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?"
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: "OH MY GOD GIVE ME MY SHEEP-FREAKING COFFEE."
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.
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