“Their intention to deceive was crystal clear.”
This is what the group Restaurant Owners of the Philippines (Resto PH) said after TikTok influencers Chuck Aquino and Joe Abad posted a video of themselves seemingly stealing togarashi powder from a Japanese restaurant.
In the now-deleted video on their TikTok account, the duo repeatedly asked for additional servings of the Japanese chili powder. One of them later took out a jar from his bag and began filling it with the condiment. They went on to hide the jar inside a bag, then walked away from the diner with the words “Do not make eye contact” and “No one will ever know” captioned on the video.
On Feb. 2, Resto PH released a statement calling out the influencers for their “irresponsible” act done amid the country’s ongoing health and economic crisis.
“We are deeply concerned and saddened by the irresponsible Tiktok video posted by the influencers known as Chuck and Joe,” the association wrote. “Their intention to deceive was crystal clear,” they added.
“We wish it to be made clear that we consider what they did as a form of theft; and once promoted on social media, theft no longer becomes petty,” they continued. “Restaurant losses are not casual matters to be used for a ‘Social Experiment.’”
“The restrictions of the quarantine have already caused many restaurants to close, and many more are struggling to survive. Malicious videos set a negative example and will have an adverse effect on the thousands of people who rely on the Food & Beverage industry for their security.”
The organization also prodded the duo and other social media influencers into being responsible for their posts.
“Our members have expressed outrage and disappointment over this video, which may encourage others, especially impressionable youth, to emulate the prank,” Resto PH said, adding that they appreciate the influencers’ contributions to the industry, “but the quest for ‘views’ and ‘hits’ must be balanced with integrity.”
“May we also enjoin other social media personalities to avoid creating content that clearly disrespects an industry and its workers,” they continued. “We are hopeful of the public’s support, as these kinds of acts should not be emulated for virality and ‘comedy.’”
Prior to the release of Resto PH’s statement, the duo uploaded another video on TikTok explaining their intention behind the prank.
Joe started, “Dahil sa dami naming nare-receive na negative comments sa video na ito, so gusto lang po namin linawin na hindi po namin ini-encourage na magnakaw, ine-encourage po namin kayo na ‘wag magtapon at ‘wag magsayang.”
“Actually hindi nga po siya considered na pagnanakaw or stealing dahil wala naman po kaming inuwi na hindi sa amin,” Chuck continued. “Every time po na kakain kami sa restaurant na ‘yon, binibigyan po nila kami ng togarashi spice dahil hindi na po puwede kumuha sa condiments section due to safety protocols. Hindi po namin nauubos ‘yung binibigay nila sa amin so nakakahinayang.”
Joe added, “Puwede naman po talaga i-takeout iyon pero it wouldn’t be as funny as ipapa-takeout namin siya sa kanilang lalagyan. And that was part of the humor na hindi po na-gets ng iba."
"Gayunpaman, humihingi po kami ng pasensya kung hindi naging malinaw ‘yung humor ng video namin na naging dahilan upang masaktan at ma-offend ang iba,” Joe said.
Banner photo from Chuck and Joe's Instagram account.