Throughout history wars have been fought for a myriad of reasons. Sometimes the reason is territorial or political, or perhaps like the Trojan War, the reason is simply a beautiful woman. However, when you live in Plymouth Massachusetts and your town’s biggest draw is an unremarkable boulder that is questionable in its claim as the landing point of the pilgrims, you don’t see too much going on in the way of conventional drama. Needless to say, sometimes the pot gets shaken up in ways one might not expect. As it happened, the other day the town stood dived – shaken apart by an issue that seemed to be served up on a silver platter…or rather a plastic take-away container. The War of the (chicken) Wings had begun. (Okay, they were actually Chicken tenders, but how could I resist that “Lord of the Rings” joke?)
Food has an amazing ability to either unite people or divide them to a point of utter contention. Not familiar with the latter half of that previous statement? Try splitting a pizza with another person, and see how fast their smiling, cheese-covered face turns to that of a rabid, jowl-shaking dog once you try to take more than 4 slices. In retrospect, I suppose I shouldn’t have been so surprised on how this incident unfolded.
Monday afternoon my friend Tory, who also went with my wife and I to Japan, decided to order a chicken tender plate at a local restaurant. Simple concept, right? Breaded chicken tenders atop a layer of golden french fries. Unknown to Tory, these would be the chicken tenders that would tear a town in two, because also unknown to Tory this particular menu item had just undergone an increase in its price. 15 minutes later once the order was ready to be picked up, Tory arrived and spoke with the cashier on hand that afternoon. That was when the cashier unloaded the awful truth about the meal: the chicken finger plate was now $16, $17.12 with tax. Up until that day, the price for the meal had been $14, which is still entirely too high to pay for fried chicken tenders and french fries. In 2012, the price of the plate was $12, which is also still on the upper price-range of counter service restaurants in this town. Tory noted that the cashier seemed embarrassed to have to inform her of a few price hikes on the menu, and I can’t say I blame her for being ashamed. A meal that was already too highly priced for what it was, now was two dollars more for the same quantity and quality of content. Apparently the price had been changed just the day before, and although it was reflected on the restaurant’s website, none of the current menus were up-to-date with new pricing, nor was the price ever mentioned while the order was being placed over the phone. Now, I have known Tory for several years now. She’s a sweetheart who would rather keep everything in harmony, rather than upset the balance by causing a conflict. So, while many other vocal members of society (myself included) might have asked for the chicken’s pedigree, or perhaps asked the weight of the golden egg the chicken was born in before refusing the meal- she did what she felt was best for the situation: she paid $17.12 and left the restaurant with a sour taste in her mouth.
Leaving the restaurant with overpriced chicken and fries was not the last of it. Tory posted about her disappointment with the restaurant’s new price increase on their Facebook page. But instead of leaving a review, she wrote up a visitor response because she wanted to show them her receipt as proof that she’d actually experienced such ridiculousness. As a quick side note to this pricing problem, there are no other restaurants in the immediate area that serve a basic fried chicken tender and french fry platter for anywhere near the price as the one pictured below. Prices do vary from restaurant to restaurant, but the general price hovers anywhere from $9 to $11. A $16 fried meal is a big deal in that regard. Keep in mind that this is counter service, and you could just as easily go into any big name sit-down restaurant and leave with a bill around the same price – which would also include table service and a drink.
However, visitor posts are never really that useful. Unless someone actually happens to catch the post at the correct time, it’s very unlikely the site will even see what the visitor is posting due to the amount of traffic that a restaurant page is likely to generate. Plus, I suppose there is always a chance that the page owner could delete the post. No, this certainly wouldn’t do. This was an injustice and it had to be seen! Luckily I married a woman who is more vocal than both Tory and myself put together, and she had a plan to bring this to the town’s attention. She posted the complaint (receipt and all) to a different Facebook page, one geared towards talking about all of the happenings (good or bad) in the town. It seemed like the perfect idea…for about a minute.
Loyalty is found in many places. Off the top of my head I can name a few instances: between friends, between family, the military, and the family dog. It turns out that people are actually very loyal to their favorite restaurants, too. And I mean loyal to the point of being unhealthy. Perhaps it’s all of that fatty, cholesterol-building food that puts a strain on their ability to think rationally, but I have never had a more difficult time trying to convince people not to go against their better interests. Especially when that interest was saving money. Then again, I’m not a parent. Suffice to say that once my wife reposted Tory’s dissatisfaction with the restaurant’s price of chicken tenders, the flood gates were opened for better and for worse. I’d say that the majority of the people who commented on the price increase posting were rational, some even citing examples of local restaurants selling the same meal for much less. A select few insisted that my wife and the woman who purchased the meal were simply complaining about nothing. The restaurant has impeccable food and impeccable service, or so the patrons adamantly said. How dare anyone complain about an unrealistic price that is way above the market standard? Clearly there a lot of people that are more than willing to pay an absurd amount for deep fried food than we are. Shame on us! See for yourselves just what was said. For the sake of privacy, I’ve blacked out the information from any poster who isn’t me.
One of my favorite complaints was that we were just “bitching” about price, and in our complaining we were just trying to take down a good local business that didn’t deserve the backlash it was receiving. Some saw us as monsters who were just trying to ruin a good thing. Remember when Godzilla stomped all over Tokyo? Well, he was just doing that to needlessly crush the local noodle houses because he paid too high a price, the idiot! This came up time and time again from multiple people, and if I didn’t know any better, I’d venture a guess to say that these were people that were directly associated with the restaurant’s owners. As the husband of a local entrepreneur, I’d say we do our best to support any local establishments. Nonetheless, local businesses have a duty to their customers to keep in touch with the local market. When a business fails to satisfy the needs of the customer at a reasonable cost, then they deserve- no, they should beg for the chance to be told why they’re failing to thrive. The entire reason this complaint was put onto a local social page, was so that the message would be spread to the local crowd, the people that would truly know and appreciate the warning. It was never submitted with the intent to harm anyone’s business.
Verbal abuse aside, this division of the people did result in some good. After about 8 hours of collective posts from both sides, the owners of the establishment that cost Tory $17.12 finally responded. Word of mouth gets around quick in this town, and even quicker when your establishment becomes the topic of a post on the Facebook social page. There was enough criticism of the post and proof of similar, yet less expensive, meals that the owners felt compelled to adjust the price of their chicken tender platter.
As of this time the new price reduction has not occurred yet. At least, I wasn’t able to see any sort of adjustment via the restaurant’s website. I trust them, though. I mean, who would joke about lowering the price of a non-specialty dinner item? Nazis? For now I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt. All is not well however, as the town’s Facebook social page has devoted an entirely separate post to how Tory, my wife, and I are part of the reason why local business isn’t thriving as it should be. As if we caused all the mistakes and miscalculations that went into raising the restaurant’s prices in the first place. In my heart I still feel a division; a division that can only be filled with discounted chicken tenders and fries, clearly. Also, I’d like to make it clear that I did not post this just to gloat about getting the price changed on a half-ass quick service menu item at a restaurant. I have a little more class than that. Besides wanting to show the absurdity of what people might consider important, I wanted to remind everyone that criticism is not necessarily a bad thing. Constructive, well-thought out criticism is necessary, and it can be applied to everyone and everything regardless of what their status might be. Even the smallest bit of noise can inspire the chorus of voices used to echo the need for change. Those voices ended segregation, tore down the Berlin wall, and they might even lower the price of a local good or service in your hometown.