an aunt who used to live at the house.

San Jose police dismissed rumors that the finger might have belonged to Ayala's late aunt. However, investigators said they still were looking into the possibility that the missing finger was the result of an industrial accident or foul play.

"The simple fact of the matter is that the finger came from somebody. Where's that person at?" said Sgt. Nick Muyo, a spokesman for the San Jose Police Department.
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Postby Rspaight » Fri Apr 22, 2005 10:47 am

Woman in Wendy's finger case arrested

By Christina Almeida

April 22, 2005 | LAS VEGAS (AP) -- The woman who claimed she found a finger in her bowl of Wendy's chili last month has been arrested, the latest twist in a bizarre case about how the 1 1/2-inch finger tip ended up in a bowl of fast food.

Anna Ayala was taken into custody late Thursday at her Las Vegas home, police said.

Authorities would not provide details until a news conference Friday in San Jose, Calif. -- the city where Ayala claimed she bit down on the finger in a mouthful of her steamy stew.

Ayala's 18-year-old son, Guadalupe Reyes, said he had gone to the store around 9 p.m. when he got a phone call from a friend who was back at the Las Vegas home.

Ayala hired a lawyer and filed a claim against the Wendy's franchise owner, Fresno-based JEM Management. But after police searched her home in Las Vegas and continued to question her family, she dropped the lawsuit threat, saying the whole situation was just too stressful.

"Lies, lies, lies, that's all I am hearing," Ayala said after police started questioning her. "They should look at Wendy's. What are they hiding? Why are we being victimized again and again?"

As it turns out, Ayala has a litigious history. She has filed claims against several corporations, including a former employer and General Motors, though it is unclear from court records whether she received any money. She said she got $30,000 from El Pollo Loco after her 13-year-old daughter got sick at one of the chain's Las Vegas-area restaurants. But El Pollo Loco spokeswoman Julie Weeks said last week that the company reviewed Ayala's February 2004 claim and paid her nothing.

Earlier Thursday, Wendy's International Inc. announced it had ended its internal investigation, saying it could find no credible link between the finger and the restaurant chain.

Sales have dropped at franchises in Northern California, forcing layoffs and reduced hours, the company said. Wendy's also has hired private investigators, set up a hot line for tips and offered a $100,000 reward for anyone who provides information leading to the finger's original owner.
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Postby Rspaight » Sat Apr 23, 2005 12:43 pm

Wendy's hopes arrest woos back customers

By Kim Curtis

April 23, 2005 | SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Wendy's restaurants are hoping business will bounce back now that a woman who claimed she found a finger in her bowl of chili has been arrested and investigators say the whole case was likely a hoax.

Anna Ayala is accused of attempted grand larceny, a charge authorities said relates to the financial losses Wendy's has suffered since Ayala claimed she bit down a 1 1/2-inch finger tip in a mouthful of her chili on March 22.

The loss to Wendy's restaurants in the Bay area is $2.5 million, according to the felony complaint against her.

''Indeed, what we have found is that thus far our evidence suggests the truest victims in this case are indeed the Wendy's owner, operators and employees here in San Jose," San Jose Police Chief Rob Davis said Friday.

Sales dropped at Wendy's in Northern California because of the furor, forcing layoffs and reduced hours.

''It's been 31 days, and believe me it's been really tough," said Joseph Desmond, owner of the local Wendy's franchise. ''My thanks also go out to all the little people who were hurt in our stores. They lost a lot of wages because we had to cut back because our business has been down so badly."

The company plans to launch a marketing campaign and decided to offer free Frosties this weekend at its Bay area restaurants, Wendy's spokesman Denny Lynch said.

''If you look at the facts, the police have conducted an investigation and filed charges and made an arrest. We believe that is a clear sign we have been vindicated," he said.

Ayala's claim that she found the well-manicured finger during her meal at a San Jose Wendy's initially drew sympathy. She hired a lawyer and filed a claim against the franchise owner, but dropped the lawsuit threat soon after suspicion fell on her.

Ayala, who has a history of bringing claims against big corporations, was arrested at her suburban Las Vegas home Thursday. A court appearance is scheduled for Tuesday.

San Jose Police Capt. David Keneller said police consider Ayala's claim a hoax. Police refused to say where the finger originated and exactly how the hoax was carried out.

But according to a person knowledgeable about the case who spoke on condition of anonymity, the charge stemmed from San Jose police interviews with people who said Ayala described putting a finger in the chili.

Many loyal patrons continue to support the Wendy's where Ayala made her claim.

On Friday, Tom McCready headed into the franchise and ordered two bowls of chili to go plus a baked potato topped with chili.

''If they've got 10 fingers, it's OK with me," the San Jose retiree said about the Wendy's employees at the counter.

He said he and his wife have supported the restaurant since Ayala's claim, heading there more often and ordering the chili. His opinion of Ayala's claim: ''It's a crock."

Associated Press writers Christina Almeida and Ken Ritter in Las Vegas contributed to this report.
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Postby dudelsack » Sat Apr 23, 2005 5:55 pm

Support your local fast food restaurant. Obviously Mr. McCready has little to do other than await an eventual heart attack...:D

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Postby Patrick M » Tue May 10, 2005 12:51 pm

http://money.cnn.com/2005/05/10/news/mi ... tm?cnn=yes

Wendy's plans Frosty giveaway
Fast-food chain says weekend promotion is a way to thank customers after 'chili finger' incident.
May 10, 2005: 12:06 PM EDT

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Wendy's restaurants are giving away free Frostys frozen desserts this weekend as a thank you to customers who supported the burger chain following an embarrassing incident in California where a women allegedly planted a severed finger in a bowl of chili.

"Our customers stood by us while we defended our good name and protected our employees' livelihoods, so now we're showing our appreciation with free Frostys," Tom Mueller, Wendy's chief executive, said in a press release. "We're moving on."

The incident has hurt Wendy's (Research) business, particularly on the West Coast, with the company estimating same store sales took a 2 to 2.5 percent hit in the most recent quarter.

Anna Ayala of Las Vegas caused a media sensation in March with her claim of the finger in her food at a San Jose, Calif., Wendy's. Police have since charged Ayala with attempted grand theft.

The company estimates it will give away 14 million Junior Frostys during the event, which runs nationwide from Friday through Sunday. No other purchase is required.
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Postby Rspaight » Thu Jan 19, 2006 2:03 pm

Chili plotters nailed in Wendy's finger scam


SAN JOSE, Calif. -- A couple who planted a severed finger in a bowl of Wendy's chili in a scheme to extort money from the fast-food chain were sentenced Wednesday to prison terms.

Anna Ayala, 40, who said she bit into the finger, was sentenced to nine years. Her husband, Jaime Plascencia, 44, who got the finger from a coworker who lost it in a workplace accident, was sentenced to more than 12 years.

The two pleaded guilty in September to conspiracy to file a false insurance claim and attempted grand theft with damages exceeding $2.5 million.

Ayala had said she retched March 22 after biting into the fingertip while dining with her family at a Wendy's in San Jose.

Authorities suspected a hoax, in part because the finger wasn't cooked, but the story quickly spread. The Wendy's chain said it lost $2.5 million in sales because of the bad publicity, and dozens of workers at the company's northern California franchises were laid off.

Denny Lynch, Wendy's senior vice president, asked the judge to send a message that "consumer fraud is a serious crime that demands a severe penalty."

Hector Pineda, who made the chili and initially came under suspicion, said: "I felt so bad for the fear of what people would think of me. We are the ones that have suffered."
RQOTW: "I'll make sure that our future is defined not by the letters ACLU, but by the letters USA." -- Mitt Romney