Peter Baker

The long, complicated order is the bane of a cashier’s existence. Such an order is usually placed by a middle-aged woman with one child in her arms and two or three more progeny wreaking havoc throughout the restaurant. She probably doesn’t eat at Wendy’s that often, but sometimes she just doesn’t feel like preparing food for her entire clan. I understand and sympathize, but that doesn’t mean that I enjoy taking her gargantuan, convoluted order.

Today, I handled the order of three children, two parents, and a grandparent. Apparently, they had never been to Wendy’s before.

“Hi, welcome to Wendy’s, may I take your order please?”

“Yeah, we’re ready.” In retrospect, I dub this woman “master of understatement.”

“Will this be for here or to go?”

“For here.” So far, so good.

“OK, I need … what do I need? Honey, what do we want?” It really gets me when people say “I need” to order a cheeseburger.

Her husband gave me a sympathetic look and ordered a burger and a Coke.

“OK. I want a junior cheeseburger deluxe.”

“OK, one junior cheese deluxe.” I say, punching the JRCZDE button on the register.

“Wait—what goes on that?”

From memory, I recite, “Mayo, ketchup, pickle, onion, tomato, lettuce, mustard.”

“Oh. Well I don’t want all of that. Cross that out.” Come on, this is fast food. Her sandwich had already been made.

“Sure thing,” I say, punching the VOID button.

“Just give me a junior bacon.”

“One junior bacon.”

“With no tomatoes.” She adds as if it is obvious.

“No tomatoes.” I repeat.

“Or mayonnaise. Extra bacon too.”

Two down (as long as she doesn’t change her mind again), four to go. The entire order was too long and arduous for me to transcribe, but I will say that it took almost nine minutes to determine what this family really wanted and many more to actually give it to them. The whole thing would have passed much more quickly were it not for confusion over drink sizes, questions as to which fries go with what meal, debate over what constitutes a kids meal, and extended haggling over the final price. The entire affair was not officially over for many more minutes, as the group continued to send representatives to the cash register, demanding yet another packet of ranch dressing, insisting that I had forgotten an order of fries, and ordering more Frosties. I tried to carry myself with poise and dignity throughout, but I came close. I was just glad that neither K nor E took the order.

K and E have both been working at Wendy’s for many years, yet neither fully grasps the idea of polite customer service. K is usually assigned to work at the pickup window so that her customers can’t see the mean looks and gestures that she gives them. Of course, they can still hear her. To one customer who unknowingly ordered a discontinued pita, she shouted. “Damn, you just don’t get out enough to come to Wendy’s that often, do you, sir?” To the slightly impatient, she asks, “Do you want your damn food?” and upon their affirmative response, she glares at them and whispers, “Wait.” Had she handled the above order, I imagine that she would have leapt over the counter and slapped the poor woman in the face or punched her husband in the gut.

E works on the grill, because that is the only thing that he is good at. He is proud of the fact that he is a college student, which he never fails to remind anyone who insults his intelligence. “Hey, buddy, I’m getting straight A’s in college,” he mutters, violently pressing his meat, sprinkling everyone near him with drops of hot grease. E constantly complains that he is surrounded by immature babies, and as ironically suitable retribution, he refuses to supply them with meat as quickly as he should.

Although everyone is exasperated by their ravings, outbursts, and stubbornness, I think we would all be a little bit sad to see K or E go. However, like most Wendy’s employees (our turnover rate is extremely high), they eventually will, even if it’s only to work at another fast food joint. Until then, I pray that they don’t have to take any orders like the one I took today.