Fast Food Blues

Some ordinary coffee in some generic coffee shop

A large double double is a Tim Hortons coffee with two creams and two sugars regardless of size - machines are calibrated to deliver the right ratio for the perfect cream + sugar + coffee taste profile. People who order double double's do not have a pattern when it comes to ordering items with their coffee. Any accompanying add ons are all over the menu. Other people with other coffee preferences are more predictable.

Over the years I have worked in the food industry here and there and starting with my first real (not babysitting) job at McDonald's when I was 17, I've noticed there are trends with people and their choices. When I worked at McDonald's, if someone ordered a Filet o' Fish, they rarely ordered a coke with it. Usually it was an orange drink or root beer. I don't know what the trend is now, it's been decades since I worked there.

Now I work for a Canadian coffee chain. I've taken thousands of orders over the last several years, up to 160 an hour during peak drive-thru periods, and I can almost guarantee that if a person orders an everything bagel - an onion bagel with poppy and sesame seeds on top - 90% of the time they will also order it with herb & garlic cream cheese. So often that I usually have the herb & garlic modifier entered before they say it.

A bagel toasted dry means nothing is added to it. A person who orders a toasted, dry bagel usually chooses a 12 grain bagel or the bagel with the most whole grains. Half the time they will ask for peanut butter and/or jam on the side. Also, they usually ask for the bagel to be double toasted and their coffee is usually black. 

If an older person is placing an order it will be to eat in, not take out, and with an emphatic request to use china. Paper, to old folks, is inferior and it is an insult to be served their food in such a common way. My mother will actually say she has royalty in her blood (delusional) and is above paper. I laugh at this because lazy, apathetic teenagers are doing our china dishes and if our discriminating old folks knew how many times I've made said dish washers re-do their dishes because they run them through the dishwasher without removing ANY debris including the plastic cups that hold pats of butter, they would opt for paper and thank their God we had it available. So, absolutely! I am happy to give you china. *snort* I for one have seen how dishes are done I will always choose paper in spite of the 'fact' that my mother thinks she has royal blood in her veins!

An older person will usually order an egg salad sandwich, small, on whole wheat NOT toasted. Along with a black coffee and an old fashioned white cake donut. This is the quintessential old person lunch order. Often they will have a friend along to split the sandwich, which is fine, I really don't have a problem with that. I'll gladly put it on two separate CHINA plates for them.

Someone who orders a ham breakfast sandwich will usually get it on an English muffin even though we offer several bagel choices and a homestyle biscuit. Why is this? I think it's because it most closely approximates McDonald's egg McMuffin. Oh and by the way, don't sit in my drive thru and order some other chain's menu item. I don't have a problem with it, I know there's a lot coming at us when it comes to options. Just don't expect me to know the finer details of how that item is put together. ie: "Yeah I'll have the bacon and egger" (A&W) Because I'll ask you if you want that on a biscuit or English muffin and if you say, like you usually do; "Just whatever it comes with" I'm going to have to tune you in about something. I don't KNOW what it usually comes with, I don't eat there. It's not OUR sandwich. That reminds me, it's usually middle aged men who do that. A trend I've noticed is that men HATE ordering at a drive-thru speaker box. It takes nothing to frazzle them and a lot of times they get their passenger to place the order. This is a problem for us. The headset doesn't usually pick up a voice that far away unless they have an especially powerful voice and the shy driver will usually have to just tell me the order anyway. The older a man is the worse they are. Old men who are accustomed to having their woman do everything for them will often order a "coffee and a donut" at the speaker box. That's it. They don't tell me what they want in their coffee or what donut they want because they probably don't even know themselves. Their wives always do it for them. When I ask what they want in their coffee it seems like they get frustrated with me for not knowing that automatically.

If someone orders a blueberry bagel they usually get strawberry cream cheese and if someone is going to order their bagel with plain or plain light cream cheese on the side it most often the ones who order the blueberry bagel.

Some of the most unusual orders have been blueberry bagels with herb & garlic cream cheese. One guest orders a sausage breakfast sandwich on a blueberry bagel with herb & garlic cream cheese, lettuce and tomato. Just...ew.

And it would help get orders straight if some of you actually listened to us when we ask about your modifiers. We have a button for everything so don't be afraid to tell us how you like it. I can't tell you how often I ask; "biscuit or English muffin" and get told; "yes". Or someone will say; "I'd like a double double" and I say; "what size" and they say "double double". So I ask again' "what size?" and they repeat it, very slowly, like they're talking to an idiot: "DOUBLE...DOUBLE!!". You know, because we're stupid.

Me: "is that everything?"
Customer: "No"
Me: [waits...]
Customer: [silence...]
Me: "can I get you anything else?"
Customer: "I said that's everything!"
Me [seethes silently]

If I could just ask one more thing, when you're ordering in drive-thru, please, slow down. There's relatively no hurry when ordering, only when picking up your order.

Also have some sympathy for how many items are on our tills and how our ordering system works. For example, there are many items on the menu that that require me to ask for modifiers or up sells and I get a screen prompting me to ask for them. I am unable to see any other buttons because this modifier screen blocks the entire menu screen. If you continue to order items, I can't punch them in until we go back to the first thing you ordered and select your preferences from that modifier window that is still open waiting for me to punch in your modifier. Also, I have seven different menus all with multiple menu choices on them. It takes time to flip menus when you order all over the place. Baked good, then an iced drink, then a donut, then a muffin, then a change your mind about something,  void, re-enter, flip menu, then a bagel but you want bacon (another menu screen), then you want an espresso, then back to the baked good and on and on. The only thing I can punch in while I'm in another menu is coffee. So unless you're ordering a coffee on the list, slow the hell down. You and I could keep up the pace but the computer can't. Once I had an old woman rattle off a list of drinks, both hot and cold and on three or four different menu screens, and I asked her about a modifier for the first drink  because - remember? - menu is blocked by modifier window and I can't see to punch in anything else she said. So I asked her to modify her first beverage as she was listing everything and she said; "Do NOT interrupt me when I'm talking!!" WTF? This is not school! So I let her rattle off her drinks and when she was done I walked her back to the beginning to start over so I could ring them in. And she thought I was rude.

Sometimes I'm getting something in the back of the house when I open the line. I hear you've arrived at the order box and I want to let you know we know you're there but I ask; "One moment please". I'm not at my till. If you begin ordering who is going to punch it in? So many times I ask for a moment and the customer just orders anyway. I can memorize a fair amount of details when this happens but sometimes it's beyond my capability. So I hope that another member of the team with a headset has punched it in (sometimes happens) OR I calmly walk back to my till and when they're done talking say "Welcome, I'm Frimmy, how can I help you today?".

OH!!! That reminds me! I'm on a till by myself in storefront. A person places an order for several drinks and donuts. I get their drinks and as I'm handing them their last drink they say: "UM...I didn't get my donuts yet." Well who the hell did you think was going to do that, my invisible assistant? Or did you think I was going to divide in two like an amoeba and do both things at once? I can barely keep it together and be nice when that happens.

Everyone who orders thinks their way or their preference is the preference of everyone. I don't understand why fast food patrons are the kind that can't see beyond their nose. I had someone order a "large half and half" and when I asked "half what?" he said "YOU'RE supposed to know that". Really. Here is a list of beverages qualifying for the modifier of "half and half" that we get in a typical hour:

Half coffee half hot chocolate
Half coffee half French Vanilla cappuccino
Half French Vanilla half double double
Half French Vanilla half English Toffee
Half English Toffee half coffee
Coffee half cream half sugar
Coffee half milk half sweetener
Half coffee half decaf

Once we had a half coffee half tea. We can't assume anything. Each person has a unique style of ordering and unique preferences and all of them think everyone else orders just like they do. When you're dealing with 160 cars an hour it gets tiring. Half my job as order taker is interpreting what people are saying and attempting to enter it correctly so they get their order right. Just give us a break and be specific.

And what the hell is a Bismark? Someone ordered one of those today. "I'll take your last Bismark". So I went to the donut showcase looking for a tray with one donut in it. That's the best I could do without asking for clarification. There were no donuts matching that description. So, I had to ask. And of course I got the what are you stupid attitude. WE do not have the word "Bismark" anywhere on our menu. WE do not SELL a Bismark. I don't know who does. Do you? Perhaps just give me a break and instead of making me guess what the hell a Bismark is, maybe you could point and grunt at the donut you want. Or what if you just READ THE SIGN under that donut tray. That's what they're for.

Fast food chains have enabled a sense of entitlement in their patrons. "The customer is always right" has done us no favours because the customer is rarely right when it comes to ordering and how could they be unless they work in the same kind restaurant? So we continue to tolerate order styles that are all over the board and hope for the best when customers object to us asking them to be specific. Mistakes are going to happen, we're human, but if you want less chance of mistakes, why not find out how to order your special item in a way that allows your order taker to enter it accurately for you. We don't want you to get a wrong order any more than you want a wrong order. Why can't we work together?

For the record, it is an urban legend that we spit in your coffee if we don't like your manner. I know most of you don't believe this legend because if you did more of you would be treating us better.

So, what's your favourite fast food combination? Has the order taker had your order punched in before you finish giving it to her? Chances are you are one of many who like it just that way. What's the worst food combination you've heard of?

Have you had a horrible fast food experience? Tell me about it.

I'm pleased to report this rated low on the Blablameter:

Your text: 11943 characters, 2240 words
Bullshit Index :0.06
Your text shows no or marginal indications of 'bullshit'-English.


kuschk said...

Worst fast food experience was easily the food poisoning I got from a burger at a Wendy's in Bellingham the night before I presented at a geographers' conference.

As far as my Tim's experiences, I always order the same drink - a large iced capp made with chocolate milk. Some locations (especially when the server is new), they'll forget the chocolate milk and just make it regular-style (I guess it's not the most common thing to order), but I let it slide since a regular one still tastes good and servers put enough with enough crap throughout the day as is without some guy hassling them over a $3.09 iced capp.

The only bad iced capp experience I've had was at a Tim's in Vernon where the chocolate milk had evidently been sitting half-opened and past expiration for quite some time. That was not fun for my mouth.

Frimmy said...

Oh gag! Did you still present? When did you start feeling better? What was the topic if you don't mind me asking?

One time, years ago when there was a severe labour crunch here, cleaning the iced capp machine was overlooked because people on one shift thought someone else from another shift was doing it and vice versa. The mix fermented and it smelled like a brewery in the store for a few hours. Nobody got sick, nobody complained and I didn't hear if anyone got a DUI over it so we were lucky.

Speaking for my store, if you mentioned your iced capp was made wrong the last time you were in, your iced capp would be on us and we would be happy for an opportunity to make it right. Especially if you're the kind of regular that is sympathetic like you are. We want to keep that kind of person coming back, ya know?

I've had some bad coffee in Vernon. But my favourite BC Tims so far is Revelstoke.

kuschk said...

I nailed the presentation but I was shivering and shaking all day and spent much of the morning in the washroom. The topic was 'Historical Migration Patterns in the Upper Fraser Region of British Columbia'.

Ha, Revelstoke is actually the closest Tim's to me (of course, that's still about 90 minutes away). It's always busy but never overwhelmed, which is nice. I actually bought a Magic Bullet when I moved back here from Prince George in '09 specifically to have Tim's-style chocolate iced capps at home without having to leave town.

Frimmy said...

Oh that sounds like hell. (the washroom confinement, not the presentation)

90 minutes from the nearest Tims! People here complain because three Tims locations isn't enough for this town. They are so spoiled!

Frimmy said...

(Magic bullets rock)

Tonya said...

Now I'm hungry for a bagel.

Frimmy said...

Everything bagel with herb & garlic cream cheese, right?


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