Pride and Prejudice

Here’s the honest, harsh truth.

Working fast food is humble, degrading work. You have no personality, no individuality, and very little value, if you can get someone to be honest with you.
You’re not part of a specialized team, in which each member serves a specific and vital purpose. You are a worker drone. Fast food kitchens have stations and assigned duties, for which they need the most compatible option. All you are is a place holder.
Of course, no one thinks about that. They come in and they make friends and they pour their heart and soul into this job, making 8 and something an hour.
People invest in this job and you can tell who does and who doesn’t.
People get good and they make impressions.
Some customers appreciate that, and will smile reassuringly when you can’t fight a yawn anymore, or they’ll slip you three bucks because they’ve been there and know that three dollars means you eat tonight.
Some people will even write in on the ridiculous internet survey and tell the entire store how cool they think you are.

But not everyone is like that.
There are people who are fortunate enough to never had to have worked fast food.
There are people who just don’t care.
These are the customers we dread and can do nothing about, because if we act on our frustrations, these people will complain and we will be forced to give them more of what they want and they still wont be gone.

With this to think about, I present to you five rules of fast food restaurants.

I

Don’t take three years to order.
When you walk in the door or drive up to the speaker, you are immediately noticed. Someone sees you, or the headset beeps, and that sets off a chain reaction of talking and problem solving.
You are a problem- you need solved.
Someone has to stop what they’re doing and devote focus solely to you.
When that person does come up or you are asked to order, they will expect you to know what you want. If you go up to the register and then stand there with your mouth half open and your phone unlocked in your hand, you are wasting our time and humiliating us.
If you sit at the drive through speaker through countless “Hi, how are you?”‘s, you are one of the most frustrating things we can think of. The least you could do, aside from what you’re doing, is to say “Fine thanks, can I have just a second?” We understand. We get that.
But ignore us, and we feel worthless and degraded.
Your time is not as important as mine, is what we hear or see. I can do whatever I want, because you’ll still be here when I’m good and ready to order.
Please don’t do this. If you have a question, don’t try and figure it out, because you are wrong.
Ask.
We know.
We’re trained to know.
Yes, that item has sour cream, but not lettuce. Don’t order that without lettuce, or you look like a fool and lower our opinion of you.
If you’re in the drive through, please have devoted just a little bit of thought to what you want on the drive here. People who pull up and have no idea what they want deny reason to me. How could you not have devoted a single gram of attention to the prospect of your food?
You’re heading to a fast food restaurant. You’ll be home faster if you think.
The other thing you do when you take forever to order is waste the time of the other customers. This makes you look like a pretentious, vapid, selfish douche canoe, which you probably are.
Your time is not more important than theirs, just because you got here first.
To me, you are all equal, and I don’t like any of you.
Time spent on you when you’re not ordering is time they have to wait before they can go home, before their kid can get to his bed and stop screaming, before they can take off their work shoes that absolutely kill their feet, before they don’t have to be here anymore.

Little known secret- almost no one wants to be at fast food restaurants.

II.

Order all of your food and drinks at once.
When we ask “Anything else?” we’re asking you to stop, think about your order, and add that one drink, that last item, right then and there. At that point, it’s still okay. At that point, you are not interrupting anything. As soon as you say no, we send the order through and at that point, adding anything else to the order is not okay.
The longer you wait to add an order, the less okay it is.
After you’ve handed us your money- least okay.
We’re trained to be fast, so by the time we have your card, consider it swiped- by the time we have your cash, consider my drawer open. You asking to change something is literally the least possible thing I can do at that moment.
If you make a second order, this is slightly more forgivable, because the responsibility is now theoretically on you. But we both know that if something goes wrong, I will have to deal with it.
Please don’t.

Here’s the sub-rule for this one- Remember your order.
How people order and within seconds forget baffles the mind. You took long enough to decide. How could your brain be so damaged that this left so little an impression? How are you supposed to know what your order is supposed to look like?
This, incidentally, is why we like to press your receipt into your hand. If you don’t remember, we’ll remind you.

III

Clean up after yourself.
Remember how I said this job was degrading? We literally are the maids or mothers of the world. Most people have the common sense of collecting their trash on their tray and dumping it when they leave.
But there’s always that one customer.
He might have performed perfectly up till then.
She might have been sweet and asked about your name.
But in the end, they left their tray and every single crumpled wrapper on the table. Their drink is spilled across the table and there is a salad’s worth of lettuce on the floor.

There’s a theory that we get angry about things we can’t control. If you think about it, frustration probably lifts its head in your life when inevitability decides to show up. It’s like Inevitability’s little lapdog, tagging at its heels and waiting to bite yours.
You’re going to lose this game against your little brother. How frustrating.
Your car ran out of gas. How frustrating.
Your inlaw is staying at your house for the weekend. You feel belittled and shamed. Why couldn’t they ask? They could have been a bit more considerate. How frustrating.

It’s slovenly and rude of you to do that. Not only do you inconvenience us, you inconvenience the next customer. They come in, see your garbage, and they automatically react with disgust. This puts them in less of a good mood and hey, guess what?
I still have to deal with them.

IV

Don’t hit on the (female or other) workers
We are not here to find a breeding partner. We are here to work. Fast food is physically and emotionally demanding. Building your food is draining, exhausting work. The line is hot and smells bad and soon, so do we.
My arms and the arms of my friends are covered in burn scars from grills and fry hampers.
I have had scalding water dumped on the back of my leg, and I’ve worked with three bandaids on my fingertips from various cuts, all received at work.
I’ve worked with a throat so sore that every word was pain.
I and my female friends work through period cramps and headaches that would bring you to your knees.
We work 8 hour shifts on three or fewer hours of sleep some days.
Even when puking, if you can walk, you need to work.
You can’t call off, because that’s 8 hours of pay that you can’t afford not to have.
Sometimes we don’t have the time or money to do laundry, so our uniforms haven’t been machine washed in a week. All we have is our deodorant that was maybe applied five hours ago.
So please, don’t call me Baby.
Don’t call me Darling.
Don’t smirk at me or ask if I can get you that drink for free. You may only call me honey if you’re over 50 and southern.
When we’re there, we don’t feel pretty. We don’t feel girly.
Our self esteem is already low because of the shapeless uniform we have to wear.
All we have is our slacks (within specifications) to remind us that we have legs, and the makeup we wear, because all you can see under our hats is our face. These are walls we construct every time we put on our uniform because we have nothing else.
No jewelry, no hairstyles or colors, no nail polish. We are reduced to so little by modern beauty standards, and there is nothing we can do about it.
All this job leaves us with is our pride and by god we’ll cling to it.
All we want you to do is stand there and look pretty in your hipster-y jeans and your scruff and we want you to smile at us when you leave.

But we still want you to leave.

V

DO NOT SHORTCHANGE US.
This is by far the most humiliating and sickening. If you shortchange us or try and pull anything, then congratulations. You got your twenty back.
But we just lost our job.

In most cases, this job is literally all we have to keep us alive. This job pays our rent, our bills, and keeps us in the car we may or may not have. When our cash drawer is short, we are legally prohibited from paying the difference out of pocket.
You have just screwed us over more than you can possibly imagine, but hey, at least you got your burrito for free.

You are scum.

Bonus round: Corral your offspring. Dear God, restrain your spawn.

I’ve found chicken shredded into the floor.
Children have gotten into fights in front of my register.
I’ve watched them crumple wrappers off of straws and discard them onto the floor, right next to me, where I had literally just finished sweeping.
There’s always the group that comes in with seventeen small children that all run up and try to pull things off my counter and start screaming and one of them is slamming the legs of a chair onto the floor.
One entire Big Gulp cup has been emptied onto my floor and I was the only available person to clean it up. The entire time, the family stood there holding their tray and staring at me, as I ran between clean up and order taking.

Don’t be that family.

2 comments

  1. I would like to believe that this primer on basic dining etiquette is unnecessary at best and insulting to the reader at best.

    I have worked for restaurants, though. I know better.

    I think the problem is that most of the time, people are alright, but everyone makes a mistake once or twice a day.

    And you see so many people, and so most of them are okay. But everyone makes mistakes, or is too busy, and justifies in their collective head ‘It’s just this one time’.

    And then the poor person behind the counter has a Bad Day.

    (The other theory is that people are just terrible. There’s a depressing amount of evidence for this theory.)

  2. I would love to have a better opinion of people than I do. But honestly, working fast food kills your joy in humanity. If you want to feel good about people, go to the Humans of New York facebook page. Those people are quite inspiring 🙂
    Fast food patrons- not so much. Work long enough with people trying to get free food from you, and you too can lose your enthusiasm for life!
    Lulz but forreal.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *