You get what you inspect, not what you expect

This past week, I had a short window between recording our evening radio talk show and attending a nonprofit board meeting. I made a quick stop at a nearby McDonald’s restaurant, thinking I’d take treats to the board meeting for everyone. At the drive-up order area, I first confirmed that the fruit pies were still two for a dollar, and then ordered six cherry pies and six apple pies.

I wasn’t given a total, just asked to pull ahead to the first window. There, I was asked for $12 and change. When I pointed out that I should only owe $6 for 12 pies, the clerk said, “They are two for a dollar, but you didn’t order two-for-one pies. You ordered 12.” I could not understand her logic, nor could she understand mine, so at that impasse she called her manager to the window. He told me, “We don’t have 24 pies ready. You’ll have to wait if you want that many. We only have 12 available at this time.”

I kept my cool (I’m actually proud of that, because this kind of slapstick silliness really annoys me) and politely explained that I only wanted 12 pies – six cherry and six apple. Confused, he said, “Then you can pay and move ahead and we’ll have them ready at the next window.”

“Pay what?” I asked. He repeated the same $12-plus-tax total the clerk had given me.

I then canceled my original order and placed another one: “Give me two cherry pies, okay? Good, now add two more cherry pies ….” And so on. Eventually, I got 12 pies for $6 as advertised, though I was a few minutes tardy for the board meeting.

“Don’t order ANYTHING off menu”

Another night last week, I called to see if my brother-in-law would like me to pick up fast food on my way home from work. Shawn now lives with us; Kevin travels a lot for work, and I tend to work late and unpredictable hours, so our dinners are often on the run or after 8 p.m.

“Make it easy on yourself; just order two of whatever you want, and that’s what I’ll have, too,” he suggested.

Taco Bell
was the most convenient stop, so I ordered two identical combo meals. I asked for “extra tomato” on both orders, and stressed that I did not want sour cream on anything. “That will be an extra 60 cents for each item that you want tomatoes on,” the clerk announced. Since I’d ordered a total of two Mexican pizzas and four tacos, that was $3.60 extra by my math.

“Fine,” I said, since my American idea of Mexican food most definitely calls for tomatoes. And sure enough, the upcharge was correctly figured at .60 x 3 items x 2 orders, and the receipt correctly reflected the charge was for extra tomatoes. I checked before leaving the drive-through, because more often than not, Taco Bell screws up my order. (Usually they give me diet soda instead of regular, so I sip that before leaving now, too.)

“I thought you didn’t care for sour cream,” Shawn commented, pawing through messy wrappers.

The sour cream was annoying, but it didn’t affect me near as much as discovering there were NO tomatoes at all on either order, not even a little piece of one accidently flicked in the bag. I responded with a string of naughty words, using inventive enough phrasing to cause my brother-in-law to laugh rather than commiserate with me. “I don’t know why you still use the drive-through,” Shawn chided. “You know you have to go in, order exactly off the menu with no changes at all, open the bag, and inspect the food right in front of them. Once you get home, it’s too late. Remember how Wendy’s forgot our chili orders last week?”

Yes, I remembered, and being right (I had a worthless receipt to prove it after the fact) didn’t make my order whole. That night, like many, I was too tired to waste my gas and time driving all the way back for a couple missing food items. (The trip before that, they forgot an order of fries.)

And two days later, at another food establishment …

Shawn loves to play harmonica, and I spied one at Cracker Barrel while with my family and our friends, Dave and Donna Gray. We were all aimlessly strolling through the store while waiting to be seated for brunch, so I grabbed it and hurried to the checkout counter, hoping to surprise Shawn with a little gift, since he’s done a lot around the house for Kevin and me recently (including taking care of our four dogs, which is no small thing). I gave the clerk the $6.95 harmonica and a $10 bill. She asked if I wanted it in a bag (yes, or I worried that they’d think I stole it, since I’d be in the store for at least another hour), and so she handed it over with my receipt … but no change.

When I asked for my change, she looked at the receipt, opened the cash register, and counted out the coins. Then she shut the register and smiled as she handed them to me.

“You still owe me two dollars,” I said. This quite confused her. “Are you sure?” she asked. She looked at the receipt again and then at the change in my hand and said, “You asked for your change.”

“I meant my coins and my dollars,” I said.

The woman apologized, but said that she’d closed her cash drawer and so she’d have to wait until another customer made a transaction to give me my money. Meanwhile, Shawn was approaching, wondering what I’d just bought. Thank heavens for that little paper bag hiding it, right?

What would have happened, do you think, if the bill had been $7.27 and I had given her $10.02 to get back better change? I do that a lot of places, because I prefer quarters over a bunch of pennies and nickels. Way too often, clerks try to hand me back the odd pennies thinking I’m dense or didn’t hear them correctly. (People my age remember when such a complicated transaction was commonplace and instantly understood, in the old days when schoolchildren were still taught how to handle money and count back change in their heads. I don’t want to turn in my iPad for an abacus, but there is something to be said about the importance of still teaching critical thinking skills.)

The moral of the story is …

More and more often lately, I get what I inspect, not what I expect. Also (I’ll say it for you), I’d save a lot of hassle, money, and weight if I just packed an emergency lunch or dinner during the workweek.

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