Plain Cheeseburger

Allow me to start off by saying that I have a great deal of respect for those who work in the fast food industry. Thank you for putting up with all of us who have ever ordered a combo. I know it is not easy. I have heard the stories. I have seen the difficult customers with own eyes.

Heck, a few weeks ago, I was at an ice cream establishment and witnessed what I would define as a “difficult customer”.

They were there with their family. Five of them. All huddling around – and leaning on – the counter as one person ordered. I’ll call them the spokesperson, aka the difficult customer.

First off, we’re in a pandemic. Back yourselves up. Give the worker some space. Second, even if we weren’t in a pandemic and the words “social distancing” weren’t tattooed to our brains, can you not treat the counter like it’s a throw pillow.

That’s just rude. The kids in this family weren’t even kids kids. They were old enough to know better.

And I know I’m getting old because I’m about to say this, but it has to be said: this restaurant isn’t your house. Stop leaning, stop crowding, back up.

So, that rubbed me the wrong way.

But then, they spent no less than five minutes ordering.

Listen up, children. Before you step up to the counter to order at a fast food restaurant, you better know what you want. Am I the only one who does a quick read-through of my order in my head?

I get it, if you have questions about combos or whatnot, ask your questions. However, do not step up to the counter with no idea of what you’re ordering. If you want to make things up on the fly, go join The Second City.

Not only did this family improvise their order, they were full of questions and specific customizations.

Hey, customize away! We all have our preferences. Just come prepared. Don’t do it on the fly.

And here’s why.

The worker brought out the first two orders and before even reaching the counter, the spokesperson told them they didn’t order vanilla. They ordered chocolate. And then they went on, “Remember? I said I wanted chocolate (of this) and vanilla (of that).”

There’s a right way and a wrong way to tell a worker that they messed up your order. I don’t think a patronizing tone is the way.

Finally, the family had been served, but before they all walked away the spokesperson said, “What, does this not come with a lid?” They were referring to their ice cream in a cup, which that had already started eating.

The worker handed them a lid and they left. I didn’t hear a “thank you”.

It was my turn to approach the counter and I was this close to saying how sorry I was that they had to put up with that. The worker looked like they needed a hug and a hefty raise.

Dealing with hungry people, who can’t make up their mind, is exhausting. And when these workers are criticized, they just have to put on a brave face and take it.

It’s not easy.

Now, I say all that to say this.

I think we’ve all experienced an order – food or otherwise – go awry. It’s not ideal. It’s not what we signed up for.

And I know social media has made it cool to criticize, but I’m also aware that the moment you criticize a restaurant for messing up your order, someone will jump to the defence of the workers and what they have to put up with.

At some point, though, we should be allowed to respectfully comment on the fact that we didn’t receive what we paid for. We are allowed to be upset. I am allowed to be upset!

This is my time to respectfully comment.

Again, I come in peace. I am not criticizing to be cool.

I’m tagging this post as “humour”, so if you think any of my comments are harsh, just laugh and it’ll be fine.

A plain cheeseburger.

Last week, I ordered a plain cheeseburger at a fast food restaurant. I don’t need to name the place, just know that their cheeseburgers are called a different name – as is the case at most places – and come with an assortment of condiments as the default option.

What they believe belongs on a cheeseburger does not coincide with what I enjoy on a cheeseburger. That’s fine. I’ll make it easy on them. I’ll order a plain cheeseburger.

All I got was the burger between the buns. No cheese. Nothing else.

The receipt said. “Cheeseburger – Plain”. The sticker on the box said, “Cheeseburger – Plain”. Where was the confusion? The person taking the order knew what I wanted.

What did the chef in the back see that made them think, “Just the patty on this one!”?

I’m used to it, though.

At this point in my life, if I’m going the plain cheeseburger route at this restaurant, I know that I better order a second, smaller item from the menu, just so my stomach, mind, and soul is satisfied if/when they mess up my order.

I hedge my burger bets. I shouldn’t have to, but I do.

I’m an understanding person. I get it. Maybe the chef in the back is moving so fast, they forgot to read the “plain” part.

As an aside, the best way to remove items like mustard and ketchup from a bun is with a small spoon. It will still leave small traces, but only small.

Sometimes, I wonder if people even know what a plain cheeseburger is.

I’ve developed a theory that when I say, “plain cheeseburger”, they think the “plain” cancels out the “cheese” part and so you’re just left with the burger.

It’s like a math rule, but for food.

I don’t know how else to explain it. It defies the laws of Burgery (a strand of Science). Because how could a chef look at the order on the screen, see “cheeseburger”, and not throw cheese on the burger? It makes no sense, unless they think “plain” overrides it.

Is there a burger version of the “I before E, except after C” rule, that I don’t know about?

“C on B except when P.”

Many years ago, I ordered a plain cheeseburger and the worker said to me, “So, no seasoning on the burger patty, either?”

I will never forget that.


To this day, I am baffled.

The fact that they said “either”, tells me they knew I didn’t want condiments and they took it about 80 steps further and asked about the seasoning.

It makes me wonder if this boils down to a lack of training. Were they not properly prepared to deal with all the customizations and terms like, “plain cheeseburger”, that customers will throw at them?

There has to be a reason why a plain cheeseburger confuses people all across the fast food industry.

Is it in my delivery? Am I the common denominidiot?

Sometimes, I’ll say “plain cheeseburger…just cheese” as if I’m reinforcing my thesis statement.

And I know some of you must be screaming at your screen, “Geeze Paul, just order the burger with the default condiments and suck it up and eat it.”

Again, what they put on a burger is not what I’d put on a burger.

OH! This reminds me of another order mishap from many years ago.

A family member was out and picked up a simple combo for me. A chicken sandwich, fries, and a drink.

Simple. SIMPLE. S-I-M-P-L-E.

They get home and the fries were in a salad container with warm cheese poured on top of them.

Honestly, my reaction would make the Top 5 list of angriest moments of my life. I was fuming. Not only can I not stand liquid cheese, but only about five fries were salvageable. The rest had been sullied.

On top of that, I was mad at how an order that was so simple could be messed up so badly.

I wasn’t mad at my family member, I was mad at the restaurant.

So, we call them up and what do they say?


My body temperature just went up about five degrees as I wrote that. I’m getting mad all over again.

You don’t even offer this atrocity? So then why did you give it to me? WHY? WHY WAS THERE LIQUID CHEESE ON STANDBY?

I don’t care if some of you are saying that sounds delicious. Not to me.

Nothing is ever perfect, my friends. Nothing. What even is trust?

This is why I always liked to be the one to put together group projects in school. I trust myself to edit. I trust myself to print it out. I trust myself to put a staple in the top left corner. I trust myself to get it to the classroom without getting wrinkled.

Okay, my body temperature has gone back to normal. I’m breathing heavily, though. Huffing and puffing like Thomas the Tank Engine over here.

Is this where I briefly mention the time I ordered pizza with friends at school and out of the three pizzas that were delivered, mine was the only one they didn’t cut into slices?

I sat there with a butter knife, dissecting the pizza into slices.

“Everybody makes mistakes, everybody has those days.” – Hannah Montana.

It would be nice if those mistakes didn’t seem to happen so often, especially to me. I know they say, “if God brings you to it, He will bring you through it”, but I’d like to stop being Customer 0 for every mistaken food order.

I just want a plain cheeseburger. That’s it.

There, I’ve gotten it off my chest. I’m good.

But why the cheese on the fries? WHY?? If it’s not even on the menu…WHY???

I’m good, really.

Let me know about all of your food order mishaps! The comments section is a safe space.

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32 Responses to Plain Cheeseburger

  1. Ashley says:

    I order cheeseburgers with only ketchup on it and they get messed up or get smart replies in return. Or I’ll order nachos with beef and cheese and they’ll say “I assume you want the nachos with it.” Sometimes they act deliberately stupidly.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      I can’t say I’ve ever encountered the smart replies like that, but yes that would be annoying. Sometimes they’ll cut me off in the middle of my order and ask if I want something else and I feel like saying “Yes, I was about to say it…”

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Bex says:

    You and I have been blessed with the same super power; that what my husband has started calling it as it happens almost every time I order food from somewhere. As far as burgers, I’m fine with the accoutrement, but I don’t like cheese. 4/5 times I specifically request a cheeseburger without cheese, I get a cheeseburger with the meltiest, gooiest cheese on the planet to the point of not being able to salvage the rest of the burger. This is why I usually order chicken in some form or another.

    It’s comical at this point how often my order is wrong whether it’s the wrong drink, wrong/no requested dipping sauce, onion rings instead of tater tots… recently I pointed out to a waitress that there was melted plastic in my macaroni salad and her response was, “Huh, that’s weird.” She didn’t offer a secondary option, a discount, a free dessert, NOTHING! If a miracle happens and my meal is exactly as I ordered/wanted, I get a sense of unease as if it something REALLY bad is getting ready to happen, so does that mean I have found comfort in being disappointed in my food?? That’s a sad realization…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      A superpower you say? Well, that’s definitely one way to put it! If they’re going to mess up, they definitely pick the right person because I’d never cause a full blown scene in a restaurant and complain. Yes I’d take the food back to the counter and ask for what I ordered, but wouldn’t make a big fuss over it.

      Haha of course you get the cheesiest burger of all-time. They see “Cheeseburger – No Cheese” on the order and it throws them off. It must.

      Melted plastic! Okay maybe you do have a superpower because that’s kind of impressive. How does that even happen?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Bex says:

        I’m the same way; there is no use to make someone feel bad if they are doing their best. If you can’t show grace to people waiting on you, then maybe you should just stay home…

        I couldn’t even began to tell you where the plastic came from and it wasn’t tiny either. It was maybe the size of a pencil eraser. I was gonna say a nickel, but I wasn’t certain you, as a Canadian, would know the size of a nickle…

        Liked by 1 person

      • Paul says:

        Haha oh we have nickels in Canada. We don’t have pennies anymore, so the nickel is kind of necessary. That’s a big piece of plastic. Maybe your Mac & Cheese was a microwave dinner from the store and when they cut it open the plastic remained?


      • Bex says:

        It was a cold macaroni salad… I work for the health department and I’ve never wanted to whip out my badge and give out an arbitrary citation before that meal. I don’t even work on the food side of the health dept., but I know plastic in food is a big no no.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Bill says:

    So did you enjoy Wendy’s other than that?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Paul says:

      Haha they weren’t responsible for the plain cheeseburger mixup, I normally get the spicy chicken sandwich combo from Wendy’s sooo read into that what you will.

      As for the plain cheeseburger without cheese…at least it was seasoned? So it was ok. Plus I had fries and a secondary smaller chicken burger as a back up. It could’ve been worse.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Bill says:

        I just figured it was Wendy’s, given my history with them. Years ago, I ordered a plain chicken parm sandwich, and they gave me a piece of chicken on a bun. All I could do was laugh.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Paul, I too want to give a shout out for those on the front lines of the fast food industry for putting up with us. We are often not a very patient or forgiving customer base, somehow thinking the industry should have a zero-defect, 100% satisfaction level. No industry does. It is interesting when something like fries with cheese comes back at you when they don’t even offer that. My fast food peeve these days is also with fries…how from one moment to the next the amount of fries provided varies within the same size. One time, you order a large and the fries are literally falling out of their holder, but you’ll come back next time and have to look deep inside your holder to find the fries. I don’t expect them to count out the fries, but there must be some standard to be adhered to for expense purposes if nothing else. If you need to make more fries, I’ll wait. Really, I will.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Paul says:

      Yes! They sell us on the fries with commercials or photos in coupon booklets and the fries box is always full to the top, everyone standing at attention. And then we get it and it’s obvious they could’ve added an extra scoop of fries but didn’t. Sometimes, a Medium Fries is just a Small Fries + a few more and that’s disappointing. I’m with you, I would wait if they needed to make more.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. peckapalooza says:

    Something similar recently happened to me. Like, eerily similar. It was a typical work day and I was out and about with some time in between client meetings. Since I had a little time for lunch, I decided to hit up a McDrive-Thru and get my usual: a cheeseburger with only ketchup, a medium fry, and a large Coke, no ice. I got my order and drove off because I’m a naive and trusting soul. When I found a shady area to pull over and quickly eat my food, I discovered that my cheeseburger with only ketchup was cheese-less. It was a hamburger with only ketchup. I guess by saying “only ketchup” the assumption was that I didn’t want cheese. But if that was the case, I would have ordered a HAMburger with only ketchup. By ordering a CHEESEburger the cheese should be implied in all possible condiment and topping scenarios.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Paul says:

      I thought I saw a tweet about you saying this! That’s pretty much the same thing that happens to me. I’m with you, if you didn’t want cheese, you would’ve called it a Hamburger. With McDonald’s, it’s wordy to order a Plain Quarter Pounder with Cheese because I feel like their attention is split between 3 different aspects of the order. I know it’s not good for marketing reasons but if these restaurants just had a hamburger as their basic burger and allowed us to add toppings, that would be the best. We have a few restaurants like that here, where it’s like a Subway…they put the toppings on the burger right in front of you and you tell them what you want.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Rebecca says:

    Gosh, I can’t with difficult customers…I work in customer service, and while I’ll say that most clients (60-70%) are great/decent, it’s the remaining 30-40% that really stick with you, as they make your life a living hell. It boggles my mind that some people are capable of being such horrible monsters, because of entitlement (clearly never learned empathy and consideration for others). Because of my experience, I definitely am nice to service workers and always tip wherever I go. But of course, if there’s a concern (e.g. recently, I went to an Italian restaurant and one of my dishes had a hair in it), definitely bring it up…but be calm and polite about it! Common courtesy is really common sense– but it’s a shame not everyone has it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      I’m sorry you have to deal with those difficult customers. I often wonder if those people ever look back on how they treated others in public. Like when they lay in bed at night, do they regret it? Or are they just a walking tornado, causing chaos and belittling others everywhere they go, and that’s just normal to them.

      Yup, I’m the same. If there’s a problem, I’ll say something or bring the food back to the counter with my receipt and just say calmly tell them the mistake. No one is intentionally trying to ruin my dining experience. Sure I may get upset/mad on the inside, but I won’t take that out on a worker.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I like my Chicken Sandwich with just Chicken and a Bun. I will add my own condiments. It arrived with Cheese and Bacon so I had them remake it and the staff asks, “Do you want Bacon on that?”

    Liked by 2 people

    • Paul says:

      Haha oh no. It might be easier if the default order for these burgers was plain and then we tell them the condiments we want added to it, if any.


  8. Dutch Lion says:

    I’m a hamburger guy, but not a cheeseburger guy. How many times in life have I gotten cheese? Too many to count. I’ve tried so many different ways of saying it because I’m always wondering how/why they screw it up. Sometimes I’ll order a “hamburger, no cheese” and I wonder if they think I changed my mind and corrected myself, you know, like “I want a hamburger, no (check that), cheese(burger)”. Other times I’ll repeat myself, “I would like one hamburger, with no cheese, that’s a hamburger, hold the cheese, I just want ham” and they’re all confused. Basically they don’t understand the “ham” part of a burger.

    Oh well, nowadays I’m staying away from these fast food joints anyway. With age I’m craving more quality and less of these unhealthy places.

    Great column !


    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      Oh man it happens to you too and you just want the burger by itself. That should be the easiest order! I’m starting to think the people who work at these restaurants never actually order the food for themselves, or they’d understand the wording from a customer’s point of view.

      There’s a fast food place in Canada called Harvey’s. They make the burger in the back and then bring it to the front where all the toppings are and you tell them what you want. It’s like a Subway, but for burgers. Mistakes are impossible, it’s great.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. gigglingfattie says:

    Oh my gosh Paul! This is tragic. Would it be better to say “cheeseburger with no toppings” or “cheeseburger with no condiments” ? Mayhaps thats where its going weird?

    I can’t recall any ordering mishaps for me. Ive had places forget like a bottle of pop or give me the wrong kind of pie. But nothing this outrageous.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Becky says:

    UGH I feel this deep in my soul after spending 11 years at the ice cream shop. Boy did we have some difficult customers. I always wondered, you’re ordering ice cream, why are you so angry?! But it was nice to have the easy going customers who made it a lot better.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      I thought of you when I saw that customer at the ice cream shop. You’re so right, I don’t know how they could be so angry getting ice cream. I was so excited before I even left the house.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Sabrina B says:

    As a fellow Plain Eater (you know this), I’m just super specific about what I want. So I would say “a cheeseburger, no condiments, no lettuce, no tomato” instead of plain, because plain can be interpreted different ways! I feel like no condiments is an important one as someone who passionately dislikes ketchup and does not want it touching my stuff ever.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      I knew you would have thoughts. I’d say about 8 times out 10, when they get my order wrong, the cashier isn’t at fault because the receipt will say “plain/no cheese/other identifiers” and it’s the chef in the back who messed up. So I don’t know how to convey to them no toppings if it has already been conveyed to them and they still ignore it.

      This is why I love Harvey’s. Because I do like 4-5 things on my burger and they’ll make it right in front of me.

      These other places who insist on ketchup and mustard on everything should stop that, for our sake at least. I like both condiments, just never on a burger.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sabrina B says:

        Yeahhh if it doesn’t specify that is a problem!! It’s why I these days tend to avoid ordering anytihng if I have to make too many adjustments. Like chicken fingers and fries are always safe.

        Harveys IS great. Big fan of anything where the idea is “tell us exactly how you want this.” This is also why I like pita pit and places like that even though they judge me because I like so few things on it.

        I agree! I don’t think they should be an automatic thing. There’s so much stuff that I only like in specific combos and NOT on a burger or only in a certain kind of sandwich, but apparently not everyone feels this way! And so we are supposed to just put up with condiments on things or be judged!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Paul says:

        Feeling like I’m being judged for not putting enough toppings is too real. Oh man. First time I ever got a pulled pork bowl at chipotle, I asked for about 3-4 other items to go with it and they didn’t fill up the entire bowl because they were leaving space for like 8 different items. Very frustrating.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Sarah Warsi says:

    Love this post, Paul. It is baffling how the communication gets so easily misconstrued when it should really be so simple! Here’s to lots of plain cheeseburgers in your future! (And I mean CHEESEburgers!) haha 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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