September 11, 2022

Sad Avocado

I was planning to write about cross country today, but I just got home from taking Luke and Riley (my nephew and niece) to Barnes & Noble and Panera for Riley's birthday. I am fuming about our experience at Panera, and they only allow 750 characters on their website form, so I'm just going to write about it here and give them the link, I guess!

This may label me as a "Karen" for complaining, but I can't imagine anyone would be okay with this experience.

I have always loved Panera. Before the pandemic and lockdown and all that, I would frequently meet friends there for lunch or pick up bread bowls for chili at home--stuff like that. I can't ever remember having a bad experience at Panera! Until today. It was so bad that I will likely never go back.

(I do want to say that I plastered a smile on my face anyway, because I didn't want it to affect the fun Jerry, Noah, and I planned to have with Luke and Riley. And we did! Barnes & Noble is amazing--I almost wish I was a kid again because of all of the cool educational toys and books they have.)

We weren't sure 100% sure where we were going to have lunch, so I asked Riley what she would like. She said she either wanted a grilled cheese or macaroni and cheese. Well, Panera happens to have a grilled macaroni and cheese sandwich on their kids menu--perfect! I knew they had four bagels on their menu that are vegan, so I figured I would get a plain bagel and add a few slices of avocado on the side, so I could use that as a spread (they don't have vegan spreads).

This location had kiosks for taking orders when you walk inside, which was actually convenient so that the kids could look at the screen and make their choices. (Luke chose a salad--I'd never met a kid that would choose salad over mac and cheese! So cute.) There wasn't a way to add a side of avocado on there, so I just made a note next to it that if possible, could I please have a couple of slices of avocado? I hoped they'd let me have some--but I would have been fine with it if they told me no. I would have just eaten it plain.

I finished the order, adding a 20% tip like I always do for food service--which I think was generous, considering that you place your own order at the kiosk, pick up your own food from the counter, and bus your own table). We went to the table to wait for my name to be called. 

This smile is definitely genuine, although I don't remember why I was laughing.

Riley wanted me to sit between her and Luke (she's so sweet!), so I was trapped in the booth and Jerry went to the counter to get the food. We were right on the other side of a partition, and I could hear the manager tell him that they didn't have any plain bagels. Okay, no problem--there are three other bagels that are vegan, so I just said any vegan bagel is good. The woman at the counter said she didn't know if they had anything that was vegan.

I have worked in several restaurants, and I was always told to say, "I'm so sorry, but I don't know the answer to that. Let me find out for you!" and I would do my best to find the answer. However, this woman was the manager--I don't want to post the name that's on the receipt because she may have been using the register under another employee's name--and she just left it at "I don't know."

I didn't want to make a big deal about it because we were only there for the kids anyway. I just said okay, then I don't need it, no big deal. (I had already paid for it, but it was only a bagel--I think they're a dollar. Still, she didn't offer to refund my money or substitute anything else. A piece of a baguette would have been fine with me at that point!)

But I was curious, so I googled the answer about vegan bagels myself. Jerry then asked if they had any of those (blueberry, everything, and sesame, if you're wondering). She said they had an everything bagel. Cool--I'll have that. Is there any chance I could get a side of avocado? (I told Jerry if she said no, it was fine). Then I started chatting with the kids and helping them with their food (opening chocolate milk, utensils, etc). 

Jerry had only ordered coffee (they were out of bread bowls, which is what he'd wanted), so he got his coffee and waited for them to slice and toast my bagel. It took 10 minutes or so--their toaster must be very slow, because there were only a handful of customers in the restaurant. Just look at the picture above! He came back with the bagel and a very sad piece of avocado. We actually all started laughing about it because the avocado looked, well, SAD in that huge cup. See?

As we were sitting there eating and chatting, Jerry got the funniest look on his face and then started to spit into a napkin. He'd gotten down to the bottom of his cup of coffee, and it was loaded with coffee grounds. Gross. But again, stuff like that happens, no biggie--just rinse out the cup and get some fresh coffee (it's self-serve, so he could just pick a different one).

At this point, I felt terrible for choosing Panera--it isn't cheap (which I knew, but their food is usually worth it) and I was mad that I'd given a 20% tip for what... the manager to tell me she doesn't know if any bagels are vegan? To not be offered a refund or substitution for the bagel I ordered and they didn't have? For Jerry's coffee having grounds in it? Jerry, Noah, and I kept giving each other this look--the "holy cow, is this for real?" look that was a combination of disbelief, humor, and are you kidding me?!

When we were done, we bussed our table and left. We went to Barnes & Noble and I'd all-but forgotten about the Panera issues. The kids had fun picking out a gift (we've done this a few times now for their birthdays) and they were excited to get home and show their parents what they chose.

We drove them home and then we talked about the ridiculous Panera experience. Jerry said it made him never want to go to Panera--any Panera--again. I feel the same way right now. Noah agreed. Jerry was still picking coffee grounds out of his teeth, hahaha.

I thought it would just make for a "Remember that really sad piece of avocado you got at Panera one time?!" story--something to laugh about.

Until we got home and Jerry handed me a receipt--I didn't know it at the time, but they'd charged him $1.69 for that sorry piece of avocado! I *never* would have paid for that if I'd known. Not just because they charged so much for it--if it had been an option on the kiosk, I would have paid for a side of avocado slices--but because I thought they'd given it to him as a "I'm sorry for the bagel issue, but here--take the sad part of this leftover avocado for your inconvenience" thing.

I hadn't planned to write about this whole issue--I've had lots of bad restaurant experiences over the years and haven't written about it on my blog or emailed the company or anything like that. But when Jerry gave me that receipt, I kind of lost it! He and Noah were both laughing at my (over?)reaction. I wished I didn't even know that Jerry paid for the avocado--it just fired me up and I grabbed my computer to write the company.

Wait a second. In 750 characters...?

Hahaha! When I'm super fired up like that, I don't feel better until I do something about it. Even if nobody responds to my complaint, I feel better already for having written it. Noah told me that I'd be called a "Karen" for complaining, but for this I can't help it! I think my complaint is legit. If the manager had been at all friendly or helpful, I wouldn't have felt the need. 

And now, I can let it go. Peacefully. Laugh about it. Maybe learn to make my own damn bagels. And stop writing such long posts about a bagel and avocado! (-6,783 characters remaining)

(Yes, I actually copy and pasted this into a word document to find out how many characters I used, hahaha. Passive aggression is a vice of mine.)


  1. First, let me say this is not a Karen moment. Karen moments are when (usually) white women ask for things that are COMPLETELY unreasonable. Second, I think your expectations of Panera are totally reasonable, and I'm sorry this happened to you. But also, I love reading your rants. HA!

  2. I'm a Karen, and I always tip generously and respect the servers. We've had soooo many bad experiences, but yours was way worse. They have no right to treat people that way. We'll never order from our local cafe after being yelled at on the phone while trying to place a to-go order (I'm not takin any to go orders on the weekend!!!!!) We've always tipped for to-go orders too. They can stick it where the sun don't shine.

  3. Kids like to toss around the "Karen" term a bit too loosely if you ask me. A "Karen" would be somebody complaining about something completely off the wall and out of an employee's control. This just sounds like very poor customer service and that you have every right to complain! I also would have been super upset. Everything is so expensive these days! Also, I personally thinking tipping culture is getting out of control. Tipping at a self service restaurant? For a staff that makes a regular hourly wage and not a regular wait staff wage (which sadly I think is still only at $2 something an hour). I'm all for tipping when someone is providing me a service like bringing food to a table or cleaning up our table or bringing an order out to my car but if I'm doing everything myself, I'm saving that tip money for me ;)

  4. Good for you for speaking up! Definitely sad avocado.

  5. If it makes you feel any better, now I never want to go to Panera again either! I don't need their over-priced bagel!

  6. I wish people would stop using what used to be a normal, everyday name as a pejorative.

  7. I'm kind of terrified to ever go to Panera again. Years ago, I had swung through their drive through and gotten their Turkey Avocado sandwich. When I got home I saw the lettuce looked sketchy. But I was hungry so I just pulled it off and ate the sandwich. BAD IDEA. I ended up getting food poisoning from it. I couldn't even drink water without having to run to the bathroom. It's my own fault for eating it even when it look suspish but they didn't seem to care when I emailed them about it.


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