Good things come to those who wait…and those who work, and fight the good fight. I set out for a glorious lunch but instead became trapped in a world of wild disappointment. Join me for a tale of woe that turned into a tale of woah.
The plan was simple; have a wonderful lunch of Texan cuisine with my boys at my mother’s work with her. If there is anything a Texas girl misses when she follows a man all over the world, it is Texan food. Today I went on an adventure to get my beloved Whataburger with my boys, my Momma, at my beloved University. Oh, my precious Whataburger.
Thrilled that the boys were in a great mood, I gleefully clicked their seat belts and pulled out of the driveway at 12:04 pm. The Texas sun smiled down on me as I happily pulled into a very crowded line that wrapped around Whataburger. It is usually crowded around this establishment, but today there was apparently a promotion for high school students and a canned food drive. Whatacrowd.
I looked at a line of tailgates until 12:23, ecstatic to yell at a stranger through an electronic board to order my beloved artery-clogging glory. It’s the little things, Y’all. I realized that if Mom took lunch at 12:30 I could still get there without wasting too much of her available lunch break. She could even play with the boys for a little while before going back to work. I ordered lunch for myself and two others, eager to deliver lunch to my mother and an office-mate during her break. With the order repeated back to me correctly, I pulled up a whopping 4 inches and continued to wait…and wait. Three of the trucks in front of me pulled into the ‘waiting spots’ next to the drive-thru lane. Soon all the spots were filled with hungry people in large, idling trucks.I finally reached the window only to see a ‘Pay at the next window’ sign.
Firstborn, who is not much for talking, was now yelling, “Got it! Got it! YOU got it!” (Meaning ‘get it’). I was trying, darn it. Any longer and I’d be yelling “GET IT!” too! Future parents please note that two year olds are simply our inner feelings on display on the outside- except as unpredictable as weather and temperamental as a teenager.
The car thermometer read 71 degrees when I pulled in, which is impressive for October. That very morning a friend of mine in Colorado greeted light flurries with an annoyed sigh. That poor displaced Texan. My thermometer now read 82 degrees due to the Texas heat beating down on the car, which turns a simple vehicle ‘greenhouse effect’ into much more than an inconvenient truth.
With the AC on full blast, my poor sons were now hot, hungry and inconsolable. I considered pulling out of the line, but I couldn’t escape due to the cars in the waiting parking spots flanking my left side. Once in line and post order, you’re committed. Furthermore, I needed to solve world hunger for three people with the deliciousness of Whataburger. This was a cape-worthy endeavor.
When the second window’s door finally opened and I saw the man inside, I felt a bit like this. He took my money and handed me a receipt. When I did reach the next window, it was 12:41. Yes, I had waited in a line for a total of 32 minutes with two children in the car in a fast food driveway. I was as angry as a wet hornet, but simultaneously overjoyed. I declared to ‘Marcus’ that I would not have waited in a fast food line for over 30 minutes for anything other than Whataburger, and that is only because I don’t have them where I live. He handed me my receipt and the drinks and then…
“We are still working on your food. Just pull over to a waiting spot and someone will have it right out to you.”
Oh, no. Sir. Nope. Not happening. I looked over and saw that there was NOWHERE to go but the driveway. I smiled and politely said, “Nope” because I had nowhere else to go.
“Oh wait, here is your food!” As he handed me my food, I glanced over at the cars waiting in the spots lining the curb. They had waited almost 40 minutes for their food by this time. The receipt read 12:41 but I didn’t pull away from the window until 12:47. Then Marcus handed me a SURVEY. A SURVEY. “Tell us how we did today and you can get a free Whataburger.”
Good gosh, Man. You know not what you ask.
42 minutes to get through a fast food stop less than 7 miles from the house. FAST food. 42 minutes is a minimum wait time in an ER from the heart attack this food can ultimately cause! As I struggled through lunch-hour traffic the glowing red circles of traffic lights mocked me as if to taunt, “Torro! Torro!” As I finally made my last turn into my mother’s office across the famous train tracks on Texas A&M’s campus at 12:51…
A train. A TRAIN. Mother of Pearl!
At 1:02 I dramatically swung the door open, gathered my sweaty sons and bags of food and met my poor victims of starvation in the lunch area. As I unpacked our order I realized that our ticket was correct. Our food, however was NOT.
EVERY order was wrong. My burger was made incorrectly. The drinks were not correct. The gravy was missing. We had been shorted fries. EVERYTHING was cold.
When my mother stopped kissing the baby’s cheeks long enough to come up for air, I informed her that I was going to have to maim someone. My auburn hair was glowing red. My normally fair skin was red. In the words of Madeline Kahn as Mrs. White, there were “flames- flames on the side of my face! Heaving, breathless- heaving breaths…”
We ate what we could, saved the receipt, and I slowly coiled. I refused to go back into the den of despair from which I had just escaped. Naptime was upon us. No, I would wait until nightfall for a more effective attack, when defenses would be down. I was going in armed. There is no finer back-up in the art of delicate reaming out than my mother. It was time for a good-old-fashioned-customer-service-fanny-spanking.
When my Firstborn were nestled in his bed, all good baseball fans were seated for the World Series game 1 and Whataburger’s lights attracted more moths than patrons, The Queen and I drew up a battle plan. Shall I let her handle it and simply stand back and watch the Master work? Shall I finally show the Master that I had learned the art form? Perhaps a Mother-Daughter act? We slight smiles and perfect posture, we carried ourselves through a glass door toward a poor high school boy. Momma was armed with a receipt. I was armed with a baby in a sleeper, sucking his thumb. The only combination that takes down someone faster without military experience is a pair of Girl Scouts with Thin Mints.
“Can I get you something, Ma’am?” “Yes. The manager, please”, my mother gently commanded.
The timbre of her voice in her opening tone was like the first clear note in a symphony. Soon a middle aged man joined us. “Hello Sir. I understand you had quite a busy day with your promotions. Were you working this afternoon?”
“No, Ma’am. I didn’t actually know about the promotion until I got in tonight. It blindsided me.”
“Oh dear. What a frustrating thing for you! Well Dear, we had a rough day here too. We ordered lunch here and it took such an inordinately long time that I called your store to inquire as to the delay. “
Our poor boy looked stunned. TAG.
I began, “Sir, I had the unfortunate experience of sitting in your drive through with two babies for 40 minutes today, only to be given food that was made incorrectly. EVERY meal, Sir. Unfortunately, when we did receive the meal, everything was stone cold. I am from out of town and dearly love Whataburger, so it was particularly heartbreaking.”
The manager now looked befuddled. “Okay. I’m sorry that happened.” Long pause. Oh, no Sir. WE did not come for an apology. TAG.
Momma took a tiny step forward and lifted the receipt to his chest level, her smile widening to show four more teeth. “Sir, how can you make this right for us?” The man was in shock. He looked back and forth between us. He stammered, “What-uh, what do you want me to DO?”
TAG. “Can you please refund us the amount of lunch on a gift card?” I asked, tilting my head into the’ questioning mom look’ with a closed mouth smile.
“No, Ma’am. I’m not allowed to do that.”
TAG. Momma cleared her throat in a way that sends me running like a cockroach from the light- a clear indication that the boom was about to come swinging. Only now did her smile fall to a determined line. “Well then, what CAN you do for us to make this right so that I will not have to drive to another Whataburger location to avoid such unacceptable service?”
“I’ll get the General Manager’s card and put a note for a total remake on this order for you to redeem at any time. I’ll get it right now.”
When he promptly returned and Momma graciously accepted his card and receipt, I closed for the night.
“Sir, as I finally received my food I was handed a recipt with a survey, asking for my opinion. I refrained from doing so thus far. I’m very pleased that I can now add a happy ending to the situation when I complete it. Thank you.”
After a continued and unnecessarily nervous exit on the manager’s part, we looked over to the high school boy who had watched the exchange with wide eyes. “I’m glad everything worked out!” he said in a voice that clearly conveyed he meant, “I’m glad you didn’t pitch a fit and kill us all.”
We smiled the same sweet smile at him and answered in unison, “ Me too. Have a great night!”
Bad service is a part of life. Poor customer service is an increasingly regular occurrence. Thus, angry fit-throwing, cussing, ranting and railing is now so common that it doesn’t accomplish much of anything other than shaming the family and raising blood pressure. Any two year old can pitch a fit. Only true ladies accomplish their goal by getting quieter. The calm before the storm is a deadly quiet.
When we redeemed the meal it was a perfect lunch with excellent service. Whatamom. Whatavictory. Whataburger.