Last weekend, my daughter asked me to blog about the “Wendy’s” adventure we had this summer. She said “Mom, you always tell the good stories and I want to remember this one when I’m older.”
So, where to begin…….
Back in June, the kids and I had a terribly busy Sunday. Between church, camp prep meetings in the afternoon for the girl, Vacation Bible School for my little guy in the evening and a volunteer board meeting for me, we were running a ton of different directions as a family.
And, because Daddy was working, I had to shuttle everyone everywhere to the various meetings they needed to be present for and figuring out dinner became complicated.
Add to the mix the fact that our family has been trying to live on a cash-only budget this summer and I had about $5 in my wallet.
Knowing that Wendy’s has a $1 menu, I took my son to get a small burger, fries and drink for about $4, initially thinking that my girl might find food at her meetings later. All total, his meal was $4.17 which worked out because we had some loose change in our console. This left me with one paper dollar (a fact which becomes important later).
After a few more drop-offs and pickups occurred, my daughter and I reunited and it was nearly 8:00 p.m. She shared that she was hungry and I thought “well, hey, I might have another $4.17 between the change in my purse and what we could find loose in our van.” So, I told my daughter to see if she could get to $4.17 with the one paper dollar and the change which she was able to do pretty quickly.
And, fortunately, there was a Wendy’s right near where my son needed to be picked up. We arrived to the drive-thru window and I ordered the exact same meal for my daughter that we had gotten for my son earlier in the day.
I approached the drive-thru window with $1 in paper and $3.17 in change (7 quarters and the rest in dimes/nickels). As the clerk told me the amount, I handed her the change and my apology that I didn’t have any more paper bills. Her manager joined her at the window and she asked him to count my change.
He took a look at me and said “we don’t do that here.” I apologized again and said “it’s all I have.” To which he callously told the clerk to cancel the order and hand me back the change. She had already handed me the beverage, so stunned, I gave her back the beverage and we drove off. My girl and I were both a little surprised but I said “I guess that wasn’t meant to be, we’ll have to make a sandwich at home.”
We drove over to pick up my son and while his VBS was finishing up, I posted this on social media:
Dear @Wendys ….I just tried to use $3 in coins to buy my child dinner and was told my money was no good. You had no line. #LostCustomer
— June 27, 2016
Well, that little post ignited my friends and followers on social media. People on Facebook asked for more details. Quickly, people wanted to know whether Wendy’s was willing to take coins or if this was a policy issue that needed to be changed. One of my friends called the store on the phone, spoke to the manager and received the name of the district manager for me while, over on Twitter, two news media stations messaged me and were asking for television interviews. The Wendy’s corporate Twitter handle asked me for my email address and several others also sent in email questions of their own to Wendy’s via the website to question why this had occurred.
My husband also decided he would visit this Wendy’s again the very next day to buy a meal with change to see if he got the same reaction. He didn’t. Staff were friendly and accepting of his change, so I knew that likely this was just a rash decision made on a Sunday evening by a manager who was probably as tired as I was.
So, I didn’t do the news media interviews. I explained to both news stations that I while I appreciated their interest, I wasn’t interested in shaming the manager or this particular Wendy’s too quickly. Instead, I wanted to give the corporate office some time to see if they would make an attempt to reach out and resolve the situation with me.
My phone did ring and the district manager called. He made no excuses for this situation and offered to write a letter of apology to both my daughter and I. I thanked him and explained that I was more concerned about people who may have to pay in change on a regular basis because that is all they have. I hoped that it was company policy to treat all forms of tender with respect. And, that if faced with a similar situation in the future, staff would be encouraged to think of alternatives if they had concerns about busying up their drive-thru as I would have been happy to come into the restaurant and pay in person instead of being waved off so harshly. We had a great conversation and I let my social media friends know that the situation had resolved positively and thanked them for their support.
A few days later, I did receive that apology letter from Wendy’s, along with two gift cards for $50 each. The district manager said that he was touched by our conversation and the fact that we had been busy with church activities on the day of our infamous visit. He asked us to think of a way to be generous with these cards.
So, after a little brainstorming, my kids and I came up with a plan. Since this situation occurred in a drive-thru, we planned to visit a few more times this summer and pay for the cars behind us in line whenever we could.
Three trips later, it has been hilarious to watch the kids pray for people to show up behind us in line. They cheer and then root for fast service so we can get away quickly without being noticed.
So far, we have spent $16 on ourselves and $52 on other people. We still have $32 left to bless others in the coming weeks. The looks we get from the cars behind us in line have been priceless. We just pray a special blessing on the people in the drive-thru line, hope they will pass along the kindness and we enjoy the smile that the drive-thru clerk gives us when I say “can you use this to pay for all of the cars behind us?”
It’s not everyday that you can turn a lemon into lemonade, but thanks to the kindness of the Wendy’s district manager, our kids have learned a number of lessons about the power of customer service reactions in social media, the ability to give people the grace and space to own their missteps, the importance of apologies and how generosity can make a difficult situation so much better.
It’s been a memorable summer, thanks, in part, to our experience at Wendy’s.