GOLDEN, Colo. (CBS4) – A Denver man spent more than $7,000 in legal fees over the last year fighting criminal charges that arose from a disagreement about happy hour discounts at a Sonic Drive in Golden.
“The principal is they were wrong, I wasn’t,” said Ray Garcia, an ex- marine who was charged with harassment and trespassing after the happy hour tussle at the Sonic in February of 2009.
Sonic promotes a happy hour at its restaurants between 2-4 p.m. when drinks are half price. Garcia and two other family members arrived at the restaurant before 4 p.m. on Feb. 6, 2009. They ordered three drinks that should have been around $3.40 with the happy hour discount. But when the drinks arrived, they were charged full price, $6.85.
“It was still before 4 o’clock,” said Garcia, after checking the time on his cell phone. When he pointed the time out to his waitress, Denice Crawford, she said the time on the receipt was 4:11 p.m. Garcia told her that wasn’t the correct time.
“Our clock is 15 minutes fast,” Crawford told Garcia, “and we have an automated system. I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do.”
Unhappy with that explanation, Garcia insisted on speaking to a manager. Sonic manager Bobby Aragon wrote that “there is a time difference of 13 minutes between national time and our sonic time.” But Aragon was not willing to give Garcia the half price deal.
Unsatisfied with that explanation, Garcia pressed the issue and was told to leave. When he didn’t, Sonic workers called Golden police. Officers arrested Garcia and charged him with trespass and harassment.
In a statement to CBS4, Sonic spokesperson Christi Woodworth wrote, “In this case, we missed an opportunity to take good care of the customer regardless of who was right. When the customer did not receive the answer he was seeking from our employee and the manager on duty, he became angry and belligerent regarding the happy hour discount. The customer exited his vehicle and attempted to forcibly enter the drive-in while confronting the manager. Given the level to which this situation escalated, Sonic stands behind its employees’ decision to call police.”
Garcia spent thousands on legal fees over the past year. The case was scheduled to go on trial Dec.28, 2009, but at the last minute, Jefferson County prosecutors dismissed the case. Pam Russell, a spokesperson for the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office, said there were a number of factors leading to the dismissal including trouble locating a victim. She also said when prosecutors realized Garcia was right about the time and Sonic was wrong, they believed a jury likely would have sided with Garcia.
“Sonic’s got a different time that others don’t. They’re in a separate time zone of their own,” said Frederick Schaefer, Garcia’s attorney.”We’re dealing with $3.40 and it turns into a $7,000 ordeal for him. That’s a heckuva drink.”
When CBS4 returned to the Sonic Drive In, employee Denice Crawford acknowledged their clocks were wrong that day and are still off.
“Every time we reset it within a week its off by a minute then it gets worse within months,” said Crawford.
Asked if Garcia was right and should have received the happy hour discount, Crawford said,”Yeah, by ‘real time,’ yeah. But he blew up in our faces and came in and that’s where it became criminal.”
Garcia told CBS4 he does not regret pressing the issue, even if it led to his arrest and an expensive court case.
“I don’t like bait and switch and being lied to and taken advantage of in any shape or form. I don’t expect it to be done to me,” said Garcia. “I stand up for what I believe in. if I’m in the right I’m going to stand up and say I’m right.”
The day CBS4 was at the Sonic Drive In, we ordered drinks as well. The time on the receipt was 4 minutes ahead of the time on the CBS4 cell phone.
– Read Sonic’s full statement and witness statements