Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Pepsi Challenge to Get It Right

I have been doing something new to save money lately. It’s actually quite simple. I stopped going out to eat. I started seeing the difference in my wallet almost immediately. Before, when I received my paycheck, I would pay my bills for that pay period, throw some in the savings account, and then the rest slowly got chipped away buying gas and Big Macs. I began to realize how much of my money was being siphoned out by my frequent trips to restaurants and made the decision to stop. The only time my daughter and I have eaten out in the last six weeks has been when we are traveling.

On a recent trip out of town, we made a stop at Burger King for breakfast since we were on the road and did not have the option of running home to eat. I made my order of hash rounds, a breakfast sandwich, and small drink and was then thrown off guard by the worker asking me what kind of drink. The question confused me for a moment. I realize it was a very simple question, but it had been a few years since that question was a part of the ordering routine. Fast food restaurants just give you the cup now so you can go fill the drink for yourself. Rarely, do they fill it for you anymore.

After feeling foolish for being thrown by the question, I ordered a Pepsi. We got our tray and sat down to relax before getting back on the road. I started on my croissan'wich (I always get the sausage) and took a big gulp of my soda. I almost spit it back out. Something was wrong with it. I couldn’t place it, but it didn’t taste right. Kirsten always orders water, so I asked her to taste it. She said something was off as well. So, I took it back to the counter.

I told the girl something was wrong with my Pepsi, so she made another one. I tried it as soon as she handed it to me, but it still had the same problem. She yelled back to the manager, “Dan, there is something wrong with our Coke machine.” That’s when I realized the problem. I quickly stopped her so she would not get the manger since there was nothing wrong with the soda.

I explained to her the problem was that I had ordered a Pepsi and she gave me a Coke. She defended herself, saying, “We don’t have Pepsi here. We have Coke.” I told her that I understood and apologized for not looking to see what they had before I ordered, but advised her that in the future, to prevent confusion, if someone orders something that is not on the menu, she should tell them and not just substitute something else. She huffed and told me, “Pepsi and Coke are the same thing!” I tried to get her to understand that if they were the same thing, then I would not have been able to tell the difference when I took a drink, however, I think most of her brain power was being used on chewing her gum.

Who drinks this?
Whether a restaurant has Coke products or Pepsi products is determined by a number of factors, but they are not interchangeable. I, personally, am a Mt. Dew fiend and I know many people who are, but I don’t see people running around drinking Mello Yello, which is Coke’s counterpart, because they aren’t even remotely the same. I like Pepsi better than Coke and I highly prefer Mt. Dew to Mellow Yello. However, the Coca-Cola brand wins out on the Dr. Pepper/Mr. Pibb comparison. I like both, but Mr. Pibb is a little better. I will drink a Sprite rather than a 7-UP, but would prefer to not have to drink either.

When I order a Pepsi, I am not asking for whatever cola drink may be behind the counter. I am asking for a Pepsi. I have had many servers say, “We don’t have Pepsi. Is Coke okay?” I love that question. It means the worker has enough respect for the customer to give them the option. If the establishment doesn’t have that brand, just let me know and I will be happy to choose something else, but do not give me something I didn’t order.

Most of the time, I remember this when I go into a restaurant and I ask if they have Coke or Pepsi, but sometimes I forget. A good employee will make the distinction. Unfortunately, this does not just happen with sodas. A few years ago, I ordered a Frisco breakfast sandwich at Hardee’s. The Frisco is ham with egg and cheese on grilled sourdough. The grilled sourdough is what sets this meal apart from the others. Upon arriving at my table and opening the wrapper, I noticed that the bread did not have the usual golden brown color. It was white.

Notice the beautiful color
I took it back to the counter where the manager explained to me that the grill was broken, so they had been toasting the bread instead of grilling it. I was amazed that the manager could not understand why I wanted my money back. This was not what I had ordered. There is a difference. The menu even has a picture of the sandwich, which states ‘grilled sourdough.” A grilled cheese sandwich is much better then toasting some bread and then putting cheese on it. I understand things happen. The grill was broken and they were trying to get it fixed, but they knew that when I ordered my sandwich. How hard would it have been to mention, “Oh, just so you know, our grill is broken. We can't grill the sourdough right now. Would it be alright if it was toasted?” Then I could decide and there would be no problems, but don’t take my money and then switch my order to something you hope will be acceptable.

These substitutions are even harder to forgive in nicer restaurants where they should know the difference between ‘butter OR margarine’, ‘mayonnaise OR salad dressing (Miracle Whip)’, and ‘sweet tea OR unsweetened tea that you can put sugar in yourself.’ They are not the same.

I decided to stop eating out for purely financial reasons, but it does my blood pressure good to not have to put up with these preventable mishaps every time I walk into a restaurant. Plus, at home, I get what I want. My sandwiches get grilled when I want grilled, toasted when I want toasted, my eggs are always the way I like them, and no one is throwing a lemon slice in my tea that I didn’t ask for.


  1. I get it. The idea that coke and pepsi are the same is for people who drink neither. The MTDEW vs. mello yello, is no comparison. I dont drink mello yello. I drink the wheels off MTDEW. The fact is the people in the fast food industry couldnt care less what we get, as long as we get it in the amount of time that keeps them out of trouble. Wrapped greasy product is the safest order these days. You are guarenteed to never be disappointed. Kudos on ducking fast food. Thats a great thing, wish I could. -Big Kev

  2. Years ago my parents completely stopped using a specific brand name when ordering soda...they just order a "diet". *shrug*

    As far as getting proper service from the service industry...that time is long gone. "If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself" has never been more true.

  3. What I really hate is when restaurants run out of what they ate known for. I went to McDonald's once and was told that they were out of fries. Worse was when someone I know went to DQ and they were out of ice cream. Word of all I went to KFC and was told they were out of chicken. Then why are you open?

  4. Ian, I think I may start to adopt my daughter's strategy. She always orders water.

    Shane, I has experienced the same thing. When McDonald's had their short-lived breakfast buffet, they could not keep up with the demand. A crowd of people would be standing around waiting for pancakes which disappeared as soon as the 12 they put in there hit the table. You then had to wait another ten for them to bring out some bacon. It wasn't worth what I had just paid.

    Kevin, the unannounced replacement of items only seems to happen in the food industry. I can't think of any other place where a company will just give you something different and think you won't mind.

  5. I think I had a can of Mello-Yello when I was nine or ten. It was disgusting then as it undoubtedly is now. My husband's blood type is Dr. Pepper. He will literally convulse if you give him Mr. Pibb :-)

    Like Shane, I also encountered the missing food phenomenon. It seems that every time I ventured to my neighborhood KFC, I was told that they had no chicken. Or worse, I hate when restaurants send you coupons in the mail for their latest food product. I went to McDonalds when they just started their selling their fruit smoothies. The coupons were only good for 30 days, but here it was, 10 days prior to the expiration date, and this particular branch told me that they didn't receive the machine to make the smoothies yet. Unbelievable.

    I'm not trying to be snobbish, but it appears that customer service is a thing of the past.

  6. I have personally never experienced any of these problems. Call it luck. I prefer Coke to Pepsi, and I LOVE Mellow Yellow. But I also love Mountain Dew. I guess I'm just an easy guy to keep happy.

  7. Way back I took a college psych class and one of our research things was to do the challenge and see if we could tell the difference between coke and pepsi (this was before all the variants) We were asked beforehand if we would be able to tell the difference and almost everyone said yes. Only half of us actually did. I also have had a cook tell me there was no difference between burgers made with half turkey and those that were 100% beef. Bah

    Tell me what brand you carry and let me decide if I really need the caffeine or would rather get a non soft drink. Or I could move back to Atlanta where everything is coke (pepsi coke, sprite coke etc.)

    Mountain Dew and Dr Pepper

    1. I don't know if I could tell side by side (although, I know I could with Mello Yello), but when I get the wrong one I know it's wrong before I finish it. I don't notice it immediately, but it gets there.

      I saw the all Coke thing once in Kentucky. All soda was Coke. That took some getting used to.

      All they have to do is speak up and let me have the choice.


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