For the past two years, we have homeschooled our oldest son, Bailey. This year we were planning to send him to a charter school that would meet two days a week and continue from home the other three. For us this seemed like the perfect hybrid, mixing the best from both traditional school and homeschooling. Unfortunately, the scheduling didn’t work out, so we decided to stick with homeschooling for the time being. I really liked the format of the curriculum, however, and decided to use the homeschooling version. When placing my order, I informed the salesman that the charter school was in the process of sending me materials that I would have to return since Bailey wasn’t participating. Though I knew what his response would be, I asked if it would be possible for me to simply keep the parts that I would be purchasing and return the rest thus saving time for myself and shipping costs for everyone. He informed me that this wouldn’t be possible. Instead, the company was sending me materials that I would then mail back. Then the company would send me the same materials for which I would pay a hefty shipping cost.

Ah, the wonders of modern technology. I don’t know about you, but I encounter this all the time. I put it in the “we don’t have a button for that” category. The first time I remember encountering it was when we became vegetarians and, around the same time, parents of a kid’s-meal-eating toddler. I would go to McDonald’s or Burger King and explain that I wanted a fish sandwich but my son was desperate for the latest brightly-colored piece of plastic they were advertising. Would it be possible for me to substitute a fish sandwich for the hamburger? I would be happy to pay the difference in price between the highly processed, brutality-infused “hamburger” and the heart-attack-inducing but relatively cruelty-free piece of “fish.” The response was always the same. First, a look of puzzlement, perhaps accompanied by a scratch of the head. Then a quick look around in hopes that a supervisor was rushing to the scene to rescue the poor cashier from this over-demanding customer. Finally, “No, I’m sorry. We don’t have a button for that.” Apparently with the advent of modern cash registers, common sense was permanently placed on the shelf, along with paper products and old-fashioned courtesy.

Of course, it isn’t just fast food restaurateurs who are guilty of this crime against humanity. Customer service has become an automated nightmare for anyone not satisfied with the “buttons” available to us. I worked in customer service just after graduating from college and was rather successful at it. I attribute a great deal of that success to my willingness to work outside of the system in an attempt to help people (not to mention my southern accent-everything sounds better with a drawl.) The one positive of this situation is that those who are willing to step out of the matrix and interact with us as human beings shine like stars.

I will never forget the experience I had while visiting a fast food restaurant with my sister. We were buying kids’ meals for our children and after I explained my dilemma, the store manager suggested that we purchase the fish sandwich and the brightly colored piece of plastic (for merely twice the price). After I declined to do so, the manager looked down at Bailey and said, “So he won’t get a toy and everyone else will?” Holding my breath, I replied “Yep.” She reached under the counter, pulled a toy from the box and made my son’s day. I guess she had a button for it after all.

4 Responses to “Customer Service, Common Sense, and Brightly-Colored Pieces of Plastic”

  1. layla


    i want to write someting witty and insightful, but all i can say is that i have made a decision to not order burgers or chicken anymore at fast food chains. burger king will be a veggie burger, and skankdonald’s will be the fish, hold the cheese product…thank you, amy, for your example…

  2. Devon


    It’s funny, I just started reading your blog last night and I also just happened to have had a duh moment recently when someone said, “Your kid’s never had a Happy Meal? Why don’t you just try to get the toy with whatever you are ordering?” To tell you the truth, I had never even thought of it, and Windsor has been subjected to the occasional fruit cup, fries, and other guilt-inflicting morsels with no brightly colored piece of plastic. Now that I’ve read this blog entry, I’m not sure I should even try… Well, with our ever-escalating commitment to conscientious eating, I’m not sure how often she’ll be breathing in the intoxicating fumes of the grease and grind mill anyhow. Love reading your blog and seeing you read it out loud in my mind’s eye. Is that creepy?

  3. Amy Spiegel


    Glad to have you aboard, Devon. Having a conscience with regards to food choice can definitely be a drag but I can’t remember what it’s like to walk into a restaurant and be able to choose anything I want from the menu. It makes the limited choices seem all the more like a treat. Keep up the good work!

  4. Lezlie


    This post reinforces my never going to McDonald’s. Burger King all the way! They let you get a veggie patty put on whatever kind of burger you want — whether it’s a whopper-style one or the steakhouse heart-attack burger.

    My fast-food menu is known just by looking at the signs on the side of the road. Taco Bell is signage for a seven-layer burrito. Burger King means a veggie patty with toppings. McDonald’s means keep driving…I still don’t like the idea of a fish-burger. Arby’s means dessert only. And Rally’s means a guilty plea for french fries. Glad to know there are others out there who enjoy not having to debate over what to order.

    I am just getting into the comment section of your blog, but Pat and I have been enjoying it separately and together since its inception. You have a great sense of humor and I get a kick out of many of your posts. Keep up the great work!


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