Author's Note: I wrote this on July 22 and am only posting it today - August 6. I had to think about it for a while to decide whether or not I even wanted to publish it. Finally decided to.
I don’t normally bitch about the service in fast food restaurants. They’re all understaffed, usually by people who are there out of necessity, not desire. There’s enough nastiness in the world without me adding to it, so when things take longer than I’d like, or something goes awry, I try to be patient, understanding and accommodating. But after today my patience with the Wendy’s in Wasilla is spent.
Rewind to a few months back. My wife and I stopped to get dinner around 5:30 on a weeknight. The drive thru was packed, so we went inside. The dining room was also packed. After standing in line for a full twenty-seven minutes, without being told anything by any of the employees, including the managers who were wandering around aimlessly behind the counter, my patience was, like today gone. I finally walked up and asked the kid at the register, who was clearly overwhelmed and panicked by whatever was happening, if we could expect to place an order within the next ten minutes. He told me no. So we walked out and went somewhere else. Like I said at the beginning, I try not to be that guy who complains about everything like some entitled prick, a male Karen. We all have bad days, problems, stress. Being rude and nasty because I didn’t get my way is juvenile and helps nothing. So that brings us to today.
My wife and I were out and about on a Saturday and stopped at that same Wendy’s around two in the afternoon. Again, we went into the dining room. There was a line, not big, but it was obvious we were going to be waiting a few minutes to place our order. We were ok with that. Even fast food takes a few minutes to prepare. While we were waiting we struck up a conversation with a nice lady in line behind us, and at one point we overheard the young lady working at the register speaking to a customer. Her tone was utterly rude and dismissive, as if the customer was inconveniencing her by being there instead of paying her wages by making a purchase. The three of us even commented on it briefly, expressing our disbelief that an employee would speak to a customer that way. It took a few minutes, but we finally got our turn to order. The same young lady who’d just been so unwelcoming to that other patron took our order. My wife ordered first, and when she was done, the first words the girl asked were something like, “Is that it?” in that same snotty, irritated voice. It creased my brow a bit, but we soldiered on with placing our order. Each time we stopped speaking for even a brief moment, the same type of phrase with the same tone came out. “Is that it?” The question was accompanied by a frown of borderline disgust on the girl’s face, and by the time we were done telling her what we wanted and were ready to pay, I was good and irritated. My wife and I really make an effort to treat others the way we’d like to be treated, and this girl was about as rude as I’ve ever seen anyone act toward a customer anywhere. You don’t act that way in business. Ever. When it was time to pay, I put my debit card in the machine and entered the pin number. She got our drink cups while the machine was doing its thing. I couldn’t tell when it was done; the screen didn’t display a message telling me to remove the card, nor did the girl say anything, she just stood there staring at me. I was waiting to be handed my receipt, or told that the transaction was complete, and while I waited for some kind of acknowledgement, I picked up the drink cups. I looked up at the girl and was about to ask if I could take the card out when, in an even more aggrieved and haughty tone she looked at me with utter disgust and said, “Those are your drink cups!” That was it. I barked back. I don’t remember what I said, but it was something like, “Yeah, I know those are my drink cups!” I’m sure I had a bit of an angry look on my face, and my tone left no doubt that I was displeased with the service I’d just received. What surprised me was the girl’s reaction. She immediately backed away from me, raised her hands to her face, and started to cry. I’d been expecting another snide comment. It was immediately obvious to myself, my wife, and the nice lady behind us that this girl was most likely on the spectrum, as people sometimes say. Autistic. This is not something I know for sure, but my wife and I, and our conversation companion, all suspected that was the case. I felt horrible. She probably had no idea how she was coming across. The nice lady we’d been chatting with did a great job of calming her down so the girl could take her order while my wife and I found a table to wait for our food.
We rarely eat fast food, but when we do, Wendy’s in one of our favorites. I don’t know the owners of that restaurant or any of the employees, but I would like to ask how in the hell they could put that poor kid in that situation. They could easily have had her doing something else. At the very least they should have had someone helping her take orders. And look, I get it. It’s very hard to get people to work, especially at fast food places, and when you have someone, you use them wherever they’re needed. It’s that way everywhere. This situation, and the extreme delay I described earlier, are symptoms of a different problem. Management. I’ve seen poorly managed businesses in a variety of industries. That restaurant has provided me with the two most ludicrous experiences I’ve ever had when trying to make a purchase of any kind, at any point in my life.
We never got an explanation for the long wait. I even filled out a comment form on the Wendy’s corporate website. Never heard a word from them in response. That too is poor service which is likely also a symptom of poor management. I don’t expect a free Baconator or anything for writing this, not looking for refunds or make-it-right giveaways. But I would like whoever owns that store to be aware of the kinds of experiences their customers are having. A member of our family worked doing Door Dash for a while, and told us that he completely ignored orders from that restaurant. Other people have mentioned another Wendy’s location in our area, and exclaimed about how much better the service is at that one. I believe it, and even though it’s a twenty-minute drive farther from our house than the other store, we may just start going to that one when we want Wendy’s.