Tuesday, June 14

Futility 101: the Drive-Thru

There oughta be a law, that if the order taker at the drive-thru makes too many errors, repercussions become mandatory. Should they be fired on the spot? Have their minimum-wage pay docked by a certain irritation factor? Here in Texas, I'd like to see Mandatory Cattle Prodding to encourage perfection.

I went to a drive-thru today and ordered one of the combo meals. My choice required offering several options:
  • white or dark meat?
  • mild or spicy?
  • what side item?
  • what to drink?
I could tell the clerk was distracted, although I was talking into a microphone and couldn't see what was happening around the corner, but I could hear the distraction in his voice. Guess what? He got 3 of the 4 things wrong, by the time he'd printed the receipt and attempted sending me on my way.

Those of you who know me are aware of my thick non-accent (!) so I seriously doubt my enunciation (or lack thereof) was the issue. As I'm increasingly faced with supposed bilingual clerks (whose first language always seems to be Spanish), this is becoming more and more of an issue. I was amused by McDonalds testing the use of a call center for the drive thru (the clerk may well be in Bangalore, India) which will probably work as well as these (cough) bilingual operations here in Dallas.

I'm reminded of an Arby's in/near Irvine, California (15 years ago?) where I found myself face-to-face with a silent clerk, and a computer touchscreen between us. I started to speak my order, but she gestured to the monitor, and I quickly saw that I was to "touch my order", like an ATM. I did so, she semi-smiled and went to fetch the order. It was perfect.
Disclaimer: I've never worked for a fast-food [QSR] place, but if it's anything like a Real Restaurant, I suspect that the endless deviations from the menu are a huge part of the problem. I suspect I'm in the minority of those content to accept an "Intact Number 3" since so many people want it "without salt, no - sea salt is okay; and substitute a small strawberry milkshake (are those organic strawberries? can I get it in a non-bleached paper cup?) for the Coke; and use only Free-Range Whole Wheat Bread". Translating that is likely an exercise in futility.
I guess this just won't work on the drive-thru, even though many chains now use a "confirmation screen" so you can see how botched the order will be before you arrive at the window. Perhaps I should simply become used to getting a grph-mph-fbrr after ordering a "number 3, dark, spicy, corn, Diet Coke".

1 comment:

Michael said...

The Arby's in Irvine is still there. Haven't been there for a while, so I don't know if it still has the touch screens..

We used to call it AutoArby's....