Hello, and welcome back to Off The Menu, where we explore the craziest stories about food from my email inbox. This week, we’ve got bafflingly WTF restaurant stories. As always, these are real stories from real readers.
All through college I worked closing shift at Mighty Taco, an extremely popular fast-food taco chain in Buffalo. My location was one of the last holdouts to get a drive-through, meaning even at 2 AM (closing time on weekends) all the customers had to physically enter the restaurant to order. Being that we’re talking fast-food tacos, 2 AM, and a branding campaign that often used tie-dye designs, you can imagine the clientele we’re talking about.
One fine evening, I see two men get dropped off by a party bus, which then drives away never to be seen again. GREAT sign.
I’m working register, and the red-eyed gentleman proceeds to order $25 worth of food. Keep in mind, the average menu item here is about $1.50. The largest item, The El Nino, featured a half-pound of ground beef and all the toppings. It cost less than $3.
I was a register whiz and have no trouble keeping up with the guy’s massive order, and the folks behind me are already hard at work putting it together. I read off the total.
The man reaches into his pocket, places exactly $7.13 on the counter (12 years later, I still remember the exact amount) and says “I have that much.”
I shout back to hold everything on that order, void the whole thing, and just start punching in items until we’re at about $7. The stoners get their bag of mystery tacos, wander out the front door, and stumble off into the night to god-knows-where. I hope they enjoyed what I ordered them.
In high school I worked at a restaurant that was a “tea room,” a place for little old ladies to meet for “luncheon.” I’m still puzzled by the customer who sent her sandwich back — with one bite out of it — to be re-made because the “bread didn’t match.”
I was a hostess in a college town, Bloomington, IN, at a moderately nice family-owned Italian restaurant. One night, the women’s basketball coach (I don’t know her name, which is probably for the best), came in to order food to-go.
She was very friendly, but then we had this exchange:
Her: So this is an Italian place? What do y’all have? Do you have mashed potatoes? [as she was reading our menu]
Me: No, we have calzones, pasta, salads, pizza …
Her: So you don’t have rice? No rice? No mashed potatoes? [STILL as she was reading the menu]
Me: No, no rice or mashed potatoes … this is an Italian place. [I didn’t know how to react to this]
Her: OK, well, I’ll just order some buttered noodles for my son.
I work at what is essentially a fast food chicken wing joint. We sell burgers, tenders, wraps and the like, but the word wing is in the name of the restaurant. Most of our business comes from delivering food, because for whatever reason, the people in my city love getting chicken wings that have been sitting in a styrofoam box for 35-45 minutes.
It’s a Thursday, maybe two or three months after I had started. Thursdays were busy days for us, as we had a “Thirsty Thursday” deal allowing customers to get fifty cent wings so long as they ordered a minimum of 30. This also applied to deliveries. It’s maybe 11:00 pm when the phone rings and I take a customer’s order, 90 original wings, sauce on the side, to be paid for in cash. Another driver takes the order and returns thirty minutes later, having been unable to deliver the food. The guy hadn’t answered the door or his phone, which is an all-too-common occurrence when drunk people order a bunch of food at 11 PM and say they’re paying with cash. No big deal; my manager bad orders it and we go about closing the store.
10 minutes later, I’m upfront finishing my side work when the guy calls back. He desperately wants the food. My manager explains that we’re finished doing deliveries for the night, but the guy insists he’ll tip whoever brings it to him very well. I know the guy lives close to the interstate, and since I was planning on heading out of town when I got off, I volunteer to take it. Since we had bad ordered his original order, I had to ring him up again in the system. No big deal, I had taken it originally, so I don’t even bother reading it back to the guy.
I finish mopping, settle up with the store, grab the dude’s now-soggy 50 minute-old wings, and depart. As I’m pulling up to his place, I can see him standing in the doorway. Figuring this is going to be a 15 second transaction, I leave the keys in the ignition, my phone in the car, and jog up to his porch. The dude is absolutely plastered, not so much standing in the doorway as he is slouched into it, desperately trying to stay upright.
“That’ll be x dollars (can’t remember, between 40 and 50),” I say. He hands me the money, no problem.
“Wait a second,” he says grabbing my hoodie as I turn to leave. “Where’s my ranch?”
“Uhhhh…well you did the fifty cent wings, sir. If you do the Thirsty Thursday deal, ranch or blue cheese is extra.”
It is at this point that the gentleman launches into the jumbled, incoherent diatribe of the well and truly fucked up. He’s visibly upset there is no ranch and tells me frequently, while at the same time explaining to me that it isn’t about the ranch, that he has ranch dressing in his fridge. He says it’s about principles, that the guy he spoke to asked if he wanted ranch. Now, I could have said “Sir, I took your order, I didn’t offer you any dressing,” but in his rambling he also told me that it wasn’t about money either, as his money was there in my pocket and he could just kick my ass and take it back if he wanted. At this point, I offer to just give him his money back and let him keep the food, because fuck this noise. But that isn’t good enough, and he keeps talking about who took his order. Seeing as I’m not inclined to share that I’m the reason for his ire, I simply say, “I’m sorry, sir; all I can do is tell you to call the store.”
“Good idea,” he says. “You wait right here.”
I quickly try to explain that I have to get on the road, that I’m leaving town, and that there isn’t a thing I’ll be able to do by standing here. Very calmly, he replies, “Stay right here or I’ll get my fucking gun and you won’t make it around the corner.”
Let it be known that this was my first job as a delivery driver. It’s been well over a year, and now if some drunk douchebag threatened me with violence, I would just calmly walk to my car while calling the police. But in that instant, having never been threatened with something on the level of a gun, with my phone in my car some 30 feet down a driveway, and with the guy already in his house, I was so terrified I couldn’t move.
Douchebag calls the store and starts talking to my manager on speaker phone. He explains what’s going on, what my name is, how there’s no ranch, how it’s not really about the ranch. Thinking this is my chance to slip away, I say “So…uh…yeah you’re speaking with my manager now so I’m just gonna go.”
Mistake. The guy gets even angrier. He turns on me and shouts about how dare I disrespect him when he’s on the phone and asks if I want to get knocked the fuck out. My manager gets his attention by shouting into the phone about how whoever took the guy’s order didn’t even give him the discount, how he had paid too much to begin with, and how sorry he is for his shift’s poor customer service. At this point, I’m close to shitting myself, thinking my manager would let slip I had taken this guy’s order. Instead, I hear him ask to be taken off speakerphone. Him and the drunk guy talk for 30 seconds, and then the guy hands me the phone.
“Give him his money back, give him his food, and fucking leave,” my manager says.
A part of me wants to scream I already fucking tried that, but instead I do exactly as my manager said. Then, strangely enough, the drunk guy apologizes, offers me a job at a Capital One call center, and gives me 25 dollars after we had comped his meal. On top of that, because the order had been cancelled, the store owes me an additional 40 bucks since the guy was going to pay in cash. The next day, I ask my manager what he had said to finally get the guy to call everything even.
“I said next Thursday he could have 100 wings on the house. Too bad he’ll show up as blacklisted when he gives his phone number or address.”
That manager has since left, and the drunk guy moved and started using his wife’s phone number. Despite visual confirmation of him from myself and other drivers, my bosses still allow him to order food. Their reasoning, and this is an actual quote, “Well, he’ll get drunk again and do something stupid and we’ll blacklist him again. Until then he orders 90 wings every Thursday so who cares?”
I don’t know, me? The person he threatened to beat/shoot.
I work at an organic foods grocery store in the Brooklyn/Wicker Park/generic hipster neighborhood of my city. There’s a cafe inside the store that serves food, smoothies, coffee drinks, and juices.
One customer comes to the cafe every single day and orders $30 worth of juices. Why this guy doesn’t just buy his own juicer is beyond me, but whatever. One day, Juice Guy comes in and orders his usual: three apple juices and one orange/carrot juice. Unfortunately for him, one of my extremely competent coworkers managed to lose the main piece of the orange juicer, so I inform him we can’t do an orange/carrot juice until we get the new part in.
He then offers to juice the oranges himself, with his hands, saying he does it “every day” at home.
I proceed to cut up eight oranges and hand sixteen orange halves to Juice Guy. Juice Guy then uses his bare hands to squeeze sixteen ounces of orange juice into a pitcher on our cafe counter.
I guess he must really love pulp.
Do you have any food-related stories you’d like to see included in Off The Menu?Feel free to submit them to WilyUbertrout@gmail.com. New submissions are always welcome! (Seriously, you don’t need to ask if I want you to send them in, the answer is always yes). If you’d like to stay up to date with OTM news, my Twitter handle is @EyePatchGuy.