The Saga Of Jane Complain

, , , , , , , | Right | August 3, 2020

I am sixteen, working my first day of employment EVER. I am assisting and observing a coworker at the drive-thru of a fast-food restaurant. My coworker is giving me some tips when he looks up at the screen that shows incoming cars and stops talking.

He immediately calls out to the workers on the grill.

Coworker: “I’ll need three [burgers], cooked fresh, one with tomato but no pickles, one with pickles but no tomato, and one without either but extra mustard. It needs to be hot. I need three large portions of fresh fries, one salted, one unsalted, and one extra-large unsalted!”

Me: “What’s happening?”

Coworker: “Just watch.”

As he is doing all this, I see him gather together every type of sauce and sachet and condiment we own, in varying numbers and combinations. He also prepares four soft drinks: Cokes and Diet Cokes, each with ice and without. While doing all of this, he takes out his mobile phone — he’s a manager so he’s allowed to have it on him — and takes a picture of every item in front of him.

The customer pulls up to the window as soon as all the food arrives.

Customer: “I’ve been waiting so you had better hurry.”

Coworker: “Certainly, madam. You’re the only vehicle in the drive-thru, but I apologise if you felt there was a wait.”

Customer: “Whatever, I’ll take a [burger], no pickles, with fries, not salted, and they better all be fresh and hot! And if it takes longer than—”

Before the customer can finish their sentence, my coworker has bundled up the food.

Coworker: “Certainly, madam. I have your food ready right here, so there is no need for you to go to the collection window! If there is nothing else your total is [total].”

The customer stares at him for a moment as if challenging him.

Customer: “Actually, make that a [burger] without pickles and tomato, but extra mustard. And I want a Diet Coke! No ice! And hurry!”

Coworker: *Almost immediately* “Certainly, madam. I have that food right here, and your total is now [total].”

Customer: “That can’t be fresh and hot!”

Coworker: “I assure you, madam, they are all fresh off the grill and too hot to touch right now. I bet if you took a bite right now in front of me, it would burn your tongue.”

My coworker says this last part with a smirk on his face. Now he’s the one issuing challenges.

Customer: “We’ll see about that. While we’re at it, make my fries extra—”

Coworker: “—extra-large, madam? Of course, I have that right here, and I won’t even charge you the upcharge. Your total is still [total].”

Customer: “I want the salt on the side, not the fries!”

Coworker: *Grabbing a salt sachet* “Certainly, madam.”

The customer narrows her eyes but wordlessly hands over her card for payment. My coworker swipes it and hands back the receipt with the food.

Coworker: “Thank you, madam. Here is your receipt which lists the date and time of the transaction, the exact and itemised listing of your order, your payment method, and who served you, which is me, [Coworker]. I’ll put my copy here at this counter for reference. Have a great day!”

The customer looks like she is about to say something, but instead, she scowls and drives off. Before I can ask what just happened, my coworker turns to me.

Coworker: “It’s a good thing you met her on your first day! We call her ‘Jane Complain.’ She used to come in almost every day and complain about having to wait, even for just a few seconds, and she would always get a discount or a free item because of it. When we started to wise up and get her order ready for her so she would have no wait to complain about, she started to add silly little changes to the order to catch us out, but only ever small things like tomato or pickles; she isn’t very imaginative.”

Me: “Wow.”

Coworker: “I’m barely getting started. Then, she started to complain that the food was too cold and not fresh enough, so we would prepare a sizzling hot batch the moment we saw her car. She still complained it wasn’t hot enough, but we stood our ground on that one and said if she ate the burger right there in front of us and it didn’t burn her mouth, we would let her have it for free. She was about to do it but then realised how hot it actually was. I make sure I remind her of that every time she challenges the ‘freshness.'”

Me: “And the receipt bit?”

Coworker: “If she can’t scam free food from us when she purchases it, she usually comes back five minutes later to claim we missed something, which we didn’t, but policy states we have to give it to her if we can’t prove it. She always conveniently loses her receipt, too. Now I make sure to remind her that we both have copies of that receipt, it has all the information on it that I can use against her, and my copy isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.”

Me: “That’s awesome!”

Coworker: “It’s become a matter of principle for us! We want to keep one step ahead of her so she can stop scamming us. The look on her face when we’re a step ahead of her is priceless.”

The day continues without incident and I continue to be mentored. Near the end of my shift, I look up at the screen and see that same car pulling up.

Me: “[Coworker]! Jane is back!”

Coworker: “Here comes the backup complaint!”

She pulls up and my coworker makes sure he is the first to greet her with a smile. He is already getting out his phone.

Coworker: “Nice to see you again, madam! What can I get you?”

Customer: “I was here earlier this afternoon and you forgot my fries!”

Coworker: “That was the [burger] with no pickles and no tomato, extra mustard, extra-large fries, salt on the side, with a Diet Coke and no ice. Your order was at 2:37 pm precisely, and I have the picture of the order right here, which clearly shows the fries with the burger and drink. You’ll see that the photo is both time-stamped and has the checkout’s clock in the background. Are you sure you didn’t just ‘misplace’ your fries?”

Customer: “This is absurd! That is no proof! Get me your manager right now!”

Coworker: “I am the manager on duty at this time. If you’d like to make a complaint to corporate, you can find the number on your receipt, which I can still see on your dashboard next to the empty fries container. Thank you for dining at [Fast Food Restaurant] and I hope we see you again. We’ll be ready!”

With that, he shuts the window and walks away. The customer sits there dumbfounded for a moment but eventually drives away.

In the year that I worked there, I witnessed “Jane Complain” come back many many times. Sometimes, she would frustrate the combination of food enough that there would be a delay, but since everyone in the kitchen was wise to her antics, they were able to get the substitutions to her quickly enough that she could no longer scam-free items. I even got to serve her directly myself after my training and it was very satisfying denying her, eliminating any excuse she might have to complain.

When she stopped coming by, we soon discovered through friends in our nearest branch that she had started her tricks again over there. My coworker “assigned” himself a cover shift in that other branch to be the one to greet her over there and was just as ready for her there as we all are here.

She hasn’t been seen in three months. We miss her.


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