Strict definition causes dissatisfied customer

Tina Haapala |

Written by Gary Silverman, CFP®

A milkshake is not a drink.

That was news to me. It comes in a cup. I suck it up through a straw. I swallow it without chewing. If I drop it on the floor of my car it does not bounce, it becomes part of the floor of my car. But it is not a drink.

This revelation came to me when I was at a local dining establishment to “cash in” an anniversary coupon. I tend to join all of the frequent traveler, lodger, and diner clubs there are…well, as long as they are free. With this one, once a year you can get a free “classic” sandwich if you buy a small or larger drink. In reality, the free sandwich was just my excuse to buy a milkshake. I love Braum’s shakes, but had used up my coupons there, so I went instead to this other restaurant.

I presented my coupon and ordered the sandwich and a medium shake. After consulting with the manager, the order taker said that a shake is not a drink and I’d have to buy a small soda instead. “So, I can’t buy a $2.99 milkshake to get the free sandwich, but I can buy a $1.69 soda and get it?” Yep. Though it felt like the world was caving in around me, I like root beer, so I bought the soda. I grabbed the sandwich and went on my way.

When I got back to the office I started complaining. My marketing whiz, Tina, pointed out to me that maybe the shake wasn’t a drink. “Not a drink?” Nope, maybe the milkshake is a dessert. Hmmm…that’s an interesting spin. While it has the drink qualities I mentioned earlier, it is also sweet, made of ice cream, and typically consumed at the end of the meal (well, I don’t, but others wait that long). Onto the web I went.

Going to the company’s website initially didn’t help much. The menu lumped drinks and desserts in the same section. Milkshakes were listed alongside sodas and turnovers. Undaunted, I scoured the site and found the nutritional information area. (Note: if you like eating out, do NOT look at the nutritional information from your favorite restaurants.) And there it was…shakes were listed not in the drink area, but in the dessert section.

That is why I am not mentioning the name of the place. They were right. They did nothing wrong. So I’m not going to drag their name through the mud. But in doing right they also did stupid.

Here I was, a customer wanting to spend twice as much as necessary in order to get what I wanted. They forced me to spend half that to  get what I didn’t want. That sounds about as opposite a win-win as you can get. They came away with less money that day and in the future, as I will be going to Braum’s the next time I feel like eating a yummy treat and where, for a minimal upcharge, they don’t mind calling your shake a drink.

This article was published in the Wichita Falls Times Record News on October 4, 2015.