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Several years ago I therapeutically wrote an article detailing a frustrating experience that I had at a lovely fast food establishment. The article garnered much praise and responses around the globe from innocent Big Mac consumers who have suffered similar experiences. Well, I received one email from a fast food employee that wasn’t quite as laudatory. Below is my original article. The email exchange I had with the employee will follow. Enjoy…
Question: What does a liberal arts graduate say to an engineering graduate?
Answer: Would you like fries with that?
Don’t get mad at me, folks; I didn’t make up the joke. I did use it in college a few times though. My fellow engineering majors and I often used it to taunt our friends who chose the Art, English, and University Studies routes. That’s right; we bad.
But behind this harmless little joke lies what needs to become a reality – fast food chains need to shell out a little extra dough to hire some better-educated workers. Either that or they need to instill better training methods. Wouldn’t that make life easier on us all?
McDonald’s. I rolled in to take advantage of their $0.99 double cheeseburger special. But the price was no bargain for what would happen next. I’ve had to deal with a lot of stuff at fast food places before, but I believe this was perhaps the worst experience yet. Here is my story.
Me: I would like a double cheeseburger with mustard, please. No mayo or ketchup.
Here was my first mistake – whenever you make condiment requests, the typical fast food employee goes into anaphylactic shock. I can’t recall how many times people have messed up my order based on condiment requests alone. For some reason a “mustard only” request results in “mayo only” about half the time.
Me: And I’d like two double cheeseburgers with everything…
Worker: Wait, so that’s one double cheeseburger with no mayo and no pickle, one with no mayo…
At this point I knew the process was gonna last a lot longer than I desired. I have no idea where she came up with the “no pickle” stuff, because I never mentioned anything about pickles. Pickles aren’t a condiment. And why did she single out pickles? Why not bring tomatoes and lettuce into the discussion?
Me: No, I never said I didn’t want pickles. I want one double cheeseburger with no mayo or ketchup and two double cheeseburgers with everything.
At this point the chick started to feverishly rub her head as if someone held a gun to it and told her she had 20 seconds to name the capitals of all 50 states in reverse alphabetical order or she’d die. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out why she looked so stressed out. So she just stared at the register for a few seconds trying to think of something to say.
Worker: Wait, what do you want again?
Poor girl, she’s obviously had a long day. OK, fine. I will make sure I speak very deliberately.
Me: I want one double cheeseburger with mustard but no mayo and no ketchup, and I also want two regular double cheeseburgers.
Worker: Wait, you want two regular cheeseburgers in addition to the three double cheeseburgers?
At this point I considered drawing a diagram.
Me: No, no. By “regular” I mean I just want the double cheeseburgers as they come – with mustard, mayo, and ketchup.
For some reason the girl continued to rub her head feverishly and stared blankly at the register as if she were a politician whose teleprompter just went out. I figured it’d be best to just start over.
Me: Let’s just erase the order and start over.
I was very polite and understanding. Perhaps she was new on the job. Perhaps it had been a long day. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. She, on the other hand, started to get a bit of an attitude.
Worker: No, it’s not that easy. I can’t do that. Once the order is punched in it’s already sent to the grill. We can’t work around this.
What? We can’t work around this? Oh we’re gonna work around this. I’m not about to pay for 10 cheeseburgers that I didn’t order. Nobody in the history of McDonald’s has ever changed an order? Absolutely ridiculous.
Me: I’m sure there’s a way to work around it.
I was perfectly ready to say, “Tell you how I’m gonna work around it – I’m gonna walk out to my car, open the door, start the engine, and drive down to Burger King and give THEM my business. How’s that for a work-around?”
The young lady called her manager over and asked, “Do you know how to work around this?”
The manager flashed me a dirty look as if I had tried to get the employee to prove the quadratic formula while taking my order. She punched a few buttons and – with an aggravated tone – asked me what I wanted.
Me: I want three double cheeseburgers, one with no mayo or ketchup.
Before I could order fries or a drink the manager venomously shouted, “$3.22″ and stormed off.
The employee and I were left in a stand down. I was the Man with No Name and she had embodied Lee Van Cleef. Somewhere, in the distant background, The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly theme gently played.
Me: I wasn’t finished with my order. I want fries and a Dr. Pepper also.
The girl just stood there, a dumbfounded expression Picasso’d all over her face. You’d have thought someone had just told her that Tom Cruise was heterosexual.
Me: Can I do that?
Me: All right, well I’d like a large order of fries and a small Dr. Pepper, please.
She managed to correctly input the new information, and finally, the nightmare was over.
One theory that has been floated is that I gave her too much information, and that she just couldn’t process all of it. But I don’t see how I could have given her any LESS information. You have to spell out condiment requests the best you can.
Yes, I was flabbergasted by the “We can’t work around this” comment, but I will give the employee a pass. What’s not acceptable is the manager’s attitude. It’s this kind of service and poor training (along with the complete absence of nutritional value) that keeps me away from McDonald’s.
Chick-Fil-A’s chicken nuggets may not be that much more nutritional, but I’ve never been scoffed at by a manager because of her employee’s incompetence, nor have I been told that my order couldn’t be changed. Don’t worry; Mickey D’s, you won’t have to be concerned with my technically difficult orders any more.
What are your worst fast food horror stories?