Ask The Salty Waitress: The Drive-Thru Messed Up My Order And Refused To Make It Right

Dear Salty: Last week, my family and I were in the mood for fast food fried chicken and decided to pick up a bucket. We got an 8-piece and two sides, and it took forever for the order to arrive. I left in a huff and just wanted to be home.

But when I opened the bag, one of the sides was missing! I really wanted mashed potatoes and gravy and they forgot it. In that heated moment, in which I was hangry, I called the restaurant (a 20-minute drive away) and complained. The manager explained they can't replace it, as there's been "fraud in the past" and that "it's the customer's responsibility to check their purchases before leaving the premises."

I think this is bullshit. What's your take, Salty?

Yours,Extra Crispy

Hey Extra Crispy, Yeah, Salty thinks it's a little bit of bullshit.

Is there any disappointment more crushing than not getting those mashed potatoes with gravy that you wanted? Other than not getting into Mr. Palomino's Beauty School after high-school graduation, nothing comes to mind. Especially if it's those mashed potatoes I'm thinking of, that used to come in a styrofoam cup? Yum. Nope, don't blame you for being pissed off.

But to put some responsibility on the customer: an 8-piece and two sides? It should have been pretty easy for you to check for that potato tub. I know, sometimes when I take my sister's rugrats for the afternoon and they're screaming for Happy Meals, I'm just throwing apple juices at them to shut them up and not really counting. But I should be! As a participant in the fast-food drive-thru transaction, I also have a responsibility to check what I'm getting, although it may not be on top of my hangry mind to do just that. I always try to check, based on past experiences of driving away without a straw, or packets of ketchup, or any napkins (a disaster!). It takes two seconds.

On the other hand, I know it's not always possible, especially for those extra large orders. You're not gonna open every container, checking for exactly three thighs, two breasts, and four wings when a car's honking behind you. Needless to say, the onus is on the restaurant to get the dang order right. There's this little adage we have that appears by the kitchen entrance: "The customer is always right." Yes, even when they order a steak "super-well-done" and I know it's going to taste like cheap shoe leather. So when you demanded satisfaction—did you possibly still have your receipt on you, or did you throw out of the car window?—that manager for sure should have ponied up. I mean, how many time has he gotten the shaft, anyway? I'm not sure how widespread mashed-potato fraud is these days.

This probably doesn't help you much, but maybe there's a few things you can do for next time. Sometimes there's a 1-800 number sign by the drive-thru window you can call to express your dissatisfaction. And if you're on the Twitters and the Facebooks, there are folks manning those accounts 24-7 and many times they'll work to right the wrong.

Bottom line, if I had to name a guilty party, I'd say the restaurant—but you should also make a habit to check, just to save you a 40-minute roundtrip drive, and a missing carton of mashed potatoes, and a whole lot of frustration.

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