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Monday, August 4, 2008

Snack Report: Happy Hour at Sonic...

If you're gonna call it Happy Hour, at least serve beer.But aside from that, my wife asked me to pull into the Sonic by our house on our way home from grabbing some shirts at the new Alamo Ranch JC Penney. So ordinarily, I would have pulled into the drive-thru line, because I really hate the whole set-up of ordering from the Sonic pull-in bays (if that is what you call them), but the line to the drive through was long.

It isn't that the drive-thru is supposed to be any faster, I mean, technically, if you have to wait behind a few cars, you could have pulled into the pull-in bay and placed your order right away.
But what I don't like about the set-up is that if you pull in close enough to reach the order button, you really aren't leaving a lot of room for the person to deliver your food, say in the case that they are overweight. So I find myself routinely parking a few feet from the ordering thing, opening my car door and reaching out to push the button. Thus, if the line isn't long, I go to the drive thru.

Okay, so to be clear, the drive thru lane had about 4 to 5 cars in line, and I decided to go to the awkwardly designed pull-in bay. Fair enough.

Ordinarily, when we do this thing, my wife just gets the medium sized lemon-berry fruit slushy and I just have a sip of hers. But hey, it was happy hour, so I decided to order one for myself - a large in fact. My wife also ordered one of those little mini-banana split things, and since she was splurging, when the girl on the other end of the speaker suggested I get a chili cheese Coney, I went ahead and got one.

So I have this issue whereby I have historically picked the wrong line, regardless of where I go. It could be the wrong teller at the bank drive-thru, the wrong lane driving down Culebra, anything. I always get it wrong. But in the case of Sonic, this was a sure thing. The drive-thru was backed up and we placed our order within 20 seconds of pulling into the place.

And this is where things go wrong. I'm sure that in other places, it would be a wise decision to turn off your vehicle when you pull into the place while you wait for your order. Here, it is a hundred degrees in the shade. So I'm sitting in the truck with the engine on, window rolled down and the A/C blasting. And within a few minutes, I start getting that little twitch that my wife recognizes as I start to take note of the vehicles in the drive-thru that are pulling away. It is at this very moment that a little Al Gore voice in my head said, You might want to go ahead and turn off the truck and live with the global warming at hand, because this is going to take a few more minutes. But I knew that if I listened to that suggestion, I'd jinks myself, and it would take even longer. Hmmmm.

My wife was encouraging, she pointed out that there were only two Sonic Girls running in and out of the store, and she said they were literally running, not taking their sweet little time. You gotta appreciate that.

And then I started to notice that at least three of the cars that had been in the drive-thru when we pulled up, had already left. WTH? Oh, get this, a car pulled into the pull-in bay next to ours, ordered, and were served multiple bags full of food in less than five minutes. At this point, I'm starting to reconsider the whole thing and either turn off the vehicle or simply leave.

My wife even started to get ticked. She looked at the clock on the truck radio and reported that we had been sitting their like dumbasses for 20 minutes, all the while watching more people pull into the drive-thru and leave with lemon-berry slushies, all manners of banana splits, an no doubt, endless buns filled with cheese and chili Coney dogs. Cover your ears kids, but you have got to be shittin' me! I was starting to think I was in the Twilight Zone and Alan Funt was going to rise from his grave and point to a camera any minute.

Now, my wife suggested that perhaps I should push the ordering button and ask if they had forgotten our order. I had a better idea, I was going to push the button and order the entire thing again, just as a test to see if they knew we had already ordered.
But then there was movement. My wife noticed a lady of considerable size pounding on the door to inner office of the Sonic, seemingly wanting to speak to someone in charge, or at least get her food. I attempted to get a picture of the incident, but the lady moved right when I snapped, and my wife wouldn't let me get out of the truck like some sort of National Geographic reporter and film the engagement.

With this new excitement, it was clear that we were not the only wrong-lane choosers, and in fact, my wife began to speculate wildly that employees had walked off the job or that some manager had locked a few unruly employees in the walk-in cooler. Finally, after at least a gallon of gas, and twenty-five minutes (or more), the frazzled Sonic girl came out with our order. Poor little thing started apologizing about the long wait before she even got to the window, and I simply handed her the money and a tip and told her not to worry about it.

My wife mentioned to her that we had ordered one medium and one large lemon-berry slushy but both were mediums. Again, I said don't worry about it, just keep the difference as a tip. Then, seeing that we weren't going to take out crappy management on her, the Sonic girl told us the banana split was messed up and she would go get a new one. It was clear, not just because of the 100 degree weather, that the banana split was made and set on the counter seconds after we placed the order - 25 minutes earlier.

My wife (who knows a thing or two about running a restaurant) told the Sonic girl she needed to tell her manager to shut down the drive-through until the surge of the happy hour was over. Just put a sign on it that says temporarily closed and concentrate on the customers in the lot. Sometimes, when you don't have enough people to run a store, you have to make do with what ya got.

In the end, I inhaled my chili cheese Coney dog before the girl returned with the large lemon-berry slushy and the new mini banana split. And to be real honest, it wasn't that good.

As that Chinese guy from Six-Flags says, "One Flag!" Or in my case, No Tasty Treats for Sonic.


Anonymous said...

I have been in that situation and I feel for them. You would think that the Manager would over schedule everyday from 1-5 to prepare for before and after. I have closed the lobby before and ran only the drive- thru. But in this case it would have been smarter to close the drive through . Kind of made me want to get out of the car and take over.I miss the good ole days . Okay not really :).I am just now more understanding.

Willy-Nilly said...

I also had a Happy Hour Fiasco today... 3 cars in front of me, I choose the drive thru because I too am a wrong chooser. I Order a small cherry slush for daughter and a large Java Chiller (if you haven't had one you're missing out) Pull up to drive thru only to be told Ice Cream Machine is broken! Was this just discovered? Was I the 1st person to come thru there and order Ice Cream? Had the drive thru lady told me I would have cancelled my order and went across the street to Dairy Queen. So I order a slush thinking that will be quick and at least it's a Happy hour Item (unlike the Chiller). 5 minutes later, drive thru is backing up and I'm waiting for my slush... Finally get my slush and head home with my head hung low and muttering a phrase I mutter almost everytime I leave Sonic,"I'm never going back to that crappy place". Knowing full well the pull of the Java Chiller will real me in.

Right now while I'm venting about my love/hate relationship with sonic, I'm having my own Happy Hour and plenty of Beer being served!!!

Dave said...

,"I'm never going back to that crappy place"
Somehow, I get the feeling they've considered that in their marketing strategy. Hence, the constantly new menu items and goofy commercials, cause they know something will stick and you'll be back.

sapphire said...

That Sonic is very poorly run. 3 out of 4 times I've been there, they are out of drink holders. GMAB! Do you know how difficult it is to get 3 Ocean Waters home when it's just you in the car, and a set of built-in drink holders that are made to hold two tiny little mugs of Japanese tea? Their food is no better, either! I think they have a poster of ME behind their counter now--and the misdeeds are done on purpose! I just don't go there anymore--perhaps if they installed a defibrillator for when I blow a gasket, I'd think about going back.

Anonymous said...

You guys are too fussy! Think about it, you can't get curb service very many places anymore. I think you who fuss need to go get a big cherry limeade and cool it. Lets face it, but half of the high-school graduates graduated in the bottom half of their class. Which leave school dropouts, who are barely making the minimum wage. below them. The service is probably better at Ruth’s Chris.

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I love to observe the odd things happening around me as I go about my day. I especially like it when I can get a picture of people being themselves. Here, I attempt to report the various people and events I have encountered in my neighborhood, and my city. I'd also love to hear from you. Feel free to e-mail your experiences and photos of life in San Antonio.

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