I live in Carmel, Indiana where we’re known for being a bit upper class in our thoughts and actions. We’re known for being pretentious, haughty, snobby and rich. Let’s just say we have a reputation and are almost universally despised for our nice town and it’s good schools, standard of living, low crime rates and overall good quality of life. I purposefully try not to flaunt anything nor carry that kind of attitude. I live in a modest 55 year-old house in a modest neighborhood and drive a 7 year-old car. I try my best to treat others with respect and have as much patience/grace with people as possible.
That’s why I think it’s so funny that I’ve seen no shortage of posts on social media lately from people in Carmel complaining about their fast food quality, speed of delivery, etc. It cracks me up. I see posts like this all the time:
“I went to the Carmel Taco Bell and they messed up my taco! Just look at this picture! Nothing is spread out as it should be, and I waited 20 minutes for this! Is this really fast food?”
Seriously – what did you expect? You’re paying a low price for low quality food made by a bunch of people who applied to other places but didn’t get the job. So here they are, working at a local fast food joint. Go again next week and you’ll see a whole new set of faces and have a whole new set of problems with your order. I went to this particular Taco Bell today and didn’t order food, but did order a drink. I filled my drink and then watched quietly for 20 minutes. Here’s what I observed:
- The gal who took my order was wearing something on her apron. I couldn’t quite make it out, but it looked like a flock of seagulls dipped in flour had run into her head-on.
- She asked for my name. This is a common thing these days – trying to make it personal. Of course, people ask 2-3x for me to repeat my name because “Lloyd” is not a common name. I get all kinds of spellings on it like Loyd or Lyod or even my favorite from a few months ago – “Bloid” – which sounds like a disease of some sort. “OMG, you’ve got BLOID? NO!”
- I got my cup and filled it immediately. Fastest delivery ever. Maybe that’s the key to having a great fast food experience – skip the food and just order a drink?
- I noticed there were quite a few filthy tables. I also noticed three teens just sitting around talking and ignoring everything else. It looked like one poor sap in the back was handling all the orders.
- After some period of slowness, the manager told 2 of the teens they could go home. Then about 5 minutes later, as they were leaving, about 10-15 people came in the door. Does Murphy’s Law apply to fast food joints?
After about 20 minutes, I left. Note that I’m not just picking on this particular restaurant – although in my experience it has consistently been one of the worst in the area for as long as I’ve lived there. This kind of things happens all the time at fast food restaurants. The Steak n Shake next door was so bad that I always went to the next town over to their Steak n Shake because I knew the Carmel SnS had a 100% chance of messing things up. It’s now closed, not surprisingly.
I encountered the following sign at the Carmel Taco Bell one time:
This got me thinking: perhaps the root of the problem is that they need step stools? I don’t know. All I know is that I find it humorous that people have such high standards for such low quality, low cost, almost always short-staffed fast food joints. It seriously cracks me up to see people so upset over such things.
Look, I get it. I worked at Wendy’s in high school and college. My coworkers and I weren’t exactly Mensa material, nor were we extra motivated to go above and beyond to earn our $3.35 an hour. In fact, I used my years at Wendy’s to build a lot of comedy material. I remember when Wendy’s came out with this new greeting method and there was a sign on the wall that read:
Welcome to Wendy’s; my name is ________; may I take your order please?
I found this very helpful, because I would often forget that I wasn’t working at McDonalds or Taco Bell or Burger King. I also found it helpful that they would remind me to ask for an order, because often I’d just sit there listening to the old squawky speaker for a while, wondering who or what was on the other side. And, for the record, how many times do you think I actually said my REAL name when filling in that blank? Uhhh… never. Most of the time it was something like this:
- Welcome to Wendy’s, my name is Guido the Killer Pimp. May I take your order please?
- Welcome to Wendy’s, my name is Larry Holmes, Heavyweight Champion of the World. Now gimme your damn order.
- Welcome to Wendy’s, my name is Fred Garvin, Male Prostitute. What can I do you for today?
I worked the late shift. We got a lot of drunk folks in the drive through. Otherwise, I think I would have been fired. As it was, I lasted 3 years there. The later into the evening it got, the worse my greetings got. Most of the time, people would ignore them. Sometimes people would crack up and be like “what???” – those were my favorites. Then I knew the audience was listening.
The quality of the order, or the timeliness of the order, wasn’t really top priority for us. Don’t get me wrong, we didn’t want to mess anyone up, but we’d have as much fun as possible with stuff, mostly without getting into trouble. In fact, the one time we did get in trouble, we had the best of intentions. Our manager had told us that we were having an inspection the next day from our regional supervisor in Ohio (I lived in Michigan at the time). So, we had to make sure our bricks on the floor were as clean as possible, and the black grout between the bricks was clean. So my coworkers Justin and Mark and I poured every bottle of every cleaner we could find into a bucket. The bucket was smoking.
Mark and I started scrubbing the bricks while Justin followed behind us and mopped up. It was working. We could tell because smoke was rising from the bricks and the bricks were turning white. So was the black grout between the bricks. All white. The manager looked at it and wondered if it was a bit too much – after all I’m sure the regional supervisor in Ohio wanted the red bricks to still be red and the black grout to still be black – just clean. Oh well, we couldn’t stop now, right? Well, we had to.
Justin’s shoes had started to burn through the bottoms and some of the solution had gotten on his feet. He took his shoes and socks off but they were still burning. He was sent to the hospital with first and second degree burns on his feet. Our manager told us to dump the solution and just use soap and water on the rest of the bricks. It looked horrible. To make things worse, I was mopping and I let the squeegee mop handle fling backwards and it came loose and went flying through the air. Right through the front window. Nice. So, when the regional supervisor showed up, we had half white, half red/black bricks and a big wooden plank in the front window. We meant well, but what can you say – we were stupid teenagers.
And this is my point. You’re not dealing with the crème of the crop here. You’re dealing with mostly kids or young people who are working part time at a job they dislike. They’re not motivated, they’re not particularly skilled (having been on the job a whole month or so most of the time), and they’re not particularly interested in the quality or timeliness of your order. Now, if they have a manager who is a good manager, the manager can sometimes provide incentives to perform better, but if left to their own devices, most fast food workers don’t give a hoot about you and your precious 50 cent taco. Complaining about your bad quality of food or service is like bringing home the plastic bagged goldfish you got at your school fair that died the next day. What did you expect?
Given this, I do actually have some suggestions for you:
- If you want your fast food done right, you should stay home. Make a quick sandwich. Heat up something in the microwave. I’m pretty sure you’ll be happier with the results and if it’s messed up, you’ll have nobody else to blame but yourself.
- If you care about yourself and what you eat, avoid fast food altogether!
- If you find yourself unable to avoid fast food, don’t go through the drive thru! In my experience, this can result in bad things happening almost every time. They’ll either get your order wrong, or you’ll be missing stuff, or you’ll ask for 27 packets of hot sauce and you’ll wind up with two packets of fire sauce.
- If you have a bad experience, show some grace. This could be a learning opportunity for someone there. They’re not making much doing this, so don’t expect much. Just be nice.
- If you have a good experience, count yourself lucky! Maybe even say THANK YOU for getting their order right! Maybe it will cheer them on to do it again and again. Or maybe they’ll think – dude what’s that guy on? 🙂
I’m curious to hear from you. What fast food nightmares have you had happen to you? Have you worked in fast food? What stories do you have? Let’s hear them!