The Tell-Tale Finger

Most of you have probably heard about the woman in San Jose, Ca. finding a finger in her Wendy’s chili. After all, Anna Ayala told her story to millions via print and broadcast media. “Good Morning America” invited her to relate the horror while everyone ate their breakfast and listened. (OK. Maybe not everyone was listening. I certainly missed it.) It should come as no surprise that she began action this week to sue the restaurant chain’s management company.

When I first heard the story, repulsion was the initial reaction. The longer I thought about it, though, the more I thought: “Something smells in this story . . . and, it isn’t the finger.” The finger had to come off someone’s hand, right? Doesn’t someone notice when their finger falls off? One would think so. Given the litigious nature of our country, it would be a nightmare scenario for a food vendor. Obviously, Wendy’s is living that nightmare.

Common sense would tell us that vats of meat, tomatoes, or beans would have been dumped summarily — rather than allow someone to chomp down on a detached digit. It would be cheaper to loose the meat than loose the dough.

So, imagine my lack of surprise to find Ayala sues regularly. Yes, according to recent media reports, Ayala is no stranger to the tort system. She sued her boss for sexual harassment, a restaurant for making her daughter ill, and a car dealership because a tire fell off her car. We have uncovered another one of society’s leeches – the ones that suck of the green blood of productive America. Although she has not formally filed suit against Wendy’s, Ayala hired a lawyer, Jeffrey Jannoff, and initiated a claim with the company’s insurance company. For those of you unfamiliar with leech activity, this would be the precursor to a lawsuit.

“Their insurance company has responded to me,” Janoff said, adding that the claim is the first move before filing a lawsuit.

The claim does not seek specific damages.

“Both sides now have to investigate the matter and determine what’s going to be done, whether we can reach some type of out of court resolution,” Janoff said.

Janoff would not speculate on the amount of money Ayala would seek if a lawsuit was filed.

“How many cases have you heard of like this? It’s a little bit of a new area that we are exploring,” he said. “It really depends on what she goes through and if she can recover from it emotionally. It’s really too soon. I don’t have a figure.” — Brian Skoloff AP/Monterey County Herald

Greed is a cruel and demanding taskmaster. It often encourages its subjects to go for the big win. Unfortunately for them, the devotees are often too lazy to plan well or seriously consider consequences. Ayala took that gamble, and it will likely come back to haunt her. Wednesday, the police served a warrant on Ayala and searched her Las Vegas house. The police think something smells about Ayala’s story too. You see, no one at Wendy’s reported a missing finger – no one was rushed to the hospital with a dearth of a digit.

Much of this we can blame on the media. When I took journalism classes, we actually had to research stories. (I know; it’s hard to believe!) Failing grades were given to the potential journalist whom only interviewed one source. In this case, that is exactly what happened. The media spouted Ayala’s story without even bothering to investigate from whence the finger may have come. It took almost a week and police involvement before the MSM began questioning the story. If anyone had bothered to interview a Wendy’s employee, they would have learned the chili is made on premise with ingredients from various suppliers. So, the nine-finger donor must have come from that particular restaurant or somewhere totally out of the purview of the Wendy’s chain. These suppliers also have no reports of a recently-injured, digitally-challenged employee. It’s a fact Ayala missed also . . . and will hopefully sink her case.

Wendy’s has lost customers, especially at the San Jose location where the “discovery” occurred. Whether it’s a swindle or an accident, can any of us look at a cup of Wendy’s chili the same way? Employees will likely lose their jobs resulting from revenue losses. The company is offering $50,000 to anyone with information on how the finger infiltrated Ayala’s chili. They believe they are being scammed. One unsavory speculation floated by some media outlets surrounds the recent death of Ayala’s aunt. Law enforcement may pursue DNA testing to help solve this mystery. A data base search of the detached digit’s print yielded no clues.

It’s certainly possible that, if a scam cannot be proven, Ayala will sue Wendy’s and be awarded a considerable settlement. Regardless, we are all paying for Ayala’s greed with job losses, reward offerings, police and prosecutorial involvement across two jurisdictions. Yes, she is innocent until proven guilty. However, the finger of guilt definitely points her way. May her conscience twist and writhe with the sound of it scratching the bottom of the Wendy’s cup.

“I felt that I must scream or die! and now –again! –hark! louder! louder! louder! louder!” — The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe

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