Arby’s, We Are On To Your Tricks

With all the heavy talk on here recently about people going hungry (like this post about very hungry people I met in Haiti), perhaps it’s time to take a lighter look at food. In particular, Arby’s fast-food.

meltI don’t eat Arby’s much. Not that I don’t like it, I do. It’s just that I’ve found it’s hard to get out of there without spending an arm and a leg. I think their marketing department intentionally devises schemes to reel people in and sock ’em with exorbitant prices when they aren’t looking.

Trick 1 – Luring Me In the Door

For instance, their original 5 for 5 deal. Sounds like a great way to draw folks in, but who wants FIVE roast beef sandwiches? Especially when they come devoid of plastic cheese, the best part?

Arby’s strategists anticipated this problem and offered an alternate: 5 varied items for $5.95. Notice the sneakiness already? Though they still call it 5 for $5, it’s really 5 for $6!

When this promotion was new I remember going in, looking at my options, and realizing there was no way I could eat five things. Ok, maybe there was some way, but it wouldn’t have been healthy. So I ordered 4 things, all items off the same value menu. To my surprise, the cashier – with a straight face no less – says, "That will be $7.50 please."* How can it be more expensive to buy 4 things than 5? Yet this is the Arby’s way, I’ve found.

Now, let’s pause here. Some people would change their order at this point. But me, I’m too embarrassed to protest. I just fork over the dough in resignation, but make a mental note to never repeat the same mistake.

Trick 2 – You Charge What for Extra Plastic Cheese?

Months later, I find myself in Arby’s again… Now that I’ve learned my lesson regarding their sneaky 5 for six dollars deal and 4 for seven dollars deal, this time I decide to order a standard combo meal where everything is on the up and up.

Wow, look at this? For $3.99 I can get a paltry little roast beef sandwich. So I’m like, "Yes, I’ll take that smallest, measliest combo deal, but could you please – for the love of food – add some cheese to that anemic specimen?"

The guy furiously punches buttons on his register, then, "No problem, that’ll be $7.50."* What?! How could cheese cost that much extra? But somehow it does, or they have a “$7.50 sucker button” for judicious use on anyone looking as absent-minded as myself.  Once again I’m too embarrassed to contest.

Trick 3 – Rigging Everything That Looks Good

It was a long time before I ate at Arby’s again. But I finally did… I had forgotten. Not only had I forgotten, I fell into their ultimate trap: I ordered what looked good. "Yeah, so I’ll take that oven-roasted triple-stack southwest-style cheddar-jack roast-beef chipotle-sandwich covered in aunt-Jemima’s-bacon. And douse it in Arby’s sauce, please.”

Then I remembered with horror, “The price, dummy, the price, how could you forget?” The cashier blissfully punched some keys on his diabolical machine, then looked up with a wide smile, "Hey, that’s a great choice! And your grand total comes to $9*, would you like to add some fries and a drink for only a little extra?" My jaw is hanging there. Do these guys get paid on commission? Stammering, "No fries or drink, I’ll just take the sandwich, thanks." Again, too embarrassed to change my order.

Trick 4 – Coupons

So I recently received a sheet of Arby’s coupons in the mail. Looking at the pictures my mouth began watering, but, "Dare I take the chance?" On my lunch break the other day, I decide risking the gamble of getting in and out with wallet intact.

First thing I notice pulling in their parking lot is a massive poster stretching across the building featuring an amazing roast beef mushroom melt loaded down with extra cheese and I think, offhandedly, "That looks good, I should get that."

Not that I like mushrooms or anything, but the photo was doctored and photo shopped in such a way as to look enticing. Luckily, alarms and bells began resounding through my head, "That’s what they want you to do, fool! You must stick to your coupons! It’s the only way!"

I drive up to the ordering menu. There’s one guy ahead of me. No one else in sight and it’s noon on a weekday. Everybody else in town has learned their lesson…. but at the rate they charge, Arby’s doesn’t need to trap many into their spider-web like racket.

A raspy voice ensues, "garble – garble – would you like – garble – mushrooom – garble – triple cheddar – garble" I have a flashback of the poster out front and hastily interrupt, sticking my fingers in my ears, "NO! That’s NOT what I want! Look you, I have this coupon. C-O-U-P-O-N. It says I can get an entire meal for $3.99, and it’s called the Charred Arby’s Melt Deal."

Silence, then "garble garble? ….. garble? garble?!" I tense up, they’re asking some sorta question but I can’t make it out. I decide to play it safe, "No, I don’t think so, probably not. Nope."

Now the raspy voice sounds exasperated, "Are you sure? – garble – it’s free! – cinnamon – garble garble – and it’s FREE!" I should know better, but it sounded like it was free, and I’m not one to turn down free food. Especially food that has the word cinnamon in it somewhere. Knowing I should probably resist, I instead respond, "Well, sure… if it’s free, yeah, toss it in the bag."

I then hear, in a perfectly clear voice (why was it so garbled before?), "Great, that was an exceptional decision, please pull around to the next window with your card ready. And I hope it’s nowhere close to the limit." I assure her it has at least four bucks left on it.

With apprehension, I gently ease up to the pay window. Now understand, some of this story has been stretched a little, but what I’m about to say next is absolutely true. No joke, the lady opens the window, reaches for my card and says, "That will be twenty-two dollars." I about go through the roof.

As you know, I don’t generally contest my order, but this was getting out of hand. I say in a rush, "Look, I’ve got this coupon, and go ahead and take the $20 cinnamon thing off my order, and this isn’t right because I small sized everything and only got this teeny little value meal, and it’s charred even, and I have a coupon, and I -” she interrupts me and disappears back inside, muttering something about needing to talk with the manager.

After a while the window re-opens and she sticks her head out and apologizes, explaining, "This is my first day on the job."

“Right,” I think, “I bet you were just seeing if I’d actually pay. You guys probably have an entire file about me in there with ‘sucker’ written in big letters at the top.”

Concluding Remarks

In the end, it was quite an inexpensive meal for the crazy amount of food I received. In fact, with the extra free Outside-In Cinnamon Bites (as I later learned they were called) I even started feeling sick afterwards.

This blog is supposed to have a spiritual focus. So…… the moral to this story is that Arby’s is often a lot like Sin: they can both cost you more than you ever think they will…. But on a serious note, it probably isn’t nice to be too down on Arby’s. I do like it, that’s why I keep trying to go back. Especially the plastic cheese, that’s the real draw.

The End.

*Disclaimer: Some numbers rounded up for effect (but not the $22). Every anecdote based off a true story.

That’s the Story of My Life – A Day Late and a Dollar Short

So how do I respond when things aren’t going as planned? This morning I got to find out.

Here was the problem: I needed to print thirty handouts for a presentation I was scheduled to deliver this morning in my college summer class. The class started at 7:30am.

On this particular project I had procrastinated so long I was still scrambling to finish up last minute details 5am this morning. Everything was done except for the 30 double-sided Fact Sheets I needed to print out.

Would you know it? My printer got through several and then ran out of ink. Not good news. I was a little peeved but quickly came up with an alternate plan.

Here was Plan B: drop by my parents’ house on the way to school and print the remainder using their printer. Good plan, right?

I breezed into my folks house at the crack o’ dawn. They were still asleep. Slipping downstairs to the computer I had to get down on my hands and knees and crawl under their computer desk to access the awkwardly placed USB port. I was in such a hurry that I accidentally tipped the computer over on its side. No big deal, right?

Wrong. My parents’ computer crashed. Cold. I tried turning it on and off several times. It would try to boot, but then die with a gasp of its jet-powered sounding fans.

Drat. Foiled again.

Time for Plan C: Use my parents’ printer with my laptop. That should work. Uh-oh, I didn’t have the correct printer drivers. Well, perhaps I could download said drivers off the internet? After some travail I got an internet connection, found the drivers on the HP website, downloaded them, installed them, and… their printer still wouldn’t recognize my laptop.

The hands of the clock now stood at 7:31. Class started one minute ago. Time was ticking Cinderella. Quite disgusted, disgruntled, sour and perturbed I flew out of my parents’ house, hopped in my drag car (i.e. aging Jeep) and headed to school.

I think at this point I had forgotten all about the verse:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Phil 4:6)

To my credit, I didn’t speed. At least not by much. But I didn’t pray either. Instead I stewed and thought, “This is ridiculous! Failure on a triple redundant magnitude!”

Maybe another reason I didn’t pray was because I realized I didn’t have much of a leg to stand on. If I hadn’t procrastinated until the last minute I wouldn’t have been in such a fix.

Plan D. The computer lab closest to my classroom in the Education building. Surely it would have a printer I could use. 7:50 found me standing in front of the doors to the computer lab. The closed doors to the computer lab. The closed, LOCKED doors to the computer lab. The sign informed me it didn’t open until 8 o’clock, ten minutes away.

Plan E. The printers in the library… clear across campus. Hike, hike, hike. Nope, the library was closed too. What about the 24-hour study room? Yes, one aging printer! Perhpas it would work?

One final detail: I wanted to print these Fact Sheets off on spiffy green paper I had brought with me. But what was this? The paper tray on the crazy old printers was padlocked shut!?? How was I going to get an A on the assignment if my Fact Sheets were printed on boring, plain old ordinary white paper? NO! They must be printed on eye-catching neon green paper. It was the only way to guarantee success.

Then I spied a copy machine that didn’t have locked paper trays. Yesss. Insert green colored paper.

Ooops, that was upside down. Ooops, that was the wrong side. Allright, that’s what I want. Print 30 of those suckers. What’s this? Why is the copier spitting out long paper rolls of goobered inky nastiness?

I take my seat in class. Fifty minutes late. Fortunately, I’ve arrived in the Nick of time, only moments before my turn to present.

Yes, now it’s my turn. After first handing out my Fact Sheets (printed on eye-catching green paper) I calmly deliver my presentation. We’ll see what grade I get. The green paper had better of helped.

So to answer my original question, “How do I respond when things aren’t going as planned?” I would say poorly at first, then better. When my printer ran out of ink at my apartment I was filled with malaise and a sense of impending doom. Then at my parents house when their computer crashed I got irritated. Like, really irritated. Ok, like, well, REALLY irritated.

However, by the time I was at school standing in front of the locked computer lab doors I was finding the situation nearly comical. Nearly. But hey, it all worked out in the end, right? Just like Paul said,

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28)

Photo Credit 1: Are We Running Out Of Time?
Photo Credit 2: Getting There On Time

First day of Graduate School

Today I began my first day of class as a graduate student. I am currently enrolled in a “Master of Arts in Teaching” degree. Don’t ask.

As typical for the first day of any course the instructor started with an icebreaker activity. It went like this, each student was supposed to share two things. First, his teaching emphasis (English, Art, Science, etc) and second, something unique about himself.

Since I arrived to class ten minutes late I missed the responses of students with last names between A through L.

Yeah, I arrived late. Granted, it’s bad manners to arrive late, especially on the very first day. But what can I say? How am I supposed to have my alarm clock calibrated the first day? Besides, it was as I suspected, I didn’t miss anything important.

I digress, back to the icebreaker. When people are put on the spot one never knows what they will say. For her unique attribute, one girl suggested she was most likely the only person in the class who had double vision in both eyes. I figured she was probably right.

I sympathized with her as I too have double vision, just not in both eyes. In my case each eye registers one image but because my brain doesn’t overlap them correctly I end up seeing two images. Luckily for me I’m able to mentally push the “cut line” over toward my peripheral and thus just use one eye (single vision) on whatever I want to focus on. Wierd, huh?

But our instructor, an elderly woman named Judy, gushed in a shocked voice, “So you see two of me?”

Now, admittedly, I’m not the brightest bulb going but by my reckoning if someone had double vision in both eyes they would see four of everything, not two. To my relief the girl quickly corrected our teacher, “No, not two of you. I see eight of you.”

Somewhere deep in my subconscious a fuse blew. Wouldn’t that be two-eyed quadruple vision? And you’re sitting on the back row!? Maybe distance helped her get it all sorted out.

To substantiate her claim she added, “It’s been medically tested and proven.”

“I wonder how they test that,” I thought. I visualized her eye doctor holding up ten fingers and asking, “How many am I holding up?” Long pause. “Eighty?”

I was glad she was already off the road when I had been driving to class. Mental note to self, arriving late could save my life.

Then it was the turn of the thin young man to my left who was sporting an Abraham Lincoln-like beard. Settling back deep in his chair he started wagging out an interesting address,

     “Well, I have been told I have a fine balance between
      the right and left sided hemispheres of my brain.  I 
      believe this is collaborated by the evidence that I have
      an electrical engineering degree yet am also an amateur 
      painter and song-writer.  I also study philosophy.  In fact, 
      (here he chuckled quietly to himself) let me tell you that 
      as an undergraduate student my advisor had to pull me 
      out of several philosophy classes because I was taking 
      them too seriously.”  

Abruptly, he finished. My concrete-sequential-grey-matter struggled to decide which of the two ice-breaker questions he had answered. Probably the second. Was his unique attribute his brain? Well, one thing was unique: the linkage ‘twixt his brain and mouth.

Photo Credit: Q Anya

I’ve Really Gotta Go!

Earlier this week in one of my classes a student suddenly out of the blue loudly blurted out,
“Can I get a bathroom pass? I’ve really gotta go!”
“No.” This is my characteristic response. It’s easy for students to ask for hall passes and special privileges but it’s equally easy for me to say no. Which I do. The word “no” is such a wonderful word.

The situation escalated. Wailing. Pleading. Begging. Mercy, just a little mercy, PLEASE!
“If I can’t go to the bathroom right now…! I’m gonna pee all over the floor, right HERE!

Really? Right there? Uh-oh, this was becoming serious. Perhaps even alarming.

“Ok,” I back pedaled. “I’ll give you a bathroom pass. On one condition.”
“Yeah, what’s that?”
“The length of time you’re gone from class to the bathroom is the length of time you get to stay in here after class.”

You know what this girl did when she heard that? I’ll tell you. She let out an agonized cry* and I can’t describe it any other way.

Isn’t the drama in these classrooms amazing?

“So, do you still want a bathroom pass?” I asked.
“No,” she answered, with surprising calm and composure.
That wonderful word “no” again. See? the students like it too.

And she didn’t even pee right there.

*Some elements of this tale have been exaggerated for the sake of a good story