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Posted by on Apr 26, 2005 in At TMV | 0 comments

Customers Give Wendy’s A (Helping) Hand

There’s something going on at Wendy’s restaurants and you can’t put your finger on it.

Wait: let’s rephrase that.

Bit by bit, customers are reportedly starting to give a thumbs up (whoops…sorry again) to the fast-food restaurant which just weeks before saw sales nosedive after a woman said she found a human finger in her Wendy’s chili at one of the company’s San Jose restaurants. The chain doesn’t scrimp on its chili recipe, but that was one ingredient on which it did…

The woman who made the claim, Anna Ayala, was later arrested and charged with grand theft — thus allowing the corporation to recover from what had been a truly catastrophic image problem. So the question becomes: why and how has Wendy’s started steadily bouncing back?

Perhaps it’s because society has become mega-litigious and it was clear where this case was headed — to a big, fat lawsuit.

In the end, Wendy’s officials offered a $100,000 reward for finding the finger’s original owner and absorbed financial losses from scurrying customers who didn’t want appendages floating in their food. But customers clearly decided once Ayala was arrested that there was indeed a clearcut victim in this case: the Wendy’s corporation and all of the hard-working people staffing their restaurants.

So, in the end, Wendy’s could bounce back because customers understood and felt that Wendy’s offered the kind of quality its beloved late founder Dave Thomas tried to offer them. Thomas was a special kind of corporate owner and there was a genuine outpouring of grief when he died — not because he was the boss, but he reportedly was a fine person. In other words: the true victim of the case was clear and the corporation had a reservoir of goodwill built up so it could start to quickly bounce back. Just look at some tidbits from news reports.


Chris Combs, Wendy’s customer: “It’s too packed, too many customers here. They’re showing their faith in Wendy’s.”

The turnaround is obvious. This is what the parking lot looked like before Anna Ayala’s arrest. This is the parking lot today.

Shirley Castle, Wendy’s customer: “I think it’s great, after what they’ve gone through. It’s about time.”

In Colorado, the University of Denver’s Clarion Online:

“We have actually sold more chili since the incident,” said Assistant Manager Pedro Boero.

“It’s hard to say how that would happen,” said Boero, referring to the finger incident. “Health department inspectors come once a month and Wendy’s comes at least every other month.” Boero said that there was no official memo passed down from Wendy’s Corporation International.

“The only thing that changed is that when people order they ask for chili without a finger in it,” said Boero. A question that is funny, fair and creative. When asked whether or not they still eat at Wendy’s most DU students say they do.

“I’ve only gotten the chili once,” said Jock Goodrich, junior. “I love that place though.”

Will Parker, junior, managed to crack the chili case even before the police. “It was her dead grandma’s finger,” he said. “She put it in there herself, the crazy [beep].”

Meanwhile, the story has gotten big play all over the world. “Fast-food fraudster gets fingered,” declares the headline in South Africa’s Independent Online.

Still, the crisis for the corporation isn’t totally over. Reuters reports that sales have fallen 50 to 30 percent at some San Jose Wendy’s restaurants due to the scandal.

But, day by day, returning customers are giving Wendy’s a (helping and FULL) hand.