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Should I Pose the Question as a “True or False?”

January 9th, 2008

wendys-humor.jpgThis article by Jonathan Busch is a humorous story about the author’s encounter with one of his more difficult customers that he had to deal with while working as a cashier at Wendy’s, a well-known fast food restaurant. Many of you who have worked in the food service industry (or at other jobs that involve frequent contact with the general public) will likely be able to relate to this one.

Most of us have, at some point in our lives, worked at a job that could be successfully accomplished by a machine, chimpanzee, or kindergartener. Sometimes you just have to swallow your pride, tie your hair back, and service the drive-through window. Because most of us have shared an experience like this, you probably know just as well as I do that it is not the simplicity of the job that makes you loathe it, but rather the people you are forced to work with or around at such jobs that drives you to homicidal thoughts.

For a time, I worked at a Wendy’s. Although it is not exactly the most distinguished place of employment, it brought in paychecks…more than my fall-back plan of becoming a hobo could boast. As a new employee, I was lucky enough to be given a choice: work the fries, or work the front register. I decided to go with the job that posed me less of a threat in the form of third degree burns. In retrospect, fries might have been less painful.

One thing you may quickly notice if you listen closely to those around you in a fast food restaurant is that Wendy’s does not cater to the upper rung of society. I suppose the NASCAR poster in the front window should have been a hint. Of course, if you’re just EATING at Wendy’s, such things don’t bother you much. But if you’re getting PAID to talk to these people, it can quickly become a real problem.

On my first day of work, a customer approached my register. By the looks of him, I assumed he was a regular to this quality of dining. I was quickly proven wrong, however.

ME: Welcome to Wendy’s! Is this for the dining room?
CUSTOMER: Just a second, I’m still lookin’.

I give the customer a minute to study the menu, being too polite to point out that the question was nothing but a fancier way to say “for here or to go.”

ME: I’m sorry, sir. Is this for the dining room?
ME: Are you eating in the dining room?
CUSTOMER: Yeah. I want a number four and a—
ME: Small, medium, or large?
ME: Your combo. Would you like it small, medium, or large?
CUSTOMER: Would I like what?

Apparently, this guy had never in his life eaten in a fast food restaurant.

ME: You can order your combo in different sizes.
CUSTOMER: What’s the difference?
ME: It changes the size of your fries and your drink.
CUSTOMER: I get a drink?

Now I’m starting to get frustrated. Had he just picked a number at random and hoped it was something he liked?

ME: Yes, sir. So would you like your combo small, medium, or large?

At this point, the guy stops to think for a full 20 seconds. What he finally answered, unfortunately, wasn’t worth the wait.

CUSTOMER: Uh…regular.

Great job, idiot. How much easier could this be than multiple choice? Small, medium, or large! Regular wasn’t a choice! You must have done great in school. Having a one in three chance of getting the question right goes out the window when you don’t pick ANY of the choices. I’ll try again. He’s got to realize what he’s doing.

ME: I’m sorry, Sir…did you say small, medium, or large?
CUSTOMER: I said regular.

At this point, I had to make a decision. There was a line piling up behind the half-wit. My instinct told me he wanted a medium…but my instinct also told me that my pet hamster would have been able to understand the question. Should I instead give him the small? That was the price listed on the menu…if I charged him more, he might get upset, I’d have to get the manager…grr…I had to try to clarify one more time.

ME: So medium?
CUSTOMER: Regular! Is there something wrong with your ears?

Fine! Regular! I punched the button for small. If he didn’t like it, tough.

The sad part of this story is that over the next two months, I saw that man every couple of days. He never mastered the answer to “small, medium, or large.” Before I quit (a blessed day!) I filled out a comment card, in the spirit of my favorite customer, suggesting that we add “regular” to the menu.

Because, you know, the customer is always right.

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