Why You Should Always Check Your Fast Food Receipts

Before you pull away from the drive-thru or walk out the door, take a look at your receipt.

Before I walk away with any takeout order, I always check the bag to make sure everything I ordered is in there. What I rarely do though, is check my receipt before leaving. This is a big mistake on my part.

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Checking the bag doesn't mean I lack confidence in the workers who hand me my order. I know things can get hectic; with lots of orders coming in, sometimes a side of fries might slip through the cracks or something. And it's been my experience that the one time I don't check the bag is the one time that some part of my order is left out. Fellow staff writer Dennis Lee absolutely shares this pain. His misadventures in getting his hands on Wendy's new Hot Honey Chicken Sandwich required four return trips to the drive-thru, each one a true testament to the importance of double-checking the bag.

But why check the receipt? There are three good reasons you should get in the habit of looking over your receipt, if you don't already.

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If your order is missing items, your receipt can prove it

Using the receipt as a checklist can serve a couple different purposes. When you order in line at a fast food restaurant, the cashier hands you the receipt before you get your food, so you can look at the receipt right then and there to make sure the cashier entered everything you ordered. (Even before the era of face masks, it was difficult to understand every word a customer said in a loud restaurant.) Checking the receipt gives you a chance to correct any issues before the workers even get started on the order.

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Once you receive the food, if you're missing anything, you'll also be able to use the receipt to confirm whether part of your order was accidentally left out of the bag, or if the missing item was never keyed in at all. If you ordered four cheeseburgers, the receipt says four, and you receive three, then it's perfectly reasonable to return to the cashier with the receipt and explain the situation. But, if you ordered four cheeseburgers, receive three, and the receipt confirms you were only charged for three, just go back and order one more. Don't be that person who berates the workers for "forgetting" your food or "cheating" you out of it.

You might have been overcharged

On the flip side, the cashier might have accidentally keyed in the same item multiple times, in which case you're paying double the amount you intended to. Again, be sure to point this out to the cashier (politely!) as soon as possible.

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Personally, when I end up with more food than intended, I take that as a sign from the universe that I was hungrier than I thought. However, if you truly don't want the extra charge to your card, checking the receipt as soon as it's handed over is the best way to get your money back.

This scenario is less likely if you pay full attention while ordering. Don't just go through the motions in a haze; read the screen that displays your order, if the restaurant has one (this has become more common at chains like McDonald's lately). Then you can correct everything before a receipt is even printed.

You can score free food

Cashiers at some fast food chains will go out of their way to circle the feedback survey at the bottom of the receipt, but not everyone does. Checking the receipt will remind you to take those surveys, which might earn you a free coffee, breakfast sandwich, or some other perk, such as being entered for a chance to win sweepstakes prize money.

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Even if you don't stand to score free food, though, the feedback surveys serve an important purpose: They give you a chance to praise the specific employee(s) who served you that day. If you have a good experience, let corporate know! When an employee is called out by name/location for their good service, their manager is informed of the feedback. A good manager will pass the praise along to the team and compliment them for a job well done. A great manager will make sure the employee is recognized for their excellence in some way.

In a time when so many customers go the digital route, it can be easy to forget about the importance of a receipt. But checking that piece of paper might save you money and time, and could even earn you a perk or two.

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