An Asian American woman in Houston, Texas, said her name was written as "China" atop a Chick-fil-A receipt after placing a drive-thru order at the chain restaurant.
Tina, who asked that her last name remain anonymous, said she was at the restaurant early in the evening on March 22 "before the rush" and spoke face-to-face to an employee rather than ordering through an intercom.
"They asked for my name and I said 'Tina,' and people have mistaken my name in the past, years ago, so I make a very strong point to emphasize my name and say 'Tina,' especially because we're wearing masks," she told TODAY Food. "So I said my name and then the employee took my order, and she scanned my app before I moved on to the next window."
The app that Tina referenced is operated by Chick-fil-A and allows people to order online, pay with their phone and redeem other rewards. The app shares information, including a customer's name, so that orders can be scheduled ahead.
"Usually when they scan the app my name pops up and they usually say like, 'Oh, Tina,' but that day (the employee) didn't say anything," Tina said. "I didn't think anything of it. I rolled up to the second window, and then there was someone that handed me the food, but before they handed me the food they looked at the receipt to confirm my name and I didn't know what they said, I just knew it wasn't my name."
"I thought, 'OK, maybe they just got the two lanes mixed up,' because Chick-fil-A has two lanes that they'll take orders from at the same time," she explained. "So my first thought was they just got the orders mixed up. So I said, 'My name is Tina,' and he just looked at me weird and he said, 'Did you order this?' and he named off all the items and I said, 'Yeah, that is my order,' and then he just handed me the order, and I just went home."
Tina said that she didn't realize that "China" was written on the receipt until she got home and took out the food.
"I was about to throw (the bag) away and I saw the receipt said 'China,'" she explained. "And I was like, that's what he said to me. That's when it dawned on me."
Chick-fil-A said in an emailed statement to TODAY that they "sincerely apologize" for the incident.
"Chick-fil-A strives to be a welcoming environment for all and believes racism has no place in society," said the company in an emailed statement.
Tina said she posted about the receipt on Instagram and Facebook and wrote in a comment to Chick-fil-A, because the app allows people to share feedback about their order. She received a response from the company that evening, and the next day, the store manager, identified online as Greg Kubala, contacted her via email.
"He basically said, 'She misheard you, it has nothing to do with your ethnicity,'" Tina said. "There was no apology, just that she misheard you. I said I'm not sure how it could have been misheard because I don't have an accent … and it was done face-to-face."
In the email, which Tina shared with TODAY, the store manager said that he "spoke with (his) team members from that shift and they informed (him) that they misheard 'Tina' as 'China' and that it had nothing to do with (Tina's) ethnicity."
A Chick-fil-A press spokesperson told TODAY the employee who took Tina's order "is a long-standing team leader known for sharing great care to guests" and "feels terribly about the misunderstanding." The press spokesperson said the drive-thru is "an outdoor setting with a lot of ambient sound" and the employee "misheard this guest’s name and therefore wrote it down incorrectly."
Tina also said the store manager reached out to two friends of hers who shared her post or sent feedback to the restaurant, telling them that the situation "misunderstanding" and "had been resolved."
"He told my friend that I was eight feet away when the order was taken; it was not," Tina said. "He also said … 'If Tina had just scanned the app, then this wouldn't have been an issue,' and I did scan the app, because when I look at my rewards history, I can even see that I've got the points for that day."
When TODAY reached out to the Houston location to speak to the manager, we were directed to contact Chick-fil-A's corporate office. The corporate office did not respond to a request for comment about the store manager's comments to Tina's friends.
Chick-fil-A told TODAY the restaurant operator "has acknowledged the unintended offense and has reached out multiple times over the past week to the guest to have a conversation, share the facts surrounding the misunderstanding and apologize" and "extended a formal apology to the guest."
Tina said she is not seeking any sort of compensation from Chick-fil-A, nor does she want to see anyone lose their job over the incident, but she believes it wasn't taken seriously by multiple people at the company.
"I don't care about free stuff, it's more just like taking the accountability," Tina said. "(This city) is pretty diverse so I was a little shocked at the way they handled it, and I'm more shocked that, with recent events like the shooting happening in Georgia, they wouldn't take it a little more seriously. I just wish that the store manager would have apologized. … Take accountability for it, offer training."