PSA: the drive-thru microphone hears EVERYTHING, ALL THE TIME.
The drive-thru at a fast food restaurant is a one-of-a-kind social experience. Just about every step is a weird form of human interaction that occurs literally nowhere else.
And, oh yes, there are robot speakers that look alarmingly like sci fi trash cans.
Those microphone/speaker machines mark the first step in the drive-thru experience. All is garbled on both ends, so the employee and the customer routinely yell at one another--sometimes out of anger, but often purely out of necessity.
But when that insane interaction is finished, there comes a sense of relief for customers. They feel as if they can withdraw back into their private zone in the car. Sure, the window is open, but at least there's only a quick food handoff left.
WRONG. That microphone is still on, my friend. Consider yourself warned.
Drive Thru 101
"I don't think most people realize that if your car is pulled up on the sensor that triggers the microphone, we can hear what you're saying the entire time.
"I have heard conversations about people complaining about a long line, straight up badmouthing my coworkers, etc."
"I advise you to put your window back up after you order lol"
"Once heard someone saying 'stay buckled baby! you'll get a treat treat if you're good okay?' and i thought they were talking to a child."
"They pulled up to the first window and there was a kitten in the front passenger seat trying to climb up the back :)"
A Good Boss
"People might not realize that everyone im the fast food place hears you, not just the person youre talking to. At least at my Wendys we all wore headsets."
"This is kind of related to the question, but while i worked there it was pretty common for a customer at the drive through to get impatient and disrespectful with the person taking their order, which was almost always a woman at that position."
"To their surprise though, whenever this would happen, my manager, who was a very large man, would turn on his mic and start laying into the guy about how he cant treat his employees like that."
"The shock you could hear in their voices when they suddenly had to confront a man about the behavior they didnt think anyone else could hear was always rly funny"
Where Everybody Knows Your Name--And Voice
"As long as your car is over the sensor the person can hear you, just a warning for anyone who wants to chat about any sensitive topics."
"Commonly heard about STDs, secret pregnancy and embarrassing medical issues which was all the worse given I worked in a small town and I often knew these people."
Zero Support for the Lizzards
"Worked at Brown's Chicken, had a lady pull up and ask for 'half pound chicken lizzards'."
"'liver? Or gizzards?' I asked."
"'half pound chicken lizzards!'."
"Then I hear a guy next to her say, 'woman, you know it's a damn reptile.' cracked me up."
"I am in a college town so I've heard it all. Lots of conversations about sex and drugs. Sometimes I will leave them waiting so I can listen to the rest of the conversation." -- sarahboo0321
"So that's why I'm always in line so long, you are listening to my interesting life. LOL." -- cuoyi77372222
High Standards for Nuggets
"Not a fast food worker, but I used to do support for cell phones and occasionally had idiots call me from their cars before going through drive thrus."
"I had one lady who went to McDonald's, ordered a 6 piece McNuggets and an extra large coffee with 12 cream, 6 sugars, and 6 sweeteners (health conscious, obviously)..."
"...and after she was asked to drive around she either muttered or said to someone else in the car (she'd left the phone on the dashboard or something after asking me to 'hold') 'I swear to God if they're out of Sweet & Sour sauce again I'm gonna shove those Mcnuggets so far up the manager's a** he's gonna need a colonoscopy to find them all.'"
"All I could think is maybe she should have ordered that coffee as a decaf."
Good, But Not That Good
"My friend and I were both working one day. A guy pulls up and she asks if we can take his order, he says give me just a sec.. so we wait."
"And this guy is telling his passenger this long story. No one was behind him in line so we let him go on and on and there are 3 of us just listening to this story being told at the ordering mic."
"Finally my friend speaks up and says 'guys, this is a great story but are you ever going to let us know what we can get for you?' And both guys in the car start laughing and finally say what they want."
"When they came up to the window the guy was still laughing and asked for a picture of us because it was the best comeback he's ever heard. He was a restaurant owner in a nearby valley where the best wines in the world are made."
"He also left a great review about us on Yelp. Nice guy too."
Hit and Run-Thru
"One time, the guy started ordering, then some other bloke walked up to his open window for almost running him over."
"Why was he walking in the drive thru in the first place? Idk it was kinda weird and this dude was ranting at the driver for a while."
"Most of the time I can barely hear the order though"
Bullied At the Window
"So kind of the opposite thing, one time I ordered and I was in a really good mood and I kind of sang/talked 'thank you~ ~' to the drive thru person..."
"...and as I was driving away I could hear them mock me 'ThAnK yOu~ ~' it immediately ruined my day."
Bro, fast food storytime. I was in line a fast food burger place that's popular in Texas. I was stuck behind some b!tch taking forever to order (windows down, could hear her the whole time) DID NOT know what she wanted. When she was finally done I zipped up to that speaker, and waited.
When they asked for my order I spit that like I had rehearsed it for hours. When I got up to pick my order up, the guy leaned out and said "there's an apple pie and some extra fries. Thanks for knowing what you wanted." Made my day and apparently his.
Reminds me of when I worked my first fast food job. One point I started working overnights and one dude pulled up at like 2AM and took 32 minutes to place an order consisting of a single combo meal.
Best part is because he took 32 minutes to place his order, our SOS for the night was ~30 minutes so I got the pleasure of being chewed out by my boss the next day for us being so slow despite the fact we literally did nothing wrong.
Sometimes I wish that other industries could do what I do when faced with someone who can't figure out what they want/need to say.
"Timmy? Did you forget what you were thinking about? It's ok....im going to ask Sally what her idea is, and you can keep thinking. If you remember, raise your hand and I'll call on you, ok?" (Said multiple times throughout the week to the preschoolers I teach).
Can you imagin if you could skip to the next customer in line!?! I think job satisfaction would improve immensely lol.
My friend and I were both working one day. A guy pulls up and she asks if we can take his order, he says give me just a sec.. so we wait. And this guy is telling his passenger this long story. No one was behind him in line so we let him go on and on and there are 3 of us just listening to this story being told at the ordering mic.
Finally my friend speaks up and says "guys, this is a great story but are you ever going to let us know what we can get for you? And both guys in the car start laughing and finally say what they want.
When they came up to the window the guy was still laughing and asked for a picture of us because it was the best comeback he's ever heard. He was a restaurant owner in a nearby valley where the best wines in the world are made. He also left a great review about us on Yelp. Nice guy too.
People might not realize that everyone in the fast food place hears you, not just the person you're talking to. At least at my Wendys, we all wore headsets. This is kind of related to the question, but while i worked there it was pretty common for a customer at the drive-through to get impatient and disrespectful with the person taking their order, which was almost always a woman at that position. To their surprise though, whenever this would happen, my manager, who was a very large man, would turn on his mic and start laying into the guy about how he cant treat his employees like that. The shock you could hear in their voices when they suddenly had to confront a man about the behavior they didn't think anyone else could hear was always really funny
One time, the guy started ordering, then some other bloke walked up to his open window for almost running him over. Why was he walking in the drive thru in the first place? Idk it was kinda weird and this dude was ranting at the driver for a while.
Most of the time I can barely hear the order though
Just a heads up...most new Starbucks drive thrus (2017 and newer) also have a camera on them. We can see you picking your nose....
Also, if a siren is going by, please just wait. I can't hear a damn thing.
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Fast food workers encounter customers from a variety of backgrounds and situations that make each transaction unique.
But those who are positioned at a drive-thru window experience interactions that are even more oddly exclusive.
Tellers see customers inside their own environment, and therefore, get a peek into their personal lives.
To hear interesting anecdotes, Redditor Reach-n-Teach asked strangers:
One thing is certain. You can't make this stuff up.
Please proceed to the next window and be prepared to guffaw.
Drunk Gym Teacher
"My gym teacher, drunk. He started eating the tacos at the drive through window. He was there for over 5 minutes, just eating. I saw him the next day in school, we both acted like nothing happened."
The Inflated Passenger
"Dude had a full on sex doll dressed up in his passenger seat. Sunglasses, dress and even a hat. I couldn't even tell it was fake until I asked for their order. Coworker and I looked at each other simultaneously and we both said 'was that a sex doll?' This is in a 'wealthy' area of my city as well so it was definitely a first."
"Two guys naked on a bench seat. Driver made sure to tell me they weren't gay."
"Only worked drive-through for a year but the weirdest thing I saw was an alpaca in a minivan. They asked at the window if they could order some apple slices for the alpaca. I just gave them two packs on the house."
"Had a guy consistently come through the drive thru with his pecker out. He would always order the same thing, large mellow yellow no ice, always on a sunday, and always wearing military fatigues. Then he stopped showing up for a bit, we called him private peters, as our little sign to call the cops if he showed up again. A month later we get an order for a large mellow yellow no ice, so I decide to take over the window. We convinced the car in front of him to stay in the lane and we called the cops, he got suspicious and left but they caught him and was charged."
Comfortable In Their Own Naked Skin
"I had 4 women that came through a few times. I'm 16. They're all like 45+. Not made up. Just naked and completely casual. Never acted like they were even slightly concerned they were naked at all. One of the girls there said they came through about once a week. We didn't have a nudist colony nearby that I knew of. Just these same ladies."
He Had Time"Had a customer come through with a giant grandfather clock in the back seat. The thing was so huge it was sticking out the side window, which just so happened to be on the left side of the car. Which meant dude couldn't get close enough to the window to reach his food and had to step out, cursing the whole time."
"Someone threw a fish at me once. Didn't order anything, just a drive by fish attack."
What's In The Egg Cartons?
"I worked at a Tim Hortons and once saw an old lady with like 50 cartons of eggs in her car, I made a joke saying 'looks like you could make your own breakfast' and she got real straight faced and said 'oh honey those aren't eggs.' Still have zero clue what else you would store in egg cartons..."
So That's What Was In Those Egg Cartons
"Golf balls. I used to steal gold balls from a golf course water hazard and the woods around the course. Sold them in egg cartons for $5"
It is called fast food. It is not called hasty food.
And yet, hasty is so often the experience.
We have all been there. First, we politely greet a metal rectangle that bears a mesh speaker face. It responds to the timid hello with fierce, garbed gibberish.
That puts us on our heels. So we escalate to a violent, aggressive scream about the kind of sandwich and drink we'd like. The robot tube remains loud and terrifying.
We're herded through the drive-thru lane alongside the brick wall until we arrive at the window: our only glimpse of the faceless void that we've given the reigns to for our lunch.
Finally, a hand flies out of the portal, we, panicked, absorb it into the vehicle and simply hope that the screaming rectangle did us good.
So often, as a recent Reddit thread illustrated, it did not do us good. It did us very very bad.
Fazi_Snaxxx asked, "What's the most wrong your fast food order has ever been?"
Third Time's the Charm
"My mom ordered a plain cheeseburger and it came with everything on it. I bring it up to the counter and let them know. A couple minutes later I get new one."
"Bring it to my mom, she opens it, it's a plain McChicken. I brought it back up and the manager went bug eyed and demanded 'What's wrong with it now?!'"
"I proceeded to show her and she went back and lost her sh** on the cooks. The third time was perfect, thankfully."
Right Order, Wrong Mouth
"What we ordered was burgers and fried pickles from the local pub. What the Uber guy brought us was nothing, because he took our food and went home." -- alltherobots
"Happened to me before too. Uber girl marked my food as delivered right outside the restaurant. I hope she enjoyed my lunch." -- payvavraishkuf
Watch Your Tongue at the Counter
"i was joking that i wanted a ton of sauce at mconalds, like a bowl of sauce. I got this container that was literally like 2 pints of sauce with my burger inside it. i was like 'well i got what i f***ing asked for didn't i'" -- demonardvark
"I see you enjoy the burger boat off the secret menu as well ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)" -- Pm-Me_Ur-Ti**ies_Plz
Ice Cream 101
"I went through Burger King cause they had a new Oreo sundae I wanted to try. Ordered a burger, fries and the Ice cream"
"They asked me to pull around to the front cause the food wasn't ready. Annoys the f*** out of me, but fine ok."
"After about 4-5 minutes A worker comes out with just the Oreo Sunday. Or what was supposed to be the Oreo Sunday but was a half melted bowl of soup."
"'Uhhh sir, this is really melted, what's going on?'"
"'Well when food isn't ready we take the food that is and put it under the heat lamp to keep it warm.'"
"Sigh......Yeah that took a couple minutes of convincing to get him to remake it without putting it under the heat lamp......"
VERY Well Done
"I was a kid and my dad decided on a McDonald's for tea. I went with him and ordered a chicken sandwich. I was looking forward to it the whole way home."
"Finally get him open the box and find a DIRTY OLD DISHCLOTH between the bun."
"Still remember my dad hitting the roof driving back and shouting at the manager, apparently one of the staff were due to go on break and it was made as a prank for them."
"I ordered a mcchicken with cheese once, I got the bun and cheese but no chicken patty" -- WhyBee92
"I ordered a Big Mac and it came without the bun at the bottom, only realised when I tried taking it out. When I went back to the till a guy was holding the bun and was looking around, confused, not knowing what was up with it." -- thestrikr
"I ordered a chicken burrito and all I got was chicken wrapped in a tortilla. No other filling." -- broken_bones2012
"It was probably someone's last day and they just didn't give a f*** anymore." -- mr_sto0pid
"It meets the requirements, I don't see the problem" -- MyBigRed
When it Goes the Other Way
"I ordered 2 burrito bowls (Meat + stuff) from Chipolte. I got:"
"3 meat/guac bowls"
"3 meat/guac burritos"
"2 chips + side of guac"
"Thanks to the magic of Uber Eats, I got my 2 bowls refunded and kept the mountain of food."
"Went to Popeyes and got a big family meal type order. When I got home and started setting everything out, I got to the big container of mashed potatoes. It was actually a big container of mayonnaise. We all had a good laugh, and plenty of mayo."
"We did not have mashed potatoes though, which was sad."
A Short-Lived Scheme
"I once ate at a Burger King. I go in, everything appears to be the same except the owner is there serving food and working the register. Thinking nothing of it I order the usual."
"I get my burger and it's Medium Rare, the bun is different, the fries are in a checkered paper basket and the receipt said SouthSide Burgers. He basically was just hustling food after being told by corporate to shut it down."
"He made a bunch of money that week running a fake Burger King and skipped town."
The Lucky Ones
"I got this huge bag of delivery Chinese... and I ordered nothing."
"I took it because I was confused and I feel terrible about it." -- Poorly-Drawn-Beagle
"Didn't even order anything. Came home to whole Thai dinner in my doorstep. No receipt, some name I didn't recognize on the bag. Left it there from nine until midnight just in case anyone claimed it but no one came."
"Had spicy fried chicken wings and pad Thai for lunch the next day." -- Jerry_Curlan_Alt
The Perfect Crime!
"I once went to taco bell and just ordered some nachos. They gave me the bag, and I waited to eat until I got home. Opened up the bag, and turns out they forgot the chips. I got a tiny container of cheese, though."
"So they basically gave me an empty bag and charged."
The Distributive Property
"Not fast food, but a buddy and I went to a bar/grill to have a night of drinking beer. They had a 2-for-1 special that night. We told the waitress we wanted 12 beers, thinking she would keep 'em coming until we had hit 12."
"After a long wait, she came out with a massive tray with 24 beers all together! We felt like a**holes, so we powered through them even when they started getting warm."
Little Extra Somethin' In Your Drink
"One time my sister and I were eating at out of all the places Dairy Queen a few years back and she found over 12 hairs in her burger. Needless to say, you don't duck with my sister."
"Another one: my local McDonald's to this day still has soda that tastes like it has fruit in it. Which is weird because they don't HAVE fruit flavored soft drinks at McDonald's."
It wasn't that it was super wrong, but the frequency of them getting it wrong. When I was in uni, I would go to taco bell a lot. I would get a five layer burrito, with no sour cream. Literally every single time, it had sour cream. I hate sour cream."
"I would take it back, they would make it again, and I would leave. This happened like a dozen times over the course of two months, and then it stopped. They started making it right. I let my guard down."
"After two or three times, I get a burrito, go out to my car, take a bite, and get a mouthful of a burrito that was like half sour cream. I was so sick of it that I got out of my car and spiked it into the ground in the parking lot."
"Then I went to the waffle house next door."
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An Ohio employee of Taco Bell has been fired, after a video showing him refuse to take a deaf customer's drive-thru order was posted online.
Brandon Washburn visited a Taco Bell on New Year's Eve. The ADA compliant message on the drive-thru instructs those with hearing disabilities to pull up to the window. It was there, Washburn had trouble.
Washburn tried showing the employees his phone with his order, but they refused to look at it. They instead tried to invite him inside to be served.
This is where the video starts.
The video shows Washburn at the drive-thru window of the restaurant. He is trying to get the employees attention to read his phone, where he's typed up his order.
The night manager opens the window, and hands him a message written on a piece of paper.
Washburn tries to show the employee his phone, when the employee responds,
"It's against company policy. I can't do it."
The manager then closes the window and walks away. A little bit later, he comes back and says he will be calling the police.
It was very upsetting.
The video was taken by Washburn's girlfriend in the passenger seat and uploaded to Facebook by his mother, Becky Rosemont Burch. It has been viewed over 1.5 million times.
In an interview with NBC News, she says,
"He has done this many times before at other restaurants, and has never had a problem."
The video went viral, extending beyond Facebook.
@wics_abc20 This is so wrong— Amanda Helm (@Amanda Helm)1546891579.0
@ABC7NY #Disgusting— Jodeci888 (@Jodeci888)1546860087.0
@FOX26Houston I think it’s not that he refused to serve him because of discrimination. It was more of not knowing h… https://t.co/G0InqjOi4c— Juuuust a bit outside. (@Juuuust a bit outside.)1546880246.0
The employee, Michael Brown, was fired, and Taco Bell has issued a statement that they are going to be retraining the employees of the restaurant.
"Taco Bell has a fundamental policy to respect all of our customers and employees, and we are committed to maintaining an environment free of discrimination or harassment."
Brown has spoken out since the incident. He's lost his job and has faced death threats since the video went viral.
As he describes it, he was trying to do the right thing.
"I wasn't just absolutely denying them, because I go through it every day… We tried our best to accommodate them, with them being deaf and none of us in there knowing sign language or having prior experience with it."
He goes on to explain that he asked the couple to come inside so he could ensure the order was correct and better assist them. There was an added element of safety to the situation, as Brown says the restaurant has been robbed at gunpoint through the drive-thru.
To some this just shows how better training is needed, while others feel it's no excuse.
@ABC7 Was the worker trained to handle these types of situations? Good this has been exposed so the Fast food chain… https://t.co/tJU7eEGt1S— Dark_Room_Perfume1129 (@Dark_Room_Perfume1129)1546811292.0
@snackpack210 @j_grixx @tacobell @Chipole okay but in the same article it says he refused for “safety reasons” mean… https://t.co/IpoRss4uoh— Stoney Joey (@Stoney Joey)1546816957.0
@snackpack210 @j_grixx @tacobell @Chipole typical, no valid counterpoints to make so just say its a troll. You’ve a… https://t.co/9RoAPOrasf— Stoney Joey (@Stoney Joey)1546820170.0
In the end, Brown is glad the video was shared.
"I do appreciate them doing that because it's going to allow my Taco Bell to improve - or, that Taco Bell to improve - but I wish they would at least put the full video out so the people could see I tried."
It hasn't been a great time for fast food companies. The age of smart phones has allowed videos to surface of extreme interactions between their customers and their employees, requiring the company to perform damage control.
Earlier this month, a McDonald's employee was forced to defend herself after a belligerent customer tried to assault her across the counter. And back in November, a viral video of a group of young men being told they had to pay up front at Chipotle had the internet on their side, until their dine and dash tweets were discovered.
We can only hope that eventually, these situations go from a normality to less than once in a blue moon.
My mom sucks at giving compliments. There. I said it. I know 50 of you guys are going to forward this article to her and rat me out, so let me explain. She means well and in her mind she truly is giving a compliment. She just words things terribly, like she has this thing for pairing a compliment with a "constructive criticism." To my mom, saying something like "you're so beautiful, you'd be an absolute stunner if you lost weight" is just her telling you that she thinks you're beautiful - and have the potential to be woman-in-the-red-dress-Matrix-scene-head-turningly-distracting kind of gorgeous. All compliments! To the outside world she totally called you fat.
So I went most of my life never really hearing compliments when my mother thought she was giving them all the time. Then it happened, in ninth grade during the peak of my awkward era, I overheard her tell one of her friends that she loved the way I sang and that she knew I stayed up for hours after she sent me to bed because I would sing to myself for hours at night, but she never came in and told me to go to bed because she loved getting her own little concert.
Sure, my mom is biased - but she's also one of those painfully honest brown moms who absolutely would have told her friends if my singing voice was pure caca, ya know?
Moms are so pure, you guys.
One Reddit user asked:
And yup, it's exactly as warm and fuzzy as you think it is. So come on, guys. Let's do this. Brace yourselves, we're aiming straight for your feels.