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VOL. 40 | NO. 51 | Friday, December 16, 2016

Order up: One ham biscuit, hold the biscuit

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In the mid-1970s, Susan and I went into a fast food restaurant. We sat down, and the chair that she sat in, one of those glued-to-the-floor models that was prevalent at that time, just sorta slowly came loose from the floor and fell over.

She was more angry than hurt. We discussed how inexcusable it was to have an item so poorly installed that this could happen.

I wrote a letter to someone, probably the local franchisee. My father-in-law, an attorney of long-standing, scolded me for that and frowned when he saw the reply that offered a small monetary settlement.

My career in law took me far afield from suits against fast food chains. Nonetheless, I’ve watched from a distance as they get covered in the media. Seems that people find lots of ways to get in fixes at such establishments.

In 2012, a Michigan teenager was eating a roast beef sandwich at a place that specializes in such items when he bit into a rubbery substance that turned out to be part of a human finger. Yes, a kitchen worker had recently gotten her hand too close to a slicer.

In 2009, a Florida woman lost it when she ordered a multi-piece chicken meal, paid for it and then was told the restaurant was out of chicken. She demanded a refund and the children in charge said no, insisting she accept another meal instead.

The customer wound up being cited for “misusing 911.” Seems she insisted to a dispatcher that “this is an emergency,” in one or more of the three calls she made. The restaurant later apologized and refunded her money.

In 2011, an Illinois woman claimed to be biting into a chicken sandwich that is always advertised as being “spicy.” On this occasion it was also sharp, as she bit into a shard of glass. Seems that a coffee pot had exploded earlier in the kitchen.

In a number of cases, customers have gotten into trouble when they tried to pay their food bills with board game money. Seems there is some of that out there that looks pretty real.

In 2014, a class action suit in California alleged that a certain restaurant whose menu listed alfalfa sprouts as an ingredient in a certain sandwich had routinely held the sprouts for millions of customers who did not want the sprouts held.

Seems it was settled, after being much maligned by people who malign such things as fudging on the truth in a menu.

And then there was the time when the fellow in line in front of me wanted scrambled eggs and ham at a McDonald’s here in Little Rock.

Sorry, he was told by the order-taker, scrambled eggs come alone or with sausage. But not with ham.

The guy then asked for scrambled eggs alone and ham alone.

Sorry, he was told, ham is not sold as a separate order. The only mention of ham on the menu was a ham biscuit and a ham-and-egg biscuit, and the latter featured a fried egg, not a scrambled egg.

Nudging the guy, I pointed to the menu and, recalling a scene from the movie “Five Easy Pieces,” suggested that he order scrambled eggs alone and a ham biscuit alone, and then ask her to “hold the biscuit.”

That is exactly what he did, and that is exactly what he got.

Vic Fleming is a district court judge in Little Rock, Ark., where he also teaches at the William H. Bowen School of Law. Contact him at vicfleming@att.net.

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