Actually, this might have been the worst fast-food experience ever, period. Bring out the trophy!
Following is a rough transcript of how things proceeded.
Employee at Counter: *blank stare*
Bobby: Howya doing?
Employee at Counter: *mumblemumble*
Bobby: ... ... Oh! ... What do you want, babe?
Dawn: Um, okay, a nachos bell grande, please, without the meat?
Employee at Counter: *tippity-tappity on touch screen*
Dawn: *waiting* ... And ... *waiting some more* And two bean burritos?
Employee at Counter: *tippity-tappity* What kind of beef?
Dawn: (Huh?) *ahem* I'm sorry?
Employee at Counter: What kind of beef?
Dawn: Oh. Um ... they're bean burritos.
Employee at Counter: Oh. *tippity-tappity* Two?
Dawn: Yes, please.
Employee at Counter: That all?
Bobby: No, I'd like a #4, please, with soft-shell tacos and beans instead of the beef on everything.
Employee at Counter: *tippity-tappity* Okay. *tippity-tappity* (Tetris high score! w00t!) Um ... a what?
Bobby: A #4?
Employee at Counter: What's on that?
Bobby: ... ... ... *recovering senses* *glances at board* A Mexican pizza and two tacos?
Employee at Counter: Two tacos ...?
Bobby: Yes, soft-shell, please and
Dawn and Bobby (in unison): Beans instead of beef on everything.
(Aside: This is the detail most-often messed up on a vegetarian Taco Bell order. Many were the nights, in the follies of our youths when we did not check the bags afore arriving at home, where we went hungry thanks to the meat mistakenly placed upon our orders.)
Employee at Counter: *tippity-tappity* *tippity-tappity*
Dawn and Bobby: ...
Employee at Counter: *tippity-tappity* *tippity-tappity* (I have launched a nuclear attack on Russia from a Taco Bell touch screen! Mwahahaha!) *tippity-tappity* That's $8. *tippity-tappity*
Dawn: (Wow, that seems kind of low.) *notes Production Lady just heaped a scoop of beef on her nachos*
Bobby: *gets out cash* *takes receipt*
Dawn: *checks receipt* *notes that nothing was entered vegetarian and Bobby's order was entered completely wrong* Um ... Bobby? That guy rang in your order as just a Mexican pizza ...
Bobby: *takes receipt and attempts to explain to the guy what he wanted, a #4, not just a Mexican pizza*
Dawn: *trying to politely get the attention of the woman behind the counter, who just heaped a scoop of beef onto Bobby's Mexican pizza* *ahem* *shiftshift* Um ... *cough* Ma'am? Excuse me?
Production Lady: Yes?
Dawn (woeful): That order isn't supposed to have meat on anything.
Production Lady: *glances at screen that does not in fact indicate anywhere that the order is vegetarian* It doesn't say that on the screen.
Dawn: I know, I'm so sorry. I didn't want you to finish the whole order ...
Production Lady: Um ... thanks. *tosses out half of finished order*
Dawn: *woe* *wrings hands* *dramatic sigh* *thinks of hungry children in Africa and food wasted and production people pissed off*
Two minutes later ...
Bobby: *emerges from attempt to remedy order with Employee at Counter ... scathed*
Dawn and Bobby: *simultaneously try to explain to Production Lady that the second order with two soft-shell tacos is also vegetarian (because of course, despite two-minute's worth of *tippity-tappity* it was not entered as such ... though rumor has it that a space shuttle was launched in the Arizona desert last night based on a complex code entered into a Taco Bell touch screen ... hmmm ........)*
Bobby (to Dawn): Why don't you get my drink and go wait in the car with Alex, and I'll pick up the food.
Dawn: *thank god* Okay. *shit I'm agnostic*
A half-hour later ...
Bobby: *opens taco to apply taco sauce* Ack!
Dawn: *looks* *squints* *looks again* Um ... where's the ... filling?
Bobby: There's lettuce and cheese
Bobby and Dawn (in unison): And that's it.
Yes, after all the rigmarole of trying to explain our orders, Bobby's tacos had no filling except a meager sprinkling of lettuce and a meager sprinkling of cheese.
Meanwhile, I wonder exactly what Employee at Counter was typing into those touch screens ... and how exactly he expected Production Lady to know what we'd ordered if he didn't somehow indicate it to her?
Maybe he was using the screen to engage his Super Sekrit Magic Telepathy? Didn't work, apparently.
Of course, Incompetent Employees are nothing to Rude Customers. After all, an Incompetent Employee + a Call to Corporate Headquarters = Gift Certificates + Free Meals. Now my days in the foodservice trenches are long past and not likely to repeat anytime soon, but I do enjoy vicariously feeling the rage caused by rude customers that I observe while eating out. Those at the top of my list:
Picky Seaters. The type that, no matter where the host puts them, immediately glances around the restaurant, finds a more "favorable" table, and loudly declares, "I want to sit there." The cousin of the Picky Seater are those that, upon being seated at a "table," immediately declare that they prefer a "booth."
Now, there are legitimate reasons for needing a table over a booth and vice versa, and it's perfectly fair to make this clear to the host upon arrival. But (to those who haven't had the pleasure of working in a restaurant), most restaurants have a seating rotation that ensures that each server gets an equal share of the tables, which means that no single server gets overwhelmed and each customer receives adequate service. It may seem silly, but "double seating" a server at the wrong time may be the difference between a stellar experience and a harried, inattentive server. This is exactly what happens when customers demand a table in a server's section who has recently been seated once or twice already.
And the fact remains that for the majority of customers, there is no special need for a table or a booth. Both are semi-firm surfaces upon which to plant one's backside. So sit down, shut up, and eat your food.
People on Cell Phones. Does this even need stating? People on cell phones in any public venue are a pain in the ass. Alas, there are times when one must take a call in public, but there is a certain decorum as well. For example, it shows minimal respect to set down the phone and give one's full attention to the server who is attempting to assist him or her. Asking about the wine list with a cell phone in one's ear and every other word interrupted with, "Uh-huh, yeah, hold one, yeah, uh-huh," is beyond rude.
Never mind the fact that if I was dining with a person who felt that the chatty Cathy on the other end of the line was worthier of attention than his/her dining companion, I think I'd leave.
Gimme Gimme Gimme ... No one is giving you anything. So please don't order, "Give me the chicken quesadilla." "I would like the chicken quesadilla" works just as well, as does, "May I please have the chicken quesadilla?"
It may sound odd--and petty--to say, but these minor nuances of language really help distinguish people who think of servers and people who think of servants, at least to those who humble themselves to wiping up ABC food on a daily basis.
As the old motto goes: You don't want to piss off the person who spends quality time along with your food.
(And for the record, as a server and a cook, I never allowed "special ingredients" to be added to food in my sights. If this meant tattling, then so be it. But I can't say that all restaurant employees are so noble.)
Diet Coke Is Not a State of Mind. As in, a server walks up to a table and cheerfully asks, "Hi, how are you today?"
And receives the reply, "Diet Coke."
No, my friends, Diet Coke is not a state of mind, nor is Unsweeted Iced Tea or Water with Lemon.
Probably why I was not a successful server and quickly returned to my misanthropic existence as a production employee, I used to like to play with these people.
Dawn: Hi, how are you today?
Person: Diet Coke.
Dawn: That's great to hear! I'm fine too, thank you for asking. Now may I get you started with a drink or an appetizer today?
Yes, I know that such pleasantries are verbal fluff and don't mean much. But they are pleasantries and polite for a reason. And they acknowledge a human being behind that name badge, not just an order-taker who exists to serve one's whims.
So concludes my foodservice dispatches.