Fast food workers get no respect

By Alice Liles
Alice’s note: This story first appeared in my blog The Bright Lights of Muleshoe on January 20, 2010. What with the frantic Christmas shopping season just coming to a close, I’ll bet there might have been more than one time you and your family had a meal at a fast-food chain on one of those shopping sprees. And it could be that one of those visits included an order gone wrong or patience on one or both sides of the counter being in short supply. So I thought this story might be food for thought, no pun intended, for those of you who did some eating out during the holidays.

We walked into a fast food chain over the weekend to be greeted by a pleasant hello from the young woman behind the counter. I placed my order for a small cheeseburger, mustard and mayonnaise, no ketchup. I knew I was in trouble when she had to ask her supervisor a question, and when she returned to the register, she had to ask me again what I wanted. She punched around on her register/computer screen a few times.
“You wanted all the vegetables, right?”
“Right.” Vegetables had not been mentioned up until then. “I don’t want any ketchup.”
“Oh, right.”
Then it was Bill’s turn. He always asks for no pickles and then usually gets to pick them off as he grumbles about how no one ever gets the order right.
Well, this time the pickles were correctly left off, but while my cheeseburger had no ketchup, it also had no vegetables and only a smidgen of mustard and no mayonnaise that I could find. But it filled my empty spot and wasn’t worth fussing about.
And then I started thinking about all the grief fast food workers take because of their mistakes, and yes, there are many, but I suspect we tend to remember the ones that were wrong and forget about the many orders that were filled right. I hear lots of negative comments about the intelligence level of kids who work at fast food places.
And then I come home to fight with my computer and wonder how many mistakes I would make on that specialized little computer they use to send the orders back to the kitchen. I really have to wonder how well those of us who complain would do behind the counter. I suspect each fast-food chain, and even bigger, presumably fancier eating places, have their own system that kids have to learn each time they move to another food service job. I also suspect that it really isn’t as much of a no-brainer to work in those places as those of us who have never tried it will ever know.
Of course, we will also never know how many of the botched orders are the fault of the person who takes the order or the kids in the back putting the order together. So perhaps the people who take the heat aren’t always the guilty ones.
And what we all should consider is, if these kids who get no respect get fed up with getting no respect, who will take those jobs? Who will be there to pour up that senior coffee for us? Who will we take out our frustrations on when we have had a bad day? (And what about when the workers have a bad day? Who gives them any sympathy?) Who will prepare our food, even if doesn’t come out exactly right?
Bottom line? Working at fast food chains keeps these young people off the unemployment rolls, out of trouble, gives them a purpose in life, and yes, fills a real need- feeding people. These are perfectly decent and good jobs. There is a place for everyone in the world of jobs, and the world is full of people who need different kinds of jobs.
So think about that the next time you happen to get bad service. Bad service, unfortunately, is rampant everywhere these days, so why should the kids in caps behind the counters take all the heat? Flip a few burgers, take a few orders yourself before fussing too loudly.
To read more stories on a variety of subjects, go to www.aliceliles.com

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