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Fast food workers are people too
Minimum wage doesn’t mean minimum intelligence
Do you like having your intelligence questioned by strangers? Does the thought of people insulting you make you happy? Have you ever wanted to work in an industry with one of the most negative reputations in the modern-day world?
If so, then fast food is the job for you!
I’ve worked in three different fast food restaurants since high school–Dunkin’ Donuts, Burger King and D’Angelo Grilled Sandwiches–and I’ve had the misfortune of encountering some of the grumpiest, loudest, rudest, most impatient people I’ve ever met. And nope, they aren’t the workers; they’re the customers.
Fast food employees get a bad rap of being stupid, lazy college dropouts who only work in restaurants because they can’t get another job. However, I can tell you from four years of experience that this is not always true. A lot of my coworkers have been students trying to pay tuition, single moms working to provide for their families and older parents saving up to go back to school. Many employees have more than one job and go straight from one eight-hour shift to another. While there are some people who do fit the “lazy, stupid school dropout” stereotype, the majority of people don’t.
However, this doesn’t seem to matter to customers. As soon as they see the uniform and nametag, they start treating us like we’re stupid–talking super slowly, exaggerating all their words, glaring at us when they think we’re not looking–and complain if they don’t receive their food within two minutes.
Of course, not all customers are like this, just like all fast food workers don’t fit the stereotype. However, there are enough to ruin your day. While these people do make for good stories to tell your friends, they can be humiliating and emotionally scarring in the moment.
For example, at Dunkin’ Donuts, we’d have a lot of people scream at us if we messed up their coffee, even if it was a minor mistake. Instead of politely asking us to make a new coffee, which we would happily have done, some people chose to slam the (boiling hot) cup onto the counter and risk burning someone. Others screamed at the top of their lungs about how stupid we were and how their day was “ruined.” I was called a “stupid bitch” a lot and saw many high school kids reduced to tears because of the unnecessarily mean treatment.
I also work at the Burger King on Dixwell Avenue, and we have our fair share of rude customers. There was one man who came in during a rush, pushing his way to the front of the line to slam his cheeseburger down on the counter. He yelled about how he had explicitly said “no pickles” and proceeded to insult our intelligence while we opened the sandwich. There were no pickles there; it turns out that he had mistaken the onions for pickles because he had mixed up the names for the two foods.
Sometimes I just want to ask people, “If this is the way you react when your coffee or sandwich is made incorrectly, how do you deal with a real problem in your life?”
Another thing customers like to complain about is the store’s prices, as if we have any power to change them. There have been countless times when I’ve told a customer their total, and they’ve responded with, “Really? That’s ridiculous. That’s way too expensive,” and then look at me expectantly. Some people like to yell at me about how “pricey” their $3 meal is and then storm out of the store, only to come back later and order the same thing.
I could go on with countless horror stories about how customers have made rude comments about female employees’ bodies, how we’ve dealt with theft, how a girl got badly burned at work and was not allowed to go home, but the takeaway message is this: working in fast food is more difficult than just flipping burgers for $9 an hour. Please treat the employees with respect, because we’re people too.