Or, the tales of a Chick-fil-A drive-thru...
Whether or not you've ever worked in an eating establishment of any kind, you have doubtless come in contact with a person who has been an embarrassment to himself and those around him at a restaurant. "I don't want excuses... I want my fries!!" You probably even pointed him out to someone... "did you see that customer?" Whether the person was rude, impatient, obnoxious, or just plain ridiculous, we've all experienced "that customer."
When I was 16, I decided I needed a job. While I'd love to say that I just had an incredible work ethic that needed to be exercised, the truth is that my shopaholic tendencies started to develop around the same time. Unfortunately for me, my mother did not consider American Eagle graphic t's a worthy use of her money. (Thank goodness, I no longer do either!) So... Ash needed some cash! Along with about half our youth group, I decided to apply at Chickfila. After a 3-hour interview, during which I said virtually nothing, I had the job.
("Holy chocolate chip cookie, Batman!", you say. "Three hours for an interview at a fast-food restaurant?!")
Well, first off, friends... don't dare insult us by calling it "fast food." It's "quick service", thank you very much. =) Also, it would take an entire post to describe the man behind such madness as these lengthy interviews... our beloved owner, Mr. Mike. (Just an fyi... he conducted the same interview with his very own mother. No joke!)
Anyway, after a shaky start (it's amazing how even the simplest arithmetic flies out of your head when you're trying to give someone their change for the first time), I got pretty good at this gig and started enjoying myself. I ended up working at CFA for the next 4 years, through my sophomore year of college. During this time, I learned quite a bit about people in general... how to treat them, how they treat you, etc; enough that I have deemed it worthy of a post shared with the general public that includes some of the very important, if overlooked, manners that all customers should try to remember.
*Disclaimer: before I begin, let me say that clearly there are horrible employees everywhere, and you can encounter rudeness on both sides of the counter. I also understand that some people have actual special needs that need specific help. That being said, at our store the general attitude of the team was helpful and friendly, so my experiences are coming from the right place. =)
There are several types of customers, both good and bad, that I learned to identify over the course of my Chickfila career. For your reading ease, they are organized into a list of memorable names. =) Also, all of these stories are 100% true! I promise!
- Evasive Ellen: the vague, undecided customer who is shocked to learn you aren't a mind reader! Here's a typical conversation with the Evasive Ellen type.
"I'd like a large drink."
"Okay, what would you like to drink?"
"Right, but what would you like to DRINK?"
"Um, a large."
"Right... inside your large cup, what type of beverage would you like???"
"Oh!!! (insert dumb laugh) A Coke."
Seriously... these people just need to turn their brains on. Enough said.
- Babyish Bart: Oh. my. word. This story should not even exist, yet it does! One time a guy came up to me and was like, "Will you squeeze my ketchup packets into a cup for me?"
To which I sweetly and graciously replied, "No. That would get my germs in your ketchup." (My tone said, "Do it yourself, you MO-RON!")
Thankfully, his girlfriend was equally appalled that he had made such a ridiculous request. Seriously though, alot of people do stuff like this! I genuinely didn't mind helping people who legitimately needed help (moms with little kids, old people, etc.) but if you are able-bodied with the use of all of your appendages, don't ask employees to do things you can quite capably do yourself.
-Picky Polly: the queen of special orders. "I'd like a Chickfila sandwich lightly breaded, no butter on the bun, no pickles,with fries with no salt and a sweet tea, light ice, with just a splash of lemonade. Did you get that? Just a splash."
If you have to have everything "just so", no problem. Just come inside and don't cause half-hour waits in the drive-thru while we "lightly bread" your sandwich! (Oh, and my favorite response to the "Chickfila sandwich, nothing on it" order was an aghast "Not even the chicken??" haha)
-Confused Charlie: the poor sap who would ask for a bucket of chicken (no sir, that's KFC across the street), McNugget Happy Meal (try McDonald's across the parking lot), or (gasp!) a burger. (Um, have you noticed our nationwide EAT MOR CHIKIN campaign headlined by COWS???) Try reading the menu, or better yet, noticing exactly which restaurant you pulled into.
Specific Sam: the opposite of Evasive Ellen, Specific Sam likes to think that you're not really aware of what's actually on the menu, so he orders like this-
"I'd like a number one Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich combo meal, with fresh, hot waffle potato fries and a medium freshly brewed sweet iced tea."
Oh, thank you sir. I wouldn't have dreamed which combo you were talking about if you hadn't named each item in such great detail! Bless you!
Social Sally: usually teenagers, the raucous crowd who treated the place like their own personal nightclub (except it was lemonade they were drinking!). Oh dear, the prom groups, the softball teams, the emo clusters, the cheerleaders... it was like a competition to see who could possibly make the most noise. No, this is not your bar mitzvah. It's Chick-fil-A. If you need a dance hall or party venue (and you're over the age of 5) this is not the place for you.
Finally... "Impossible Isaac": Nothing is ever good enough, hot enough, fast enough, etc. Or, in our case, this was the "drink guy". At least once a week, this grouchy old man came through THE DRIVE-THRU of all things and order (if I remember correctly)- a large coke, a large coke no ice, a large sweet tea, a large sweet tea no ice, a large lemonade, a large lemonade no ice, a large sprite, a large sprite no ice, a cup of ice, and a cup of lemons. Something like that. Well, unless we saw his old truck sputtering in and raced to our battle stations, we obviously wouldn't have his order ready in seconds! He would be furious that his large, ridiculous (really... all those drinks for whom?) order ready before he was finished putting it in! Oh, the injustice!
Now, don't get me wrong... there were plenty of "Polite Pam", "Sweet Sara", and "Kind Karen" types that came through too. And believe me... when you've been working all day and it's freezing (or burning up) and your arms are sticky with milkshake mix and you have burned your fingers on hot fries and you have dropped an entire gallon of sweet tea on the floor AND a kid has thrown up in the playground... you appreciate those sweet customers. Truly, there were more good than bad, and the bad ones made for some funny stories (hence, this post).
But, the moral of the story is... don't be THAT customer! Which type are you? (We've all been one or the other at some point.) Thankfully, my experience at Chickfila has given me a heightened sensitivity to
fast food quick service restaurant employees. Let's be honest, even though "the customer's always right" (so say the training videos)... the customer is NOT always right! Some customers are sweet, friendly, thoughtful... and other's aren't. So, in the spirit of making the lives of these people who keep us in chicken happy, let's remember a few guidelines.
- Smile. Seriously, even if you don't feel like it, I promise it helps. We are always unconsciously nicer to people who are nice first. Trust me when I tell you that I was willing to go the second and third mile to people who actually treated me like a person and not someone they were doing a favor by speaking to. Although, you can be too friendly... like reading our name tags. That always freaked me out a little. But, to each his own. =)
- Have your coupons/change/order ready. Nothing is more frustrating than a customer, especially in the drive-thru, who has to pick through 14 different purses and all the carseats to find their coupon or whatever. There is no prize, bounty, or crown in Heaven given for exact change... so don't kill yourself looking for that extra penny.
(And don't get me started on the indecisive order-er- "What do you want? Well, you won't eat 12 nuggets. Let's just get 8. If you're hungry you can get more. I don't care if you want 12. Keep it up and you'll get 6." And so on. Settle your debates before you get to the speaker! Oh, and we can hear you if you only move up a few inches. "Richard just needs to understand that he is a huge part of this issue!" Pull around... "Hello ma'am... give my regards to Richard.")
- If you must complain, do so politely and not arrogantly/ignorantly/unkindly. For example, if bringing back a Chickfila sandwich that you ordered "without pickles" to complain about the pickles, it kind of shoots a hole in your argument when you thrust forth a greasy, crumpled wrapper around a fourth of a sandwich. Hmm... those pickles didn't bother you too much, did they, Hoss? I never spit in anyone's drink or anything, but I was sorely tempted to... and I certainly didn't try to do any favors for people who belligerently approached the counter as if they were about to go at it Chuck Norris-style. (About the worst thing I did was occasionally return someone's debit card and ID, telling them that "This is clearly not your picture" before sputtering into laughter. Yeah, that's mean, but we had to make our own fun.)
I really enjoyed my time at Chickfila and feel like I am a little more understanding because of it. (And yes... I have been sorely tempted many times to reach across and do my own order when someone doesn't know what they're doing. "Just push promo free, you dork!") Still, I learned a lot about "the other side of the counter", and that perspective has made me more aware of how people who serve me would like to be treated.
So, to wrap it up... be kind, be understanding, be thoughtful... and for heaven's sake, squeeze out your own ketchup packets!!! =)