If everyone were like me there would be a lot of vacant buildings in America which are currently housing fast food outlets. I eat out at these places five or six times a year at most. Well, last night was one of those nights when I had become involved in a small project, time had slipped away, it was late and I was hungry.
I remembered that I still had a receipt from a breakfast I had purchased at Jack In The Box which offered me a 10% discount on a future purchase attached to the fridge with a kitchen magnet. Best of all, it was good on any meal and there was no expiration date on the receipt. As Jack In The Box is only a couple of miles from the house and I knew that they were open 24 hours a day for drive through, I took myself and my six month old receipt and drove over there.
I was sort of in the mood for a chicken of some kind sandwich. It took me a few seconds to locate the “chicken section” on their menu display and then to eliminate the “nugget” selections. That brought it down to a “Sourdough Bread Chicken Sandwich” or a “Western Chicken Sandwich.” I had ordered a sandwich on their sourdough bread before and didn’t care for the consistency of the bread – so by default I leaned toward the Western Chicken. And as I was in a mood for some fries I decided to order the “Combo” since they offered lemonade as a drink choice.
Confidently, I edged my car forward to the ordering station where the little screen greeted me with, “Welcome to Jack In The Box.” Within seconds a young woman’s voice magically broadcast the same greeting and asked if she could take my order. So I replied, “I’ll have the number nine combo with lemonade, please.”
“Do you want a small, medium or large?,” she queried.
This through me for a loop. I wanted the number nine combo for $6.29 as listed on their menu. I wasn’t sure what further choices I had to make.
A bit flustered, I repeated my request for the number nine combo with lemonade.
“Yes, but do you want a small, medium or large?”
“A small, medium or large what?,” I asked.
“Combo,” she replied.
I could see that we were caught in a circular conversation which was going nowhere. So I asked her, “What kind of number nine combo do you get for $6.29?”
She answered, “A small.”
I said, “Fine, I’ll have that.”
“What do you want to drink?”
Despite the fact that I had told her I wanted lemonade twice before, I repeated it calmly a third time. I could see light at the end of the tunnel.
A few seconds later my order appeared on the screen and the young woman asked me if she had my order correct. Frankly, at that point I would have settled for a couple of tacos with a side order of jalapenos and no beverage because I was really getting hungry. But I glanced up at the screen and noticed that she was charging me $6.49 for my number nine combo – not the $6.29 that was listed on the menu.
I pointed this out to her.
“The reason for the difference in price is that there is tax,” she said.
I was beginning to get a little steamed at the foolishness of this remark and the difficulty of placing the order in the first place.
“No, it’s not a matter of tax. I understand that there is tax and that is clearly shown on your screen. The problem is that your menu says a number nine combo costs $6.29 and you are charging me $6.49 for it.”
“That’s because of the tax.”
At that point a car pulled up behind me – another late night diner. It was nearly midnight.
“Excuse me ma’am – it’s not a matter of tax. I understand that there is tax. What I’m trying to tell you is that your menu says that my order costs $6.29 before tax. Your screen says my order costs $6.49 before tax. That’s the problem.”
“Would you please pull up to the pickup window?”
I refused to move – my apologies to the driver behind me whom I inconvenienced.
Within a minute a nice young man wearing the ever-present headset with which people who have careers in “fast food” restaurants are born came out to resolve the issue.
“What seems to be the problem?”
I explained that the price for a number nine combo was $6.29 and I was being charged $6.49 for it. That was the problem.
“That’s because there is tax.”
I was exhausted, very frustrated and feeling moderately homicidal at that response. But I said, “Excuse me sir. Look at your menu. It says a number nine combo costs $6.29. Now look at the first line of your screen. Please note that it says a number nine combo costs $6.49. Do you see the problem?”
I hoped that with the visual aid of both the menu and the screen in front of him we could finally resolve the issue. And we did.
“Oh, that’s because the menu is ‘messed up’.”
I said, “Well, since I ordered from your ‘messed up’ menu, I expect to be charged the ‘messed up’ price. So just adjust the screen to $6.29 plus tax, I’ll pick up my order and be on my way.”
“I can’t do that. I don’t have the override code.”
At that point, ten minutes after starting to order, I had lost my appetite for a number nine combo or anything else on the Jack In The Box menu.
I said, “Well, thanks for trying to resolve the problem. You have a good night.” And I drove off.
When I got home I pulled some bacon and eggs out of the refrigerator and enjoyed them with an English muffin and some fig jam I had made a few months earlier. It was a delightful meal and I put it together in little more time than I had spent at the window trying to get a dose of “fast food”.
After cleaning the dishes and pan I pulled the 10% discount receipt on a future Jack In The Box purchase from my pocket and put it back on the refrigerator with the magnet. It’s not that I plan on using it. But it will serve as a reminder of why I will not be using it.
They say that eating fast food regularly is not the best thing for your physical health. I don’t know if that is true or not.
But I can certainly attest to the fact that trying to order it plays havoc with your mental well-being.