Tears and Laughter: Chicken shortage causes concern in Wilcox County

Attendants at the Chick-fil-A Eastchase location in Montgomery intercept customers and take their order before they even get to the drive-thru microphone. At another station, before the pay window, another employee makes change, presents extra condiments, and bids everyone a good day. Most of them would probably offer a prayer if asked, and if they somehow ever ran low on chicken, a company representative would forge an ax over a flame in the kitchen then run to the nearest farm just to keep customers supplied and happy.

Do not expect this kind of service in Camden. It may be comparing apples to oranges, but chicken is chicken. I have had the opportunity to write about the chicken situation in Wilcox County on several occasions, and a chicken shortage is sure to cause concern.

On Sunday, at almost noon, I entered the Piggly Wiggly in Camden. I successfully gathered everything on my list as I do several times a week. I have only been shopping at this same store for over 20 years. I feed my family with food purchased primarily from the Camden Piggly Wiggly. My devotion has remained constant, mainly because it is the only grocery store in town, but constant nonetheless. The nearest big grocery is at least 30 miles away.

Camden does have a smaller store, Mr. Henry’s Red and White that has been open downtown on Broad Street for decades. And of course there is McDonald’s Grocery on the far end of town, but it might be described as more of a service station that has some grocery items than a full service grocery store. I hope everybody in town supports every single store in town, but if you have a family to take care of in Camden you most likely shop at the Pig to some extent.

So Sunday, I thought since it was lunchtime, and since the Piggly Wiggly has a deli that serves fried chicken as their main entrée, I would take chicken home. I didn’t consider this a novel idea, having fried chicken for Sunday dinner in Alabama. The guy in front of me in line, who happened to be a neighbor of mine, also ordered fried chicken. The woman behind the counter boxed his breast and two legs right up without hesitation.

But when I stepped up and ordered an eight piece mix I practically shut down the kitchen. I was told several large orders had been placed earlier, and because of that they were limiting the amount of chicken they were selling per customer. She said they were selling small portions, like two or three pieces at a time, but no eight piece boxes because then they wouldn’t have enough left for others. They were trying to stretch what they had so they wouldn’t run out. The truck wasn’t due to deliver more until later in the week.

I paused. I just stopped cold and was speechless, because I have recently been to the Chick-fil-A in Eastchase. I am familiar with how customer service is supposed to work. A grocery store that sells chicken in their meat market should never run so low in their deli that employees are told to ration out chicken to select customers.

It may be spelled out on the menu board above their heads, but they do not mean it. I dare anyone from anywhere, whether a regular customer for years on end or a first-time shopper, to go in just for kicks and order the 16 piece box. They would probably run someone out of the store entirely over that.

Amanda Walker is a columnist with The West Alabama Watchman, Al.com, The Thomasville Times, and The Wilcox Progressive Era. For more information, visit her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist.