Finding My Word of the Year at Wendy’s

I had not planned on doing a word of the year for 2016, but at a Wendy’s restaurant on Friday, I found my theme.

I went through the drive-through of a Wendy’s which I frequent often, and ordered a full spicy chicken caesar salad. I order a full spicy chicken caesar salad at Wendy’s (and at THIS Wendy’s) often, and I always take care to articulate the “full” part (because it’s very disappointing to arrive home with a half instead of a full!).

When the service person handed me my order, the bag felt a little light but I was aware of cars behind me so I pulled forward a bit. Upon checking the order, I realized I had been given a half salad.

The parking lot is configured in such a way that I couldn’t easily get back in the drive-through line to rectify the problem. I didn’t really want to go in, because a) I was in my workout clothes and b) I was already worried about the length of time I had left my father-in-law alone. It was pretty much my only option, though, so in I went.

The staff person from the drive-through came out to the restaurant dining area to meet me, which felt like a good sign. I said, I received a half salad instead of a full and [this part is important] “I probably didn’t speak clearly enough.” She said she would fix it. I asked how much more it would cost, she told me $2.15, and I handed her the money.

When she went to the back to change out the salad, she said to her co-worker, “she needs a whole salad, It was her fault.”

WELL, folks, welcome to the birth of the theme of 2016 because at that moment, it took every ounce of discretion and discipline I had not to stalk back there, grab that woman (who is a staff person I deal with frequently, has always been professional, and honestly I’ve almost tweeted her praise before), and confront her because it actually was not my fault.

The problem is, by being deferential, trying to ease the conflict of the situation, and please everyone, I had accepted blame for a situation in which I was completely and utterly blameless.

I think the woman was (in some reverse co-worker support way) trying to support her co-worker as in “you didn’t do anything wrong. Mistakes happen.” But why on earth would you say within earshot of a compliant, diplomatic, patient customer “it was her fault?”

This tendency of mine does me no favors, in everyday life with strangers, doing business, as I interact with coworkers, as I parent, and in my marriage and it’s time for it to stop.

As I was driving today, I narrowed it down to two candidates.

SILENT (Because in situations where I am tempted to “fix” things by interjecting an unnecessary apology, silence is power.)

CONFIDENCE (Because it is my lack of confidence in these situations that leads me to break the silence.)

Maybe the thing is “silent” and “confidence” by themselves are each only half of an incomplete whole:


Finding My Word of the Year at Wendy's

In an interesting counterpoint to that day, my son and I ate at Mr. Roboto Tokyo Grill that evening. Quite a few minutes elapsed after my dinner was delivered to our table. We saw what we thought was my son’s food in the hands of a server, but the server didn’t come to our table so we assumed it was not his. I finally went up to the cashier to inquire. The staff said “oh, you didn’t have a number on your table so we couldn’t figure out where to deliver his food (they had taken the number when they delivered my food). We reassured them it was fine and they delivered his food. Several minutes later, the manager approached me, asked my name, and assured me that our next meal would be free, and he apologized for the problem. What a lovely counterpoint to the lunchtime “faulting.” Thanks, Mr. Roboto Tokyo Grill!

Creative K Kids

21 thoughts on “Finding My Word of the Year at Wendy’s

  1. I word for last year was silent. I wanted to spend 365 days really striving to listen far more than I spoke. It was good. It was great in some dynamics and instances. It didn’t work in others because people mistook my silence for weakness.
    I definitely think a combo of the two – silently assertive? – – would have been better.

    • “Silent” definitely did not even make the list until late in the reflection process. But it’s exactly what I needed to be in that situation (and so many others) when my reflex was to save everyone and everything. Thx for sharing your 2015 experience.

  2. Oh wow. Yesterday I was making reservations on Greyhound (I know, I know!) Their site was down. The customer service rep said it was something I did. I asked him if that was true why did the site say “sorry, our site isn’t working now. You can email us or call at—”
    Later he kept asking if I understood him. Not his verbiage but the very. simple.concepts. I was very nice (well trained) but finally said “I have a grad school education, and you?” With each sentence he put me more and more on the defensive and as I had already spent two hours trying to get bus tickets (the worst transportation) for a trip I don’t really want to go on, I was mentally exhausted. I’m sure some person before me didn’t understand him but that was no reason….

    • I can only imagine how frustrating that must have been. And DON’T feel you have to caveat a Greyhound reservation. When I have to do business by phone instead of in person, I find myself groaning at the prospect!

    • Yes, I really love that! We should get it trending. Or maybe we should start with just accomplishing the act of being silently assertive ONCE today, this week, or this month! Baby steps!

    • You know, we always think of the brilliant solutions after the fact. There’s no reason I could not have clarified, when she handed me my (full!) salad … “I know I said your staff person may not have understood me but it’s important that you and she know I was extremely clear in how I articulated my order. I fully understand that mistakes happen, and appreciate you correcting my order, but it was not handled properly on your end from the get-go and I hope the process goes more smoothly next time.”

  3. In an ideal world, we pick our battles, and let the rest go. Sometimes, though, you just want to throttle someone, right? My word for 2016 is mindful, so in these situations I acknowledge how pissed I am but try very hard to keep my eye on the prize, which is getting accomplished whatever is the task at hand–and moving on. Sometimes I also remind myself to feel grateful that I don’t have the other person’s job, and that can restore a tiny bit of perspective and peace.

    • The food industry is replete with examples of the wondrous and the horrendous, no doubt! Thanks for your comment! And I agree w/the Tokyo Grill action — I am not sure if I’ll ever take them up on it but they achieved SO much via the gesture!

  4. Actually, I have found silence to be a profound tool. As one who can’t keep her mouth shut, it took me quite a while to get this. So I like “Silent Confidence”. Yes, it rings true and prevents those silly apologies for which we did nothing!

  5. Excuse my shouting, but I DO THIS ALL THE TIME! You’re right, it’s ridiculous to accept fault when it’s not really your fault. There are other ways to not be a jerk and still get your point across. I’m going to try to be more aware of this and stop being such a wimp. 🙂

    • Ha, shouting definitely excused! It is going to be a work in progress for me, but awareness is the first step. It’s incredible what a reflex it turns out to be. We owe ourselves more. Thx for your comment!

  6. You must be part Canadian. Truly, what good would have done to have spoken up about whose fault it was. It would have changed nothing except to escalate the other person’s temper. You’re right, this is wrong. But is it worth the effort to make sure everyone knows you’re right? I would save my righteous indignation (if I had any) for a more serious situation. Kudos to the Mr. Roboto restaurant.

    • Aw, Robin, that’s the highest compliment someone could give me! I think I have something in my eye now (and THAT is your fault, my friend!). 🙂 🙂 🙂

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