A teenager claims he was fired from a Jack in the Box restaurant in California for “mishandling funds” after he gave away tacos to a military veteran.
Mesta, who said he had worked at the Jack in the Box for two years, said he was terminated Monday after surveillance footage captured the deed at a location in Bakersfield, in the San Joaquin Valley.
“I know what I did wasn’t right to them,” he told KERO. “But to me, it felt right.”
Mesta could not immediately be reached for comment.
Mesta’s story swept social media with many customers — and some self-proclaimed veterans — shaming Jack in the Box and threatening to boycott.
“A 19 year old boy was working the counter when one of his regular customers came in,” Facebook user Daniel Ortiz wrote. “By this point the young boy knew that this older man was a veteran and had great respect for him because the young boy felt a connection with the older man because his older brother is serving our country proudly.”
The Washington Post was not able to identify Mesta’s brother or verify whether he is currently serving in the military.
“Him and I would just share stories, and I’d ask how he was doing,” Mesta told KERO. “Since he’s a vet, I don’t think I should charge him for a coffee. It’s like, not even a dollar for his coffee.”
Mesta said when he gave away the tacos, it was late at night and he knew the food would end up in the garbage, so he thought it would be fine. “It’s either throw them away or make them for him,” he told the station.
Jack in the Box did not confirm or deny whether it had terminated the employee in a statement to The Washington Post but said the disciplinary actions were not related to a single incident.
“We too are grateful to our veterans and to the men and women currently serving in the armed forces,” it read. “Regarding this incident, while it would not be appropriate to provide complete details on an internal disciplinary issue, our actions in this case were not based on just one incident and had nothing to do with the guest’s military experience.
“Again, military families are near and dear to our hearts.”
Still, many on the restaurant’s Facebook page expressed outrage.
“Nice job,” one wrote. “Im a Veteran also and a business owner. So, I understand your reasoning but REALLY? For you I hope its worth the publicity. I give veterans free services all of the time. I just don’t think 2 tacos and a coffee is worth firing this young man. Maybe a little counseling is called for but that’s it. Maybe you ought to take a look at some of your competitors.
“I think they would have handled this differently. Maybe you need to get some of your corporate people to come down to the line and visit or re-visit the front line. Bad call.”
Others on social media threatened to boycott the fast-food restaurant.
“I will never go to jack in the box again after reading the story on your worker who was fired for giving two 99 cent tacos to a hungry veteran,” one commenter wrote on Facebook. “That is what’s wrong with this country. Profits over people. Absolutely disgraceful.”
Another said: “So you fired an employee for giving a customer who is a United States veteran $2 worth of tacos? Well guess what? I won’t be going to any Jack in the Box again whenever I am near one (we have none near where I live.) Jack in the Box: You are fired!”
Joe Davis, a spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, said he hopes the teen gets hired somewhere else soon.
“He did a nice thing for a veteran but knew beforehand that it was against company policy,” Davis told The Post in a statement. “Rules and good deeds on company time don’t always mix.”
This story has been updated.