punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

Whither service?

McDonald's wants to take on Starbucks. BWAH! I don't care how many couches they put in, how much bandwidth their wireless internet will have, how marketing works, or whatever. Here's why they will NEVER compete with Starbucks.

"Welcome to McDonald's, make I take your order?" server by a smiling, fresh-faced person in their late teens is not real in the city. I can't speak for small towns or other places, but in all the major cities I have been to, and that covers places in Texas, California, and DC, I usually get one of the following:

- Someone who does not speak English
- Someone who does speak English, but has a bitchy attitude
- Someone who does speak English, but is apathetic and mopey
- Someone who either speaks English or not, and is dumber than a sack of hammers

This seems to be the standard person behind the counter of all fast food restaurants around here, but McDonald's seems to be the worst of the bunch. And what's puzzling is McD's never seems to address their personnel issue. They think "we'll make our image as healthy" or "we'll deliver food faster" or now, "we'll be the low-end Starbucks." No. No no no. Get better people. Give better service, you corporate dumbasses. Pay your employees better, set up quality control, and get those McMarketing college sliders out of your company and put some people in there that actually give a shit about the end user.

I used to train salespeople. I know how to serve a customer. I also am aware that McD's hires the dregs of society that couldn't get a job elsewhere because of poor choices in their lives, and that at the rate of pay they offer, people who could do better go elsewhere. McD's has a commercial campaign out now about all these previous employees who made it great. I am sure, out of the millions of people they employed, they may find a few people who had their first job at McD's that went on to better things. But that's just it, they had to leave. Don't feed me no crap about how it shaped you as a person, most people I know who had their first job there go, "Crap, it was awful, I lasted only 4 months." Note the choice of words, "I lasted," like an endurance. People never speak of McDonald's like they held that job with pride, in fact, I almost never see it on resumes because while you do get paid to work there, you never see it as an accomplishment.

I don't want to hear the excuse, "if we hired better people with better pay, we'd have to jack up our prices." Taco Bell, by far the cheapest fast food out there, hires a lot better caliber of people on average. The problem is this: your management sucks. Fast food managers can be some of the most foul and loathsome creatures ever to slither into a dress shirt, and I've seen executives on Wall Street to compare them to. They don't give a shit. And while I have never met one of their DM's, I bet THEY don't give a shit, either. That complaint number leads to a recording or a voice that says, "Mailbox full."

I see McD's like this: The very top has mostly some old white dudes, a few soccer-mom type women, and Don, the one black guy. Hell, even the head of their Latin America branch, Jose, looks like a FOX News anchor, and has about as much Hispanic in him as a pinata made in Taiwan. Born in Cuba, my ass. Funny note, "recently completed his Masters in Professional Management degree at the University of Miami." Whee! So did some drunken frat boy with the name "Cletus."

Then there is probably a huge and dense "cloud" of middle management layers, with HR, hiring teams, and the like. I saw from their site they have three corporate offices, each looks bigger than the next, and probably they have a few thousand in that layer. Paltry compared to the actual employee level, I am sure.

So these people make all the decisions that filter down to the slack-jawed, drugged up urban kid who took my order with this sound, "Aw haw. Uh-yung..." The drive through sounds like this, "Mecca day mack donas, can ya half ya odor?" How does it get to this level? How come they never have commercials where some angry young dude is pushing a mop like he's a child being punished with chores, or some expressionless immigrant who speaks only a few words of English is working behind the counter? And when you complain, you drag out some overweight guy wearing a dress shirt with a collar unbuttoned and a tie hung around his neck like he didn't look in a mirror before he left, and he's already mad at you for asking for him, and you're mad at him because it took him 5 minutes and 3 reminders to show up. "So what do you want me to do?" asked one guy years ago, when I explained I was short changed $10 from a $5 meal paid with a $20. Asshat.

Yesterday, I was reminded of this at the Chick Fil'a, some "Christian owned," slightly upscale chicken fast food joint. All I wanted was ice cream and their version of nuggets. The people that served me were a confused and disconnected teen and her frustrated boss, both so embroiled in the training process, that they didn't give me a cone with my ice cream, but a foam cup. It took a few "excuse me... hey, excuse me... is there a cone... excuse me... hey, the picture shows a cone... hey... excuse me..." before I got a, "Oh, we don't have no cones. Dey out," by the trainee who never once addressed me or looked me in the eye, so she could have been speaking to herself more than anyone else. Then they said "thank you," like they had ended a contract more than any sincerity in the statement. "I never got my nuggets," I said. "Wha, you orda a ayt-piece?" Yes. "It comin' up. You wanna beg?" Beg? Oh, bag. "Yeah, a bag." That urban accent, which I learned in school was actually a Dutch dialect used by slave traders, sometimes throws me. But I can speak that, yo. The trainee had now spoken to me more that the original order. She tossed my greasy box into the bag, and then handed it to me, but the trainer grabbed it back, opened it up, and asked if wanted dipping sauces. When I asked what kind they had, I got a sigh like, "Oh, good.. you just added seconds to my register time." I got teriyaki, which was tossed in the bag with a napkin, and an incredulous look at my belly and the question, "Is dat all you're goin' to orda?"

No, lady. I have a bucket of lard and a bag of sugar in the SUV, I'm good. Thank God I have a sense of humor about my belly, or they might have been beaten and had their heads stuck in the frialator (which, as a side note to anyarm really is a word, so nyaaah!).

I am not advocating killing them, for sadly, half the nuggets were hot and crispy on the outside, and frozen in the center, which, and I can tell you this even though I have never worked fast food in my life, means that their oil is way too hot. No doubt because someone in management thinks "speed" is the problem they have with customers.

Baja Fresh, the slowpoke of fast food here, has MUCH better service. Half their staff doesn't speak English, but they don't cop an attitude, and they food is always cooked right.

Give me a smile, get my order right, talk to me like I am there. Starbucks has that down pat. I hear they treat their employees better than most, and it shows.

McD's will never be able to compete.
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