Forgetting the food for just a moment, there are plenty of reasons to loathe the fast food hamburger chains. Poorly trained staff, unhealthy products and garishly decorated ‘restaurants’ are just three of the gripes on my ever growing list of hate. If there are any signs of a positive future for these companies it lies in the food, which is irresistible when you want something quick, warm and overflowing with carbohydrates. The lure of a double cheeseburger and fries makes us act like moths around a saturated fat light bulb.
Surely I can forgive their shortcomings though, after all, I’m not dining in a Michelin star restaurant am I? Well, no I cannot actually. Which brings me neatly to the problem with all fast food burger chains. People. I can sympathize with them to a certain point after all it’s not necessarily the first career choice for many so attracting the kind of staff you see on their glossy ad campaigns must be a nightmare – salting fries is not my idea of fun. Indeed, large fast food chains have huge training departments and personnel dedicated to making their employees friendly and inviting which, in the main, serve their business well. However, all of that counts for nothing when the person taking your order doesn’t understand the words that come out of your mouth. Permit me to illustrate my point:
It’s not like I’d wandered in off the street and asked for a reticulated python is it? So when I ask for a cheeseburger I would naturally assume I’m going to get one. OK so she’s got five stars on her name badge so she’s been through her training modules right? It’s not as if I’m picking on a person who’s on her first day so I think I’ve got enough ammunition to ask “How hard can it be for the word ‘cheeseburger’ to register in her brain?” The answer, it appears, is very hard. My cheeseburger became a chickenburger, my Diet Coke became a Sprite and I got cheesy balls (no comments please) instead of fries. I don’t have a thick regional accent, I wasn’t off my face on crack and I didn’t mumble into my chest like a teenager with a face like a pizza. Yet, bewildered as I was, I still found the time to be polite and do what every Brit does in this situation – I attempted to make her understand her mistakes by raising my voice considerably and mouthing the words slowly – like she was five years old and obviously in a very patronising way. I’m good at that.
Did it work? Err, no. In fact it went spectacularly wrong. The next item to make it onto my tray was a spicy beanburger. Mmmm, this was getting critical now. I pointed to the burger I originally asked for on the menu boards behind her and said ‘That one!” in a rather condescending tone, much to the amusement and frustration of the people forming a substantial queue behind me. The visual reference obviously worked as I got a cheeseburger in the end. However, the thought of having to repeat the process for my Sprite and cheesy balls filled me with dread and anxiety so I opted to keep them and play dumb. In her defence she at least has a job which is more than can be said of a lot of bone-idle scum heads. Maybe, like all of us, she’s just trying to learn and make life a bit better. I’ll raise my carton of Sprite to that any day! In the meantime I wonder how much support she gets from her colleagues in helping her to understand her customers. Maybe the next time I feel hard done by I should take a moment to think about that?