December 12, 2011


At Dunkin' Donuts, I like the #1 coffee combo: it's a coffee and two doughnuts. I like that it's what I would order anyway: a doughnut for Henry, a coffee and a doughnut for me. And it's exactly the right price: expensive enough to feel like a treat, inexpensive enough to be doable.

But HERE IS THE THING. The conversation I had with the clerk when I ordered it this morning is a variation of the conversation I have EVERY SINGLE TIME. I don't order the combo often enough to know whether it includes a medium or a large coffee, and it doesn't say on the picture that shows the combo.

Me: "I'd like the #1 combo, please."

Clerk: "Medium or large coffee?"

Me, anticipating this issue from previous experience: "Whichever comes with it."

Clerk, thwarting my anticipation: "Well, you can get it with either a medium or a large."

Me, thinking I may have misremembered the situation: "Oh! Is it the same price either way?"

Clerk: "No."

Me, waiting for her to clarify: "..."

Clerk, filing my waiting under "In Vain": "..."

Me, a little exasperated: "Okay, then, whichever one is included in the price up there."

Clerk: "Well, that price doesn't include the tax. Just so you know."


Me, reality-version, in a tone beginning to sound a little tight: "Okay. Yes. Yes, I know."

And you might think, well, maybe Swistle just got an inexperienced clerk. Or perhaps the clerk is kindly giving Swistle all her options, so that Swistle may make the choice that best fits Swistle's lifestyle/preferences. But NO, I have an ALTERNATE THEORY.

Here is my theory: since the combo comes with the medium coffee, as I discovered afresh on this occasion, the question is meant to upgrade the customer without the customer realizing. It's INTENTIONAL: the customer is supposed to think she has a choice between a medium and a large coffee for the combo price, and think "Well, LARGE then, why not!" And then it rings up higher, but maybe she also bought a couple of other things so she doesn't even notice, or maybe math has never been her strong suit so the tax (JUST SO YOU KNOW) always throws her anyway and she chalks it up to that, or maybe she sees what happened but they're already mixing the coffee and she'll just know for next time, no big deal. We have to be on our guard EVEN IN A DOUGHNUT SHOP, and not just against the delicious, delicious doughnuts.

As long as I'm grousing, I went to the post office this morning. It's lucky I was fortified with coffee (MEDIUM) and a Boston Cream doughnut, because although I would not say the experience qualified as "a nightmare," it was a long and exasperating wait. And furthermore, the length/exasperation could be BLAMED on people. It wasn't just, "Well, it's busy this time of year, you just have to be patient," it was one woman COMING TO THE COUNTER WITH THREE BAGS OF WRAPPED PRESENTS AND HER ADDRESS BOOK, I AM NOT EVEN KIDDING YOU. I am NOT. EVEN. kidding you.

Another customer had a pile of little packages, and each one needed different things, but he hadn't thought it out in advance, so the clerk would say, "Do you want delivery confirmation on this one?" and he'd have to think it over, maybe discuss his options a bit, consult about the price at various levels. Sure, what the heck, insurance on this one. This one, no, just delivery confirmation. This one, both. He will need to see his packages again, so that he can fill out the trillion little forms.

Another customer was mailing several international items and hadn't filled out the COLOSSAL PAPERWORK.

(Some of this situation can also be blamed on the nice clerks at our post office, who err on the side of being a little TOO nice when they ought to be saying "If you want to step over here to fill those out, I'll just go ahead and help the next person, and then you can step right back up when you're ready.")

Now, SOMETIMES, and for SOME PEOPLE, this kind of exasperating crap is UNDERSTANDABLE and NECESSARY. Maybe an elderly lady needs to mail a present, but she's begun her long sad slide into dementia and she can't figure things out anymore, nor does she realize she can't figure it out, and I am willing to wait in line without sighing or rolling my eyes while the postal clerk kindly assists her, and in fact I am GLAD as a member of society to see her being kindly assisted, even though my arms are kind of breaking here. And not everyone KNOWS about customs forms, and the forms are CONFUSING, so the first time they try to mail something they probably hold up the line a bit, and that's not going to happen very often and so that's fine too. It is NOT fine when it's people who didn't bother to get their stuff ready ahead of time because "other people having to wait" is a meaningless/insignificant concept for them.

And I know, I KNOW ALREADY, that I can't tell for sure from the outside what sort of category each customer falls into (THOUGH I CAN MAKE A PRETTY GOOD GUESS), which is why I continue to wait patiently and sans-sighing NO MATTER WHAT. But I will tell you what: statistically speaking, there are not that many people who actually need that kind of help, so I know I'm likely to be statistically correct when I hold that pleasant smile on my face but simmer invisibly.


Amanda said...

Oh dear jebus that would drive me insane and I would have ALL the same thoughts that you have.

When I go to Wendy's I order the spicy chicken sandwich which comes WITH tomato. I hate tomatoes but I never bother to say "No tomato" which recently caused my husband to ask why I don't. I replied that it aggravates me less to just take the tomato off than to have to take it off because they effed up and added it anyway.

lifeofadoctorswife said...

The unintentional upgrade is NOT COOL, Dunkin Doughnuts. Man. That would drive me batty.

Also, the thing about the tax? A) annoying, since I am a person who grew up with no sales tax and so it FOREVER stumps me and B) why can't they just add it into the price on the board? Yes, I know that means "$4.95" will no longer be a nice just-under-$5 price, but STILL. and C) I HATE IT when someone tells me something I KNOW, as though I am STUPID, even though I haven't ASKED the question. ARGH.

Swistle said...

Amanda- WE ARE COMBO TWINS!! That's the combo I ALWAYS get at Wendy's!

Stimey said...

Dude. The post office. I hear you.

I am constantly aggravated by people who think their time is far more important than anyone else's. It drives me crazy.

Nowheymama said...

"her long sad slide into dementia" made me laugh out loud.

-R- said...

Your post office experience = my passport office experience. I was not as nice as you. I was very eye-rolly.

SarahSews said...

Your postal workers must be exceptionally kind because the guys at my local post office sigh FOR YOU and tell customers to step aside and come back when they have filled in all the proper paperwork. I've been that customer on too many occassions to count. Hubby has relatives overseas and it is usually my job to mail stuff to them. I make a mess of it every time.

Maggie said...

It does seem intentional - I mean it should be clearly stated on the combo menu - two donuts plus MEDIUM coffee. By not putting on the sign, it makes the sneaky upgrade more possible. Crap.

I am so bad at situations like the post office. I try to be patient, but can feel myself getting angry. I think perhaps I just don't do well with a lot of people.

d e v a n said...

The post office is a special kind of hell. Do you know what they need? Drive through post offices. They do it at the bank, and restaurants, and even beer barns in some states (?! WTH) so why not at the post office for those of us who have to drag little children in with us?!
Or maybe we just need stamps! Or, or... it's raining or snowing or something.

HereWeGoAJen said...

I second the drive through post office, it would be a miracle with having to take Elizabeth inside the post office ALL the time. I have been wanting a drive through post office every since she learned to walk.

I always assume that the price shown is for whatever is cheaper. HOWEVER, at our local McDonalds, they have sodas on the dollar menu, and they mean ANY soda. All a dollar! As much as it messes with my mind to have the large and the small cost the same, I love it.

Lawyerish said...

I sort of love NYC post offices, because the workers do not put up with all the dilly-dallying and the filling out of forms AT THE COUNTER. They tell the people who are going to take a thousand years to do whatever they need to do to please step over there and come back when they're finished. It is AWESOME and saves me a lot of audible sighing and eye-rolling.

Nicole said...

I love you, and this post just made my blood pressure go up. The post office! OMG! The stupid upgrade to a large coffee.

But the people at the post office - I kind of hate them. I had an experience last month where I was in the post office and there were a lot of people in the line, but everyone was doing their best and no one was too annoying and the clerks were dealing with people fairly smoothly. Then the fellow in front of me asked about Christmas stamps and they did not have them in yet. The fellow thought this must be the clerk's fault, and he was going to go to a different post office, and everything is terrible, blah blah blah. I kind of felt like slapping the bastard, you know? WTF IS WITH THE POST OFFICE AND ALL THE HORRIBLE PEOPLE WHO FREQUENT IT?

kristi said...

I have begun to hate the post office!

Beylit said...

I try not to take my husband into fast food restaurants or allow him to order because he inevitably will get angry at, and yell at, the poor person taking the order for trying to upsize him in a sneaky fashion, or interrupting him while he orders.

I loathe the post office because no one ever seems to be ready. I always feel like I am the only person who thought it all the way through before I got to the counter so no one else has to wait on me being slow. Those are the same people who are in front of you in the concession line at the movie theater. They are waiting forever to get to the counter just like you, yet when they get to the counter they seem baffled and dazed by all their options and take a million years hemming and hawing over what size popcorn they want and whether to get it with or without butter, and should they get candy too, and what about a drink...Seriously? You were standing in line for five whole minutes before you got to the counter and you have no idea what you want? Come on people I am going to miss the previews here!

I can only hope I can keep a pleasant smile and simply seethe on the inside.

Jessica said...

Restaurant sneakiness drives me CRAZY. They're always trying to upsell you and usually trying to put one over on you and I sometimes I just want to scream I WANT WHATEVER'S CHEAPEST, OK?

Mrs. Irritation said...

I agree with Devan. The post office IS a special kind of hell. In our small post office, the male worker is so rude and mean he has a reputation around town. It's well known people always complain about him and nothing happens. On one hand, I get it. If I had to deal with ladies toting 4 bags of small gifts who had no idea what they wanted, it would drive me crazy. On the other hand, it's your JOB, so deal with it.

Our post office just got one of those self service machines and I ADORE it. The older crowd seems to be intimidated by the machine and won't use it, but it's pretty easy to use. Plus, it's open at all hours so I can run over at 9pm and use it when no one else is there. Makes me so happy.

Bibliomama said...

I love you AND your surly commenters. It's absolutely a freaking scam to make you upgrade. There's one local gas station that has the cheapest gas button in the MIDDLE of the second most expensive and the most expensive, so you'll pick the medium cheap instead of the cheapest. Some people I've mentioned to actually say 'no, that can't be it, it must just be a mistake'. To these people I say 'you're adorable' and roll my eyes when they turn away. And yeah, people who think their time is more important. It's a good thing my eyes can't shoot laser beams. Mostly.

Misty said...

They are intentionally trying to jack us out of money.


Suburban Correspondent said...

You need to bring your knitting with you to the post office. Just don't scare anyone...

Beth said...

or make sure you have your phone- words w friends, pinterest, twitter, facebook... it saves my hide some days, when i have to wait for various things as part of my job

Cayt said...

I knit in line at the post office. Actually, I knit in line in a lot of places, but the queue at the post office tends to be so long that I can do a fair amount in line there.

The coffee combo thing is a scam, and a part of me feels like it shouldn't be allowed. If you say combo one, they should give you combo one, not try to give you the combo-one-upgrade-which-costs-more without asking if you want the combo one upgrade which costs more.

Jen in MI said...

The Post Office is a kind of torture. I love that ours has the self service kiosk, as someone else mentioned. 24 hours a day, I can go in and take care of mailing my packages in 5 minutes or less. Today, I went to mail a package and it was broken, necessitating a long wait in line. Many many unprepared people. Luckily, I had the older, much more patient, child with me.

Anonymous said...

The teenage girl in front of me at Starbucks yesterday made me want to scream. She was with her mother and sister and she kept saying "NO! No's a caramel machiatto: wait no that's not it. It has salt wait no salt, uhmmmm. Okaaaay I'll just have hot chocolate no wait...I changed my mind" She also had her coat on backwards (?) As ridiculous as she was her mom pissed me off more.The mother even said to the guy behind the counter after like 2 minutes of this shit "Just ignore her, she's trying to waste your time." YES and everyone else behind your train wreck of a family, clueless lady. I honestly don't know why the mom didn't rein her in. It was nuts.

bluedaisy said...

I use the self-serve at the post office whenever possible. Just this week, I had to pick up a registered letter that I HAD to sign for- so off to the post office I went with 2 kids in tow. One person in line, I thought, "oh good, it won't take too long". Should have NEVER bothered to think that. The man must have asked a bizillion questions about his mail delivery situation which the clerk answered very politely. By the time he was done, there were 3 more people lined up behind me. UGH!!
ALSO..DD. I detest one location (that happens to be on the way to our pediatrician) because when I order a caramel latte, they question me about milk, whipped topping, blah blah. Questions I am NEVER asked at the other locations. It frustrates the piss out of me! Totally empathize with this post ;)

Elsha said...

Oh man, last time I was at the post office I watched as the clerk looked for a package for one lady before telling her she was actually at the WRONG post office. And then, THEN! he looked for a package for the next lady before informing her that her pick-up date wasn't actually until the following day! Why look for the packages first? WHY?!

Plus there were people there getting passport pictures taken. Because apparently December in the post office isn't busy enough, so let's just go ahead and make all these people wait in line some more.

missris said...

I have a post office grouse that I have just been waiting to tell, and I think you will appreciate the story. My post office employee would NOT take my credit card because it wasn't signed on the back, even though I had an ID that WAS signed and clearly showed that I was who the card said I was. He handed me a pen and asked me to sign it in front of him (?) but it wouldn't sign--the signature adherent had long ago worn off (which is why it wasn't signed in the first place). I sat there trying to sign it over and over again, with him watching, going "I can't accept it until you sign it." But the pen would NOT write on that surface! This went on for, no joke, about ten minutes. Finally I had to leave, go get cash (with that card, natch), and come back. What the HELL, postal employee? Since when are you the visa-card-signature nazi? I have literally never heard of this rule before and I think the old bat made it up so he could feel important and useful. I mean really.

M.Amanda said...

The size thing is totally intentionally sneaky. I remember reading some article about how marketing people came up with that just to get people to spend more for all the reasons you listed.

Also, like Bibliomama, we have a local gas station that switched the prices of gas so that the regular unleaded is the same price as super unleaded at other local gas stations and the super is the same as the regular. They even switched it on the sign so that the lower priced gas is shown first with "super" printed very small. I can only imagine how many times the poor clerks have been yelled at by people who pumped regular, assuming it was the cheapest, then got angry when they realized they paid an extra ten cents a gallon for lesser quality.

One of the reasons I like reading your blog so much is that you are so kind and reasonable. Other people might have complained about the slow line at the post office and been done. This would have just been a post about how people are all just so selfish and annoying. I love that you acknowledge that it isn't ALL people, but that some legitimately aren't trying to be jerks. Maybe those other complainers understand that and only mean to complain about the intentional jerks, but most of the time when they don't even mention it, it sounds like they expect everything to be all about them and their convenience. You are such a wonderful reminder that nice people do exist.

Mama Bub said...

See, I can't understand people for whom making other people wait isn't a concern. I mean, sometimes I have several things to mail, but I always make sure I'm completely ready to go, and if there's a question about anything, or if it's taking a long time and there's only one person working, then I start to sweat and worry that everyone is judging me. My brain can't accept that there are people for whom this doesn't even register.

For what it's worth, my word verification is "anger."

Alice said...

heehee, i love that we commenters are lovingly known to be surly :)

at my post office the other day, a girl went up to the counter at about 4pm and asked if she could get the letter she was holding in her hand delivered by 5. that same day. the fact that the employees even treated her like a rational human being after that was a testament to their professionalism.

Christy said...

I have 2 post offices close to me, Giant Sorting Facility, and Teeny Neighborhood Closet. GSF is way closer and bigger, so THEORETICALLY, they should have more customer service reps open. Nope. The line at TNC was out the door, but they had a woman at the door asking you what you wanted to do, grabbing relevant forms/boxes/tape and helping you get everything ready so the line actually moved very quickly. I like to think this heading-the-stupids-off approach goes a long way to keep everyone happy.

I've always tried to go to the TNC one after I went there (with my 3 week old son) 2 days after Christmas to mail my Christmas gifts (whoops) and they not only told me that the flat rate boxes I was trying to use were a waste of money, they FOUND A BOX BEHIND THE COUNTER AND REPACKED MY GIFTS to save me money. I literally was holding back crazy-postpartum tears at their kindness.

Anyway, thought I'd add a good post office story or two!

Meredith K A said...

Ugh, last year when I went to mail my Christmas cards, I overheard (but thankfully did not have to actually purchase anything so was not affected by) an old man having a PROLONGED argument with the clerk, who was unerringly polite, about whether or not his having purchased first-class postage should have guaranteed delivery by a certain date. Whatever it was had NOT arrived, and he kept pointing to the delivery estimate and demanding his money back because it was not delivered by a certain date, and the clerk kept patiently explaning, over and over, that those dates were just estimates and not a promise of delivery by that date, especially not around this time of year. Sure, the guy was old, but he wasn't incompetent, he was just being totally unreasonable and kept getting more and more angry at this very polite clerk who was totally in the right, and whose fault it was not, even though the old man was acting like it was specifically this clerk's fault. It really made my card-delivering experience uncomfortable, because I HATE listening to awkward arguments that shouldn't even be happening if people were reasonable. All that is to say...yeah, I sympathize too!

Jo Ro said... have kind postal clerks where you live???

Ours will feed you to the sharks!

Nik-Nak said...

Your dunkin donuts situation is exactly why I never go for the second cookie at Subway. It's like, "Can I have 1 choc. chip cookie with my sub?" "You can two for the price of one." "No thanks" "Blank stare insinuating I'm stooopid"
I mean. Why would you sell two cookies for the price of one? I'm convinced there is some kind of catch, some kind of hidden cost in that extra cookie. BECAUSE IT MAKES NO SENSE.

Joanne said...

I am a bitch by nature and also from NJ which a lot of people here in the midwest have taught me means that I am a bitch ANYWAYS but I actually don't think it's that nice or kind of the USPS people to NOT tell those nimrods to STEP ASIDE and do THEIR business on THEIR time so that they USPS people can do THEIR business. Arggggh that drives me insane.

Also, I think you are right as rain about the DD situation. My husband always jokes that they must get a nickel every time they don't give him a straw at McDonald's and I think maybe he is on to something for as often as it happens. And I wouldn't even MIND the upsell if it were a little more OBVIOUS and a little less SNEAKY.

I'm sorry for the caps but you have touched a NERVE here, ha!

Swistle said...

Joanne- YES, I would not much mind if they said, "Would you like to make the coffee a large for 29c more?" Then I might think "What the heck, why not!" or I might just say "No thanks." But either way the situation would be clear.

artemisia said...

"in fact I am GLAD as a member of society to see her being kindly assisted, even though my arms are kind of breaking here."


"I know I'm likely to be statistically correct when I hold that pleasant smile on my face but simmer invisibly."


TinaNZ said...

Is there an expert on US consumer law amongst your (surly, ha!) commenters? Because it seems to me that if you explicitly asked for a #1 combo, and they gave you a choice of coffee without telling you that choosing one over the other would change the advertised price (and therefore NOT be the thing you'd requested), then you could reasonably assume that both were part of the thing you had asked for, and therefore charging you more would be illegal.

This kind of devious consumer exploitation makes me want to see 'em all in court. Also, I love your Post Office story (ours in NZ are equally crazy at Christmas). The confused old lady (who doesn't even exist) made me feel a little bit teary.

Di said...

The boy and I have started going to 7-11 for occasional treats (what? they have these adorable apple juice sippy things he likes, AND they usually have cheap dairy-free coffee flavor options...) The other day I wanted a donut. Just one. I don't need a whole donut if I want to continue fitting in my pants AND a 2-year old doesn't get a whole donut.

I picked out my treat - plain glazed. "You can have two for a dollar" "but I only want one." "...."

The dude couldn't figure how to charge me 50c for my single donut and I certainly wasn't in the mood to argue.

So I had two donuts. I hate 7-11