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Bay's Mean Letter to Wendy's

June 12, 2006 

Dear Wendy’s Consumer Relations, 

On Thursday, June 8, 2006, I went to the Wendy’s on Hwy 72 in Loudon, Tennessee, to purchase two combo meals. I don’t eat at your restaurants very often any more. It’s more economical and healthier to simply cook at home. But on that day, my husband and daughter had attended a show in another city and had dined at a table-service restaurant close to the convention center, so economy wasn’t a concern. Food and convenience were the uppermost priorities. My son likes Wendy’s, so that’s where I went. 

The odd thing is that my sister – who lives and works in Las Vegas – had been complaining to me recently about the drive-thru service at her nearest Wendy’s franchise. “They keep interrupting me,” she said, “It’s terribly annoying. If the person on the intercom would just listen, I could place my order so much more quickly!” 

I laughed at her, and once she called me on the cell phone while she got her lunch, just so I could hear the girl at her Wendy’s interrupting her and making her answer stupid questions that really slowed down the process of ordering. How silly! That was so funny! 

Unfortunately, it wasn’t so amusing when, on the aforementioned date at about 8:00 in the evening, I ran into exactly the same thing (and worse) at my nearest Wendy’s. I had the order memorized so I could tell the cashier in the most speedy and expeditious manner what my son and I required in the way of sustenance. It was quite simple. My son wanted a #2 combo (ketchup, mustard, pickles, and tomato) with Dr. Pepper to drink. I wanted a #1 combo (mustard, extra mustard, tomato) with a diet drink. I have known for years that Wendy’s prefers to have the condiments listed in alphabetical order. Just to be considerate, I always get that part arranged first in my mind. 

I pulled up to the intercom and the attending cashier very politely asked, “May I take your order?” 

I replied, “Yes, I’d like a #2 combo with –…” 

She interrupted immediately and demanded, “What to drink with that?” 

I said, “Dr. Pepper, and –…” but she interrupted yet again. 

“What size?” 

The menu at this Wendy’s – and, indeed, every Wendy’s at which I’ve ever dined – has only one price per combo meal. There’s a splashy graphic about “Biggie Size,” but that’s off to one side. The very idea that the size of the combo is a priority – when the menu indicates only one size and one commensurate price – is mindboggling. I asked the girl if the other sizes cost a price not represented on the menu. She allowed that the mediums and larges were more costly, so I replied that I wanted a small, since that was the posted price, and I certainly didn’t want to spend any money unnecessarily. 

At this point, the girl demanded, “Will that be all?” 

I had not even told her “ketchup, mustard, pickles, tomato” for the Double currently on order, so I asked her if she would like to know which condiments to put on the hamburger. 

This question set off an entirely different conversation – first, we had to define the word “condiments,” with which this cashier was not familiar. Secondly, she interrupted immediately after the word “ketchup,” demanding again if this “would be all,” not waiting to hear if the burger required any more dressings. 

In the midst of that raging debate, she even asked if I wanted cheese on the Double. The menu clearly states that cheese is an integral part of this particular dish, and at that point I had to wonder if I needed to specify that the whole thing should be served on a bun. 

I’m afraid it took quite a very long time to order this one combo dinner. When the girl asked again if that would be all, I said yes, despite the fact that I had not actually ordered the second combo meal. We had already spent several minutes ironing out the myriad details of a single combo meal – details which, honestly, shouldn’t have required clarification. The menu states only one size. The menu states only one price. The menu states that cheese is part of the base Double. I shouldn’t have to debate these minor details for several minutes. I simply didn’t have the time to waste on ordering another meal while knowing my son was at home, hungry, and waiting for some food. 

To say the whole ordeal was an unsatisfactory transaction is an understatement of the most diplomatic variety. 

I’ve waited a few days to sort out exactly what unsettles me about my disappointing incident at the local Wendy’s. Many of my friends – to whom I told this tale on my blog – were of the opinion that I should write you an irate letter full of venom and fire, demanding recompense. But I don’t want compensation. To be honest, that meal was days ago, and what I needed at that time was food in a timely manner. Compensation now would literally be, “too little, too late.” It was just a fast-food meal. It isn’t like getting a poorly prepared filet mignon at a gourmet restaurant, where, if I had been treated as rudely and ridiculously, I would have registered a vehement complaint. 

No, my concern is that it is apparently becoming company policy from Wendy’s International to chase customers away at the drive-thru with ridiculous questions and rude interruptions. I encountered the same irrational behavior that my sister is experiencing on the other side of the continent. 

I commend you on your recent steps to make your menu selections healthier, but I honestly do not know if I’ll give my nearest Wendy’s another chance to confound and frustrate me. Too many competing fast-food restaurants actually do listen to me, and I’m inclined to give them, not Wendy’s, my admittedly irregular business. I can only hope that my letter will give you an opportunity to review your training regimen for your employees who must interact with customers. Healthier food doesn’t mean much if I can’t convince your cashiers to listen to me so I can place a relatively simple order. 

Please consider training your cashiers to listen to customers. I understand that new personnel may have difficulty memorizing the entire menu, but for this problem to be so widespread, it comes across as a corporate flaw, not an individual one. 

Sincerely, ...