“We thought it would be nice… at the time.” Offering a new “edition” of the classic chicken sandwich through November 8th, that is. No one seemed to take into account that crowds were already tense as the election drew nearer, and that bringing people together for the chance to form any kind of mob was ill-advised. Nonetheless, it was the idea of the latest “head of marketing”–and these were heads that could be cut off and replaced quite easily, which is why he was merely the newest in an ever-revolving door of heads.
His name–before he died during the bum rush–was Kenneth Proud. And proud he was of this “innovation” (despite the fact that Wendy’s was no stranger to peddling free items as a means of promotion), which he believed was a bold move to make in pandemic times. But he, like the president, was not going to be afraid of a little virus. Of course, to placate the pussies populating the U.S., he would try to come up with an “organized” system to make them believe that it wasn’t simply a feeding frenzy designed for the broke asses willing to stoop to the desperate shame that came with a “first come, first serve” policy. Honestly, how pathetic did you need to be? Kenneth wondered. If he were in their position, he would sooner dig through the trash in an alley than be caught trying to claim a free sandwich out in plain sight for any passerby to see. It was positively gauche.
In the months leading up to November, Kenneth stood in the boardroom calmly going over his PowerPoint in front of the slack-jawed faces (mostly white and mostly male) staring blankly at him, informing his coworkers that the benefit of the free chicken sandwich–in celebration of a slightly tweaked recipe that didn’t really change the taste at all–for such a lengthy period (just over a full week) would incite people to download the Wendy’s app and give their information. With this information, Wendy’s would keep them on the hook with promotional materials regardless of whether they deleted the app or not afterward. Once their emails and mailing addresses were obtained, the customer would never be able to escape the infiltration of Wendy’s. And all because they were pitiful enough to want a free chicken sandwich that’s already obscenely cheap to begin with.
Adjusting his tie at the end of his presentation, a subtle tic that indicated he was pleased with himself, Kenneth awaited the applause, which came only in the form of throat-clearing and a “Sounds good Kenneth, we’ll go ahead and greenlight this” from his boss. Not exactly the overwhelming response he had hoped for, but it would have to suffice. Enthusiasm was hard to come by in the twenty-first century. So he would have to interpret his boss’ acceptance as a modern form of “effusiveness.”
Walking out of headquarters at 1 Dave Thomas Boulevard, Kenneth could almost feel Dave Thomas himself smiling down upon him. Yes, Kenneth could remember the paternal aura Dave radiated every time he appeared in a commercial circa the early to mid-90s, and how it comforted him to no end as his stepfather beat the shit out of his mother in the next room. It was God’s will, Kenneth decided, that the headquarters should move from Columbus to Dublin (still Ohio, mind you, not Ireland), where he lived, in 2006, and just as he was getting out of community college and looking for a job at a corporate entry level. It was his great regret that his surrogate “TV dad,” Dave, didn’t live to see him land a role as a “junior marketing assistant.” From there, Kenneth waited like a tick to rise through the ranks, and finally, when no one else seemed to be around to do the job, he became the head of marketing at the end of 2019. Fine timing it was, as corona hit and people were paranoid about dining in and taking out. How would Dave have spun this the way he spun the illusion of burger meat spilling out the side of two buns (which was by shaping the meat squarely and using small buns)?
But one thing Kenneth knew for sure was that people were always willing to risk their lives for free shit, especially food during a Great Depression redux. That’s when he decided to come up with an arbitrary excuse to give out the free chicken sandwich: change the recipe. Even if all that meant was adding a few extra bread crumbs (scratch that–taking them away; one had to cut costs where he could). The suits were reluctant at first, not understanding that one had to lose some revenue in order to gain more, but when they saw the numbers from the second quarter, they were willing to take Kenneth’s defibrillator approach. They had no idea, of course, that Wendy’s would be turned into what amounted to a soup kitchen over the course of that week.
In cities like Charlotte, Kalamazoo, Syracuse, Macon, the crowds were rabid as they stood in lines wrapped around the block. The impatience reaching a crescendo as they all expected to get their free sandwich without having to buy something of equal or lesser value in order to claim their “bounty.” Apparently that was too much fine print. So it was that the riots began, and the workers were held at gunpoint to make them dole out these “soup kitchen meals” completely gratis–as the people thought they were promised. The situation grew so dire that Kenneth was asked to “handle the situation” by holding a press conference at the Columbus location, in which he would explain that it was all a misunderstanding, and that the promotion was now over. Everyone needed to go home.
“I don’t have a home!” screamed one member of the crowd. He was echoed in sentiment by numerous others before someone else amid the throng took care of the matter by shooting Kenneth in the head. Like Dave Thomas, he died for Wendy’s. And as the mostly unmasked hordes trampled over his corpse to get into the restaurant and demand their fill from what had turned into a bread line, Wendy’s mutated into something else altogether–just as most entities were forced to at the hands of an enraged public in 2020.