On Thursday, I ordered my favorite salad from Panera’s. (For my friends to the east — that’s KC speak for “St. Louis Bread Company”.) I’ve been a Panera’s fan for years, but even more so since my son discovered the Secret Menu. The salads on the secret menu rarely get broadcast. They’re seasonal or promotional items that every store can make if you know to ask for them. My favorite is the “Chicken hummus power salad”, a deconstructed salad with small, artfully arranged helpings of spinach, sliced cucumbers, pesto hummus, chicken, and red onion, on which one can, if one chooses, squeeze fresh lemon (provided). It’s divine.
For true carnivores, there’s also a “steak hummus power salad”.
I got carry out and brought my salad and a chicken Caesar salad for my husband back to the office. Nearly salivating with hunger and anticipation, I opened the to-go box only to discover one noticeably bare corner of the ensemble: the chicken had been omitted.
I picked up the receiver on my desk phone and dialed my Panera’s before remembering that I was on a complaint-free journey.
The manager answered. I identified myself, and he told me his name. Then the conversation lagged. “Can I help you,” he inquired.
“I got a chicken hummus power salad just a few minutes ago.”
“I remember you; I made it myself; people don’t usually know to order that particular salad.”
“Well….” I hesitated. “There was no chicken in it.”
He instantly started offering apologies and solutions. I could come by; he’d make another. He could send me a gift card. I stuttered, trying to decide if I wanted to back out. Was I complaining? I certainly was advising someone of my displeasure — the very crux of the dictionary definition. Though I had not used an unpleasant tone or made any negative statements about the place or its staff, my call fell within the wide river of complaint which I’m trying not to swim. I demurred for a good five minutes, aware that he probably thought I had gone daft. He insisted though, and in the end, I agreed to accept a gift card. We parted on a cordial note.
Now I am left wondering: Was a matter-of-fact report of a failure actually a “complaint” in the sense of my quest to live 365 days without complaining? And, if so, should I still have made that call? Or should I have just tolerated my salad devoid of its main component, perhaps trusting that the universe will send something my way to balance the loss?
Does the answer change if the deficiency cost more than the $7 which I paid for my lunch?
What price my honesty?
I’m still wondering.