13 Polite Habits That Fast-Food Employees Secretly Dislike
Making a fast-food faux pas is no fun! Here's a look at the most common friendly mistakes—and what to do instead.
Not so fast: These habits aren’t as polite as you think
There are all sorts of things your fast food worker won’t tell you, including some of the habits they find annoying. Some of those are probably pretty easy to figure out—they don’t like it when you’re rude, throw trash on the floor, or let your kids run amok through the restaurant. But there are also plenty of things you do, that you probably think are helpful or polite, that bug them just as much.
Habit: Not correcting a mistake in the order
Be as clear as possible when ordering so nothing gets lost in translation. The employee will repeat your order back to you, or you’ll be able to see it on a screen, so make sure everything looks correct. It’s harder to fix once you get up to the window (even at America’s favorite restaurant chain).
Habit: Handing over extra money
Your total is $17, so you give the cashier a $20 and two $1 bills, expecting a $5 bill in return. It makes things easier on your wallet so you’re not carrying around extra bills, but it’s not always easy for fast-food employees to add in that they’ve taken in extra cash—especially if they’re in a hurry. Don’t miss these ridiculous reasons people sued fast food restaurants.
Habit: Waiting at the drive-through window
The drive-through at certain chains will have you pull to the side or into designated parking to keep the flow of orders coming. You might think it makes things easier on employees to park and wait at the window instead, but they want you to follow the directions.
Habit: “Cleaning up” trays or baskets
Unless the trash can is completely packed, it’s rude to leave bags and wrappers at your table when you’re eating at a fast-food restaurant. But separate the wrappers from the baskets and only throw away the actual trash. Don’t forget to check if you’re breaking one of these obscure etiquette rules without even realizing it.
Habit: Ordering for the whole office
Sure, you’re bringing in big business, but when you order lunch for ten at a fast-food drive-through, it slows the whole line down. Instead, order inside the restaurant or better yet, call in an order in advance. Here’s the reason why Coke tastes better at McDonald’s than anywhere else.
Habit: Waiting at the register for condiments
If you’re at a fast-food spot that has packets of ketchup or hot sauce, ask for them up front instead of standing near the register once you’ve already received your order. This keeps the line moving for everyone else and the employee behind the register won’t have to leave his or her station. Here are 12 more fast-food “facts” that are actually false.
Habit: Paying with TONS of change
You might think you’re doing the cashier a favor, but you probably aren’t. Paying in change can leave your register worker fumbling to count or give you change back, holding up the line. If you absolutely must, make it as easy as possible (using only quarters, for example) and not an assortment of change. John Frigo, who worked as a fast-food drive-through employee for several years, finds this habit particularly vexing. “Not sure if [paying with exact change] is a polite thing for my sake or they just want to get rid of change, but it’s annoying [to have to be] hanging out the window in the cold, waiting two minutes while someone gets rid of all their pennies,” he told Reader’s Digest.
Habit: Checking your drive-through order
Don’t check your order at the window! Pull into a nearby parking spot to make sure you have everything you need. If something ends up being wrong with your food, however, it’s always OK to speak up. Learn which fast-food restaurants customers say are the most convenient.
Habit: Letting others pass you while you decide your order
“Please, have an idea of what you want or read the menu before you get in line,” implores Gianetta Palmer, a freelance writer for CarInsuranceComparison.com who worked in food service for eight years. “As a worker in a pizza joint, I would become annoyed with a customer who couldn’t make up their mind. They would stand there reading the menu board until a line formed and then let people move in front of them, apologizing the entire time.” If you do this, you probably think you’re being polite and practicing good etiquette by letting people go in front of you, but the really polite thing to do would be to decide beforehand. Having a customer hovering by the counter, trying to decide, can put the employee in a tough spot. “[Sometimes] I need to move to the back to do something like remove food from the oven, but I can’t leave the counter because I have a ‘potential’ customer,” Palmer told Reader’s Digest.
Habit: Using their first names
This probably varies by employee and some might indeed see it as polite, but former Carl’s Jr. and Pizza Hut employee James Cobb, RN, MSN, says that it just made him kind of uncomfortable. “It’s forced familiarity. We haven’t been introduced,” he says. Yes, fast-food employees usually do wear name tags, but sometimes it can be unnerving to hear a stranger addressing you by your first name as if they know you personally. In Cobb’s view, “first names are reserved for friends and acquaintances; not strangers.” (It also can be a little different if a server tells you their name, as at a sit-down restaurant, as opposed to a situation where you’re just ordering from someone who has a name tag on.) No matter what restaurant you’re at, make sure you avoid these things polite people don’t do.
Habit: Asking questions
Making small talk with your fast-food cashier might seem like a nice thing to do, but some questions can definitely bug them—especially ones that they hear over and over again. For Cobb, one of the most annoying had to do with the badges that he once had to wear for a Carl’s Jr. promo, ones that said “I believe in old-fashioned values.” “Customers would ask me, ‘What old-fashioned values do you believe in?'” he remembers, admitting that he felt put on the spot and had no idea how to respond. “Do you give them a glib answer?… Do you go sincere? Do you tell them the company was making you wear it?” he would wonder. “I realize the customer was trying to be nice and make conversation, but [the restaurant] had a certain script for us to use with the customer and that just didn’t fit.” Here are 16 habits polite people have in common.
Habit: Overstuffing the trash can
Understandably, you think you’re doing a good thing by putting your trash in, you know, the trash can rather than leaving it on the table for an employee to pick up. And, usually, this would be true. But not when the garbage is already full to bursting, says Becky Beach, food blogger and former employee of Taco Bueno. “When the trash can was full, all the overflowing trash stuck in the door would fall to the floor,” she remembers. “If there was food or salsa that fell, I had to mop the floor.” And mopping the floor is a lot more cumbersome than just picking up some trays once the trash can has been emptied. “If you see a trash can that is full, do not throw away your trash in it,” Beach says. “The employees will thank you!” Find out the rude habits that grocery store employees wish you wouldn’t do, too.
Habit: Giving them…um…gifts
It’s no secret that oftentimes people ordering fast food are far from sober, but Frigo still feels the need to remind would-be customers: “Don’t try to hand me a joint through the drive-through window!” He didn’t comment on how many times this happened to him, but his reaction was thus: “Looks like you’re having a ball, but…I’m working.” That pretty much sums it up. But the customers probably did think they were being polite! “I appreciate the thoughtfulness,” Frigo acknowledges, “but you’re just going to get me in trouble.” Next, read about more of the craziest things drive-through workers have seen while on the job.
- Gianetta Palmer, a freelance writer for CarInsuranceComparison.com
- Becky Beach, food blogger and former employee of Taco Bueno