Welcome back to Off the Menu, where we bring you the best and strangest food stories from my email inbox. This week, we’ve got another of our old favorites: staggeringly, tragically stupid restaurant customers. As always, these are real emails from real readers, though names have been changed.
What are "chicken"?
"At my Subway, during a dinner rush, two women came in and I asked how I could help them. They didn't answer, instead staring at the menu for 20 or 30 seconds before asking me very slowly, 'Does the roast chicken sandwich have chicken in it?'
"I paused, not entirely sure how to answer or entirely trusting myself to respond. After some hesitation, 'Yes…? Yes, the roast chicken has chicken in it.'
"It was a question that, once answered, seemed irrelevant to them both. Nothing further was asked, and no context for the question was provided. The rest of the transaction proceeded normally. They ordered turkey melts. Which had turkey." -- Cullen O'Neil
Hold the (nonexistent) mayo
"I work at Jimmy John's. We get calls from time to time asking if we serve fries or cheesesteaks (there is no hot food at Jimmy John's, save fresh bread), and once a family walked in and unironically ordered a cheese pizza. But the story that takes the cake is this one.
"The menu at the store is simple, with only a few substitution options. This did not stop one woman, though. She called on a night where it was just me and a manager, so I served as order taker, sandwich maker, and delivery driver.
She found the salami, tasted the salami, and BEGAN CRYING.
"This woman ordered an Italian club, which is normally salami, capicola, and ham... but she wanted it 'without the spicy meat.' I told her she might want to try the ham and cheese, as it was cheaper and could still be made like an Italian, but she doubled down.
"'NO,' she bellowed over the phone. 'I want the Italian. And please, no mayo.'
"Sure. Fine. Whatever. It truly didn't matter to me, and her spending more meant my guaranteed delivery money would be a bit more anyway, so I made her ham and cheese with Italian-style toppings and delivered it.
"Upon returning to the shop, the manager was on the phone and beckoned me over. He put it on hold and said, ‘This woman says we gave her the wrong sandwich. She ordered an Italian, and she says you made her a ham and cheese with mayo.'
"I explained what she told me earlier (except for the mayo -- what the hell was she talking about?), so the manager proceeded to have an identical conversation with the woman. However, due to corporate policy, we had to make and deliver another sandwich. This time, we decided to throw some salami on it, hoping it wasn't too spicy for her.
"When I got there, she proceeded to open and take apart the sandwich in front of me, pointing out things as if they were key evidence at trial. She yelled at me for this sandwich also having 'mayo' while pointing at oil-and-vinegar dressing. She found the salami, tasted the salami, and BEGAN CRYING. Through her tears, she bleated out, 'Too spicy.'"
"I informed her she had two options (because I was not being paid for this second delivery): she could either keep the ham sandwich or the one with salami. Enraged, she called my manager, who told her the same thing. I asked her which sandwich she wanted, and she meekly said she would keep the ham and cheese.
"I began walking back to my car when she asked me for the difference in price between the two sandwiches. Only time I have ever laughed at a customer to their face." -- Carson Hobart
Food safety not guaranteed
"I work at a cupcake store. When people order at the register, a slip comes out for whoever's packing the cupcakes, plus any notes about how to pack them. At that point, I'll start pulling the flavors from the trays, place them on the counter, and then put them in the box. I've done this hundreds of times. Until this lady walked over and saw that I had placed four of her cupcakes on the counter.
"'Are those mine?' she said, already really nasty.
"'Yeah,' I said, 'I'm grabbing your box right now.'
"'They're on the table,' she said, still in an angry voice. 'They're dirty.' I guess I could see how someone MIGHT think that, if they had never eaten a cupcake before in their entire life, and didn't know cupcake wrappers exist. But I picked one up for her and showed her the wrapper. 'They're wrapped, they're not touching the counter,' I said, like a sane person.
"'No,' she said, now really angry. 'They're dirty. Give me new ones.'
"So I did. But what an idiot. Was she planning on licking the bottoms of the wrappers? So unclear." -- Valerie Ekman
Gotta watch out for that tomato X-ray vision
"I work at a farmers market on the weekends in Washington, DC. It's a pretty standard set-up. Different vendors come to one location to sell their goods. I work for a farm that sells fruits and vegetables.
"My new favorite individual moment happened this past week. We almost never get complaints about the quality of the food, so when a woman came up to me and said she cut into some tomatoes to find that they were rotten, I apologized profusely. Unfortunately, the conversation continued like this:
"Shopper: 'Well, I just wanted you to know!'
"Me: 'Please feel free to get new tomatoes. Again, I really do apologize!'
"Shopper: 'No, no, it's fine, that's not why I did that, I just wanted you to know so you could check.'
"Me, hesitating, because we put out each tomato by hand and don't put out ones that are rotten, obviously, because we're not shitty at our jobs: 'Oh, OK. Well, before you cut into it, did it look at all like it was rotten?'
"Shopper: 'Well, it was squishy, but no, there was nothing on the outside.'
"Me, not saying, 'Squishy like a ripe tomato, maybe?': 'OK, well…'
"Shopper: 'Like I said, I just wanted to let you know so that the farmer can check the insides before you can put them out.'
"Me: *Stares, mouth agape, wondering what tomato X-ray vision she believes we possess to check the tomatoes for only-on-the-inside rottenness*" -- Nathan Niekowicz
Maybe it was pinot giorgio
"I work as a cashier/phone order-taker at a pretty popular pizza place in Houston. What's unique about us, apart from being the only place I know of that actually makes Chicago deep-dish pizza, is that we have a license to deliver beer and wine. It's a pretty popular service, especially among the business-type folks that live around my store.
It took me 15 valuable minutes to explain to her that riesling was, in fact, a white wine.
"One busy night, a customer called and ordered a pizza and a bottle of wine. 'That's all,' she said, until I went through the entire wine list (with four other people on hold) and eventually got her to settle on our house riesling, remembering that was supposedly the sort of wine she liked. I warned her that because we were busy, and our pizzas took a while, delivery could be about an hour and a half. She said it was fine, and I went about taking other orders.
"About an hour later, she called and ranted and raved that it had been more than two hours and she hadn't received her pizza. I hung up and called the driver, and it turned out he was quite literally on his way up to her apartment.
"Not five minutes after what I supposed was a successful pizza drop-off, she called yet again. She told me she was outraged, because she had ordered a RIESLING and she got 'some white wine.' It took me 15 valuable minutes to explain to her that riesling was, in fact, a white wine.
"My manager let me leave earlier than the other phone girl just for having to deal with that." -- Jessica Moreno
The tyranny of drink sizes
"I used to work at a Starbucks and, on the whole, I really enjoyed the job. The only thing that bothered me was when customers treated me like an idiot. The most common occurrence of this was a little exchange any barista is probably familiar with: a customer would walk up to the counter and say, 'I'd like a white mocha with skim milk, no whip,' and I'd say, 'What size would you like that?', and they'd patronizingly repeat 'a WHITE MOCHA with SKIM milk, NO whip,' as if they couldn't believe Starbucks had hired someone who was partially deaf.
"Normally, I would say, 'Right, but what size for that drink?' and they'd say, 'Oh, grande,' and look a little sheepish. And that's fine, it happens. But one day we had a woman who took this damn thing to the next level. She was an upper-class-looking blonde lady with a lot of jewelry.
"Lady: 'I'll have a skinny vanilla latte.'
"Me: 'Sure, what size?'
"Lady (louder): 'A SKINNY VANILLA LATTE.'
"Me: 'OK, but what size would you like the drink to be?'
"Lady (rolling her eyes): 'A SKINNY. VANILLA. LATTE.'
"ME: 'Yes! A skinny vanilla latte! But I need to know if you want a tall, a grande, or a venti! Which size?'
"Lady (furious): 'I don't want ANY of those. I want a skinny vanilla latte.'
"Me: 'Sorry, those are our sizes. Do you want a small, a medium, or a large?'
"Lady: 'FOR THE LAST TIME, I WANT A MEDIUM SKINNY VANILLA LATTE.'
"One of my only complaints in my year working at Starbucks was that I was not allowed to make this woman's drink, call it out, and then drink it in front of her, saying, 'Mmmm, this MEDIUM skinny vanilla latte is soooo good.'" -- Ike Hargrove
Do you have a restaurant, home-cooking, or any other food-adjacent story you’d like to see appear in Off the Menu (on ANY subject, not just this one)? Please email WilyUbertrout@gmail.com with “Off the Menu” in the subject line (or you can find me on Twitter @EyePatchGuy). Submissions are always welcome!
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