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Food 911

Claim:   Woman calls police because a fast food outlet won't make a cheeseburger the way she wants it.

UNDETERMINED

Example:   [Collected on the Internet, 2005]

NOTE: The following is a transcript of an audio file. Click here to listen to the original recording.



Dispatcher: Sheriff's department, how can I help you?

Woman: Yeah, I'm over here . . . I'm over here at Burger King right here in San Clemente.*

Dispatcher: Uh-huh.

Woman: Um, no, not San Clemente; I'm sorry, I live in San Clemente. I'm in Laguna Niguel, I think, that's where I'm at.

Dispatcher: Uh-huh.

Woman: I'm at a drive-through right now.

Dispatcher: Uh-huh.

Woman: I went . . . I ordered my food three times. They're mopping the floor inside, and I understand they're busy . . . they're not even busy, okay, I've been the only car here. I asked them four different times to make me a Western Barbeque Burger. Okay, they keep giving me a hamburger with lettuce, tomato, and cheese, onions, and I said, "I'm not leaving . . ."

Dispatcher: Uh-huh.

Woman: I want a Western Burger because I just got my kids from Tae Kwon Do, they're hungry, I'm on my way home, and I live in San Clemente.

Dispatcher: Uh-huh.

Woman: Okay . . . she said, she gave me another hamburger; it's wrong. I said four times, I said, "I want it to go. Can you go out and park in front?" I said, "No, I want my hamburger right." So then the . . . the lady came to the manager. She . . . well whoever she is, she came up and she said, um, she said, um, "Do you want your money back?" And I said, "No, I want my hamburger. My kids are hungry and I have to jump on that toll freeway." I said, "I am not leaving this spot," and I said, "I will call the police," because I want my Western Burger done right! Now is that so hard?

Dispatcher: Okay, what exactly is it you want us to do for you?

Woman: I . . . send an officer down here. I . . . I want them to make me . . .

Dispatcher: Ma'am, we're not gonna go down there and enforce your Western Bacon Cheeseburger.

Woman: What am I supposed to do?

Dispatcher: This is . . . this is between you and the manager. We're not gonna go and enforce how to make a hamburger; that's not a criminal issue. There's . . . there's nothing criminal there.

Woman: So I just stand here . . . so I just sit here and [block]?

Dispatcher: You . . . you need to calmly and rationally speak to the manager and figure out what to do between you.

Woman: She did come up, and I said, "Can I please have my Western Burger?" She . . . she said, "I'm not dealing with it," and she walked away. Because they're mopping the floor, and it's also the fact that they don't want to . . . they don't want to go through there . . . and . . . and . . .

Dispatcher: Ma'am, then I suggest you get your money back and go somewhere else. This is . . . this is not a criminal issue. We can't go out there and make them make you a cheeseburger the way you want it.

Woman: Well . . . that is . . . that . . . you're supposed to be here to protect me.

Dispatcher: Well, what are we protecting you from, a wrong cheeseburger?

Woman: No . . .

Dispatcher: Is this like . . . is this a harmful cheeseburger or something? I don't understand what you want us to do.

Woman: Just come down here. I'm not . . . I'm not leaving.

Dispatcher: No ma'am, I'm not sending the deputies down there over a cheeseburger. You need to go in there and act like an adult and either get your money back or go home.

Woman: She is not acting like an adult herself! I'm sitting here in my car; I just want them to make my kids a . . . a Western Burger.

Dispatcher: Ma'am, this is what I suggest: I suggest you get your money back from the manager and you go on your way home.

Woman: Okay.

Dispatcher: Okay? Bye-bye.
 

(*We're aware that the Western Bacon Cheeseburger is a menu item offered by Carl's Jr., not Burger King. The caller either misidentified the type of burger she was trying to order or misstated the name of the restaurant. Both chains have outlets in Laguna Niguel, and Burger King has periodically promoted a Western Whopper burger.)
 

Origins:   Anyone who has worked a police or emergency services dispatch line can attest that some callers just don't seem to have a very good grasp of what kinds of situations constitute valid emergencies, or even what sort of problems fall within the purview of law enforcement or emergency rescue services. People call 911 for assistance in such matters as needing help with
homework, clogged toilets, and non-functioning smoke detectors, to try to find out the latest sports scores and lottery results, to report broken televisions and cable outages, to seek assistance in locating lost pets, and to report all sorts of minor medical ailments.

The call transcribed above is one such example: a woman phones the Orange County Sheriff's Department from the drive-through window of a fast food restaurant because she just can't get the uncooperative employees there to make the kind of hamburger she wants. The results are all the more amusing in this case because even though dispatchers generally dispose of non-emergency and misdirected calls as quickly as feasible in order to keep the phone lines clear for legitimate calls, this one stays on the phone with the irate woman for two and a half minutes — during which period the caller fulfills all the stereotypes of the narcissistic, pompous, self-absorbed Orange County soccer mom as she berates the restaurant employees for screwing up her kids' order and ignoring her, and the dispatcher for refusing to send an officer out to deal with the situation (a reasonable expectation, she maintains, because the police are "supposed to be here to protect me").

The bemused dispatcher handles the call with aplomb (and a touch of sarcasm), repeatedly informing the exasperated woman that a dispute over the proper preparation of a hamburger is not a criminal issue and therefore not an appropriate matter in which to involve the sheriff's department:
Dispatcher: Ma'am, then I suggest you get your money back and go somewhere else. This is . . . this is not a criminal issue. We can't go out there and make them make you a cheeseburger the way you want it.

Woman: Well . . . that is . . . that . . . you're supposed to be here to protect me.

Dispatcher: Well, what are we protecting you from, a wrong cheeseburger?

Woman: No . . .

Dispatcher: Is this like . . . is this a harmful cheeseburger or something? I don't understand what you want us to do.
After being Burger told that she needs to "act like an adult," the infuriated caller petulantly insists that the restaurant manager is "not acting like an adult herself," but the soapbox is yanked out from beneath her when the dispatcher finally gives her a stern brush-off and ends the call.

Since the question on everyone's minds is "Is this for real?" we called the Orange County Sheriff's Department (OCSD) and spoke to a couple of folks at the Public Affairs Office. They were a bit busy to speak with us at length (evidently matters such as homicides and escaped prisoners take priority over media inquiries about irate fast food patrons), but they told us the recording is an actual call that was handled by an OCSD dispatcher about two years ago.

We're leaving this entry's status as "undetermined" because the fact that the recording is genuine doesn't necessarily mean it was on the level. Was the caller really a harried mother with an overinflated sense of entitlement, or was she a prankster pulling one over on the sheriff's department for the sake of a laugh? Since no one responded to the call, we may never know.

Additional information:
    'Food 911' recording   "Food 911" recording
 
Last updated:   4 July 2011

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