Refills are Free, Big Spender

I apologize if this post isn’t up to the usual quality of coherency to which you are accustomed. I’ll blame it on being dehydrated.

I entered the fast food restaurant this evening, hot, tired, and slightly sunburned.

I won’t name the establishment that “I’m thinking” about, but you can probably guess. It doesn’t matter; they are almost all guilty of this anyway.

Waiting for a family member’s bathroom break to conclude before ordering, I sat down at a table. I should probably have been thinking about what I wanted to order, but I was too worn-out to spend brain cells on that sort of thinking just yet; I’d figure that out when I got to the counter.

As it happened, a combination of events unfolded before me, at just the wrong time, to combine with my tired state and to have an overall effect of annoying me.

I watched another customer rise from his table. In his hand was a paper cup that was fairly small. In fact, as I looked closer, I noticed this paper cup was not intended for holding a drink, but instead for holding a side order of popcorn chicken. It was even a little bit smaller than a “kid’s meal” drink cup, if that is possible.

And I watched him fill it up with water at the drink machine.

Meanwhile, at another location somewhere near the front counter of the restaurant, a kind employee was informing a different customer that she could call the number printed on the bottom of the receipt, to take a customer satisfaction survey. A bit of less relevant detail, and I promise that I am NOT making this up: She told the customer that she hoped they would give good “5” ratings, as the store manager really wants to improve their “C.S.I.” I hope that was internal jargon that meant “Customer Service Index” rather than “Crime Scene Investigation,” but I digress.

When these two unrelated events collided in my drained brain, I realized that in just a few minutes, I would be the buffoon carrying the smallest paper cup in the store to the drink machine, filling it with the top capacity of two ice cubes and a thimbleful of water. And that I would have to make numerous trips to the drink dispenser, pressing that little “water” tab next to the lemonade tap, over and over, until I could satisfy my quench during my meal.

And I wondered to myself, when I take that telephone survey, how will they ask about that experience?

Did you order a soft drink with your meal? Press 1 for yes, or 2 for no.

Did you know that the refills are free, you big spender? Press 1 for yes, or 2 for no.

But why, when I order water, do they insist on finding the smallest cup in the building and offering it to me? I was hot, I was tired, and I was just as thirsty as the next customer!

Do they assume that all water drinkers are on a diet, and therefore need less to drink?

Is it a mark of shame, to carry the smallest cup through the dining room? Is it to make an example of me before the other paying customers, to show them what will happen if they give up their high-calorie soda-drinking habits?

Is it so that the minimum wage employees, who care less, can keep a careful watch out for anyone illegitimately filling that cup-of-shame with Mountain Dew? Thus making it a “loss-prevention” mechanism to prevent the caffeine from dispensing to the wrong customers?

If so, why not make a special cup with bright colors on it; print across it “I am a cheapskate! I asked for water!” Perhaps using a special electronic sensor and radio frequency technology, the drink vending machine can sense when the cup approaches an incorrect faucet, and ring a bell or sound an alarm? Or why not just issue a special triangle pointed hat, to be placed on the head of every water-drinking customer, to more easily identify them (by which I mean me and that other guy)?

Is that what it will take to get me the larger cup, so that I can drink a tall glass of ice water with my food?

What do they think they are proving?! And at what cost of annoyance to the customer?!

And when I finish my meal, can I redeem my water cup for a small order of popcorn chicken? No, wait, better not do that… I’ll just get thirsty again.

So I don’t understand this annoying trend of issuing a diminutive drinking device to customers who wish not to inflict upon their bodies drinks other than (mostly) natural, (almost) clean, (kinda) pure water.

I tell you, it’s enough to drive a man to drink! I’ll take a large Sprite!

3 thoughts on “Refills are Free, Big Spender”

  1. Maybe people like us drink too much. I have the exact same problem. Which is probably why we always end up getting the large soda. Even though it still makes you want water.

  2. So how many times did you have to take that walk of shame to refill that water cup? As an avid water drinker (who rarely consumes soda or other any other sweetened beverage), I’ve noticed that at most fast-food restaurants, the water cups are significantly smaller than the cups for the unhealthy beverages. Perhaps they figure that since they aren’t making any money off the sale of the water, there’s no need to spend any more money than necessary on the cups. Or maybe it’s simply a conspiracy theory with all of the dentists . . .


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