Don’t bite the hand that feeds you

Improper fast food etiquette, and how to properly behave in order to make everyone happy


Photo courtesy of Kim Collins

Junior Xavier Sullivan works the drive thru at the Taco Bell in Edwardsburg, MI.

Xavier Sullivan, Staff Writer

If everyone worked in fast food at least once in their lives, this world would be a much better place. People would finally realize that we fast food employees are not robots that can cater to a demanding customer’s every whim. People would understand why we can’t ‘just make it that way.’ And perhaps above all, people may finally understand that no, the customer is NOT always right.

I work at Taco Bell and have my fair share of stories and acquired wisdom from there; however, the restaurant in question doesn’t necessarily matter, as these issues are applicable anywhere. So sit back, relax, and enjoy these stories, and my words of wisdom.

And bear with me, this article is a bit long-winded, but you won’t be disappointed.

The Customer is Always Right

No. No you are not, self-important “I want your corporate number” lady. While yes, we do make mistakes (and when we do, we’re very apologetic and happy to remake your food) when you want to throw a fit and get loud and yell over the counter over one single taco that was made regular rather than supreme, then you have some serious issues.

There are also people who will claim they ordered something, and it was made incorrect in an attempt to get free food. Like this one time a guy ordered a $5 Double Chalupa Box and some other things. We handed out his food to him, and he came back to the counter, and said that he was missing the chalupa, and just the chalupa. I asked him, “It’s not in the box there?” and he goes,

Oh, I didn’t even see the box there


(the box came with a double chalupa, a taco, and a cinnamon twist) while he has his hand resting on top of the box, mind you.

Now, I don’t know if these people think we were born yesterday, but we can often remember what was in someone’s order, and know that it was made right. We also have a button labeled “recall” that allows us to go back to previous orders listed on the screen in the kitchen, and we can confirm that we made it exactly how it said to. And this isn’t an issue of the item having been rang up wrong either because they will claim it wasn’t made how it was rang up. We read your order back to you, and you said it’s correct, so if something’s wrong, it’s your own fault.

That said, if there is something that is our fault, we will replace your food, free of charge.

Moral of the story: don’t flip out over a mistake, and don’t even try to scam us.

I Want to See Your Manager

While there are fast food employees out there who are indeed rude to customers, more often than not, it is the customer being rude to the employee.

Now, my story for this one, there is this guy who orders his food right? He pays, and I help the next customer. This guy interrupts me to ask me if I can bring out his nachos and cheese while he waits for the rest of his food, and I do, because I’m nice like that. But then, he comes and interrupts me helping another customer again asking if I can change his hard shell taco to a soft shell taco in his meal after he’s already paid

Now, to change a hard shell to a soft shell costs ten cents extra. Normally, we would just let it go, and give it to them, but this is in the middle of the dinner rush, and then it becomes burdensome for the people on the food prep line to remember to give him a soft taco instead of a hard taco, as listed on the board that displays the orders in the kitchen.

I said ‘yeah’ to make this guy go away, and I go and tell the kitchen staff about the change. Naturally, they ask me ‘was that the same guy who wanted his nachos and stuff before his meal?’ and I say that he was, and they just go back to making food.

At this point, I am helping another customer and the guy interrupts me a third time to make sure that it will be a soft taco, and I say something like ‘okay’ to make this guy go away. He gets his food shortly after (with a hard shell taco of course), and I had the chance to begin to stock the drink and sauce stations in the lobby, and as I’m going to put some lids in the lid dispenser, this guy comes to me to complain about his taco not being soft shell. I now actually have the chance to explain to him that a soft taco costs extra. (Now, if he wouldn’t have interrupted me helping other people THREE times, I might have tried to get him a soft taco anyway, because I’m nice like that. But since he was rude, nope!) He then proceeds to raise his voice, shouting profanities and demanding to see my manager.

I get my manager, and she gives him a soft taco to make him shut up. This is always an easy solution to satisfy the pestering customer; however, the only downside of that is then I look stupid, and I am likely silently being judged even though I was in the right.

That Price is Outrageous

Now, there are just some people who cannot seem to grasp the fact that we cashiers cannot change the price of an item in the computer. For example, this one guy orders a Grande Meal, and says to me that the menu outside at the drive thru says the price for it is $11.99 after seeing that the price on the order confirmation board says $12.99. I tell him that the price in the computer is $12.99, and he asks me if I’m going to adjust it. I then explain to him that I cannot change the price in the computer, and he scoffs and buys it anyway. My manager then changed the price on the sign to reflect the price on the computer, as it needed to be fixed. As for the price on the computer, well, that it at the discretion of whoever owns our franchise.

I also had a similar incident where some lady was ordering a Taco Party Pack, and asked for them to all be soft shell. For some reason it is cheaper to ring up a hard shell Party Pack ($13.99) and substitute all the tacos to soft tacos ($1.20 for all 12 tacos) rather than just ringing up a soft shell Party Pack ($14.99, but it still has the $1.20 upcharge for some odd reason). So I ring it up, but then she complains about the slight upcharge for the tacos being soft, and then I explain the upcharge, and she says something along the lines of  “You can’t legally do that, the sign says ‘any twelve tacos, $13.99”. Well, you see, lady, actually we legally can. The order confirmation board shows the price, so you know what you’re getting. It is not false advertisement, though granted it is slightly misleading. And I haven’t ever seen it, but there is almost certainly a fine print somewhere on the menu that says prices may be subject to change.

And if a whole dollar is enough to make such a big deal, you don’t need to be out getting fast food. You need to rethink your priorities and get your finances in order.

Being a Doofus in the Drive Thru
Section 1: Ordering Your Food

Now, of all my stories and rants, the most interesting ones seem to come from the drive thru.

Let’s start from the beginning: you pull up to the drive thru, and drive onto the pad to order. And as long as there is a car on the pad, our headsets are on. If we don’t answer right away, that’s because we’re helping a customer at the window. You don’t need to shout “HELLO?” at the top of your lungs. We know you are there. When the car pulls onto the pad, our headsets make a beep sound about once every second and a half, and we have a button to turn the earpiece off, but if there is a car on the pad and we press the button, it begins beeping again. And if someone in the drive through asks how your day was, well that’s because we’re trying to buy a few seconds of time, because we were doing something else, and are trying to get back to the drive thru station to ring your order up. So when I say, “Hi, welcome to my Taco Bell, how are you this afternoon?” these are some appropriate responses:

  • I’m well, thanks for asking
  • I’m good, how about yourself?
  • Great! and you?

And some bad responses:

  • Alright… (awkward silence)
  • Uh yeah.. I need two bean burritos..

Like if you want to be rude, then go somewhere else. Honestly.

And to every redneck and hillbilly that comes through in a loud diesel truck, please turn it off. For starters, I can’t hear you over it, and second, thank you, as I am now deaf from having that blasted into my ear by the headset.

Also, quick tip, many POS (point of sale) systems require you to pick a drink for a combo meal before you can do other things, so please don’t be that person that has an exchange that goes like:

And what would you like to drink with that Number 1?”
“Make that taco a soft, and no sour cream on the burrito”
*hits Pepsi on the screen so I can modify the other things*
“nO I dOn’t WaNt pEpsI

And when you do order a drink, if you want no ice in that drink, make sure you say that as you tell me, because usually, the second you ask for a drink, I’m going to start making it.

Now that you’ve finished ordering, please also understand that even though we’ve turned our microphone off, we can still hear you, and will continue to hear you until you drive off of the pad. This includes your discussion with your friend in the car about the events of the previous night, if you understand what I mean. This same thing applies to those who come through in a diesel truck, and do the polite thing and turn it off at the pad, but turn it back on after ordering.

And when I ask you “Does everything on your screen look correct?” don’t say:

  • “No thanks”
  • “Thank you”
  • *pulls forward*

While I do greatly appreciate the ‘thank you,’ bless your heart, please tell me a yes or no. The point of the question is to make sure you get what you asked for, so that you are happy when you look inside your bag. But also so that its not our fault when you are unhappy after you said ‘yes.’ And not answering the question makes it doubly your fault when something is wrong.

Section 2: At the Window

“Can I get another Taco Party Pack too?” are not the words I want to hear when I first open the window. While yes, I can put an add-on to your order, it inconveniences the kitchen, and our daypart average (every car through the drive through is timed so that we can see how efficient we are being when we look at the daypart averages throughout the day), especially if it is something we are fresh out of, and need to fry more (such as potatoes, which take three minutes to fry). So don’t get mad at us if we ask you to pull forward and we’ll bring the food out when its ready, if you’re at a restaurant where you don’t normally need to pull forward in the drive thru.

When you get to the window, please have your money ready. Do your digging around for coins in your glovebox and ashtray before you get to the window. And get off Snapchat too. You’re here to buy food, not take stupid pointless selfies that nobody cares about. And while yes, a fistfull of coins is real money, and yes I will accept it, please don’t do this during the dinner rush, because I will be thoroughly annoyed if the reason the line is being held up, and our daypart times are going up is because of you and your bucket of coins. I’ve tried just putting the fist of coins in the one unused coin compartment in the register drawer to count out and separate later, but then people are all like “I don’t mean to be rude, but you owe me a nickel” like of all those coins, you couldn’t find me a nickel to make exact change, instead of handing me another dime?

And when I open the window, tell you your total, cash out your order, and ask you if you want any sauce, please say an audible “Yes, (insert sauce type here) please” or “No thanks.” Because I can’t hear you shake your head.

Also, please stop vaping, or smoking your cigarette, or other certain substances that are legal in Michigan where I work. Everyone in the restaurant can smell that, and if you have kids in the back, yes, we’re judging you. And yes, the no smoking within fifteen feet of the door rule applies to the drive thru too.

Now that you’ve been cashed out, and I have received your order, and I put sauce (if the customer wants any) and napkins in the bag, double check everything is there, and then I will hand it to you. I understand you want to make sure it’s all there, and sometimes we do forget something, but like, can you not do that at the window? You’re running up our times. And high times mean the higher ups aren’t happy with our management. And we like having a happy management and thusly a happy work environment. 


I love my job, and people love their Taco Bell. I enjoy serving customers and making them happy, but to be able to make them happy requires them to behave. I know much of this is a long-winded rant about irritating customers, and every workplace has unpleasant customers, but also see this story as a way to appreciate those who aim to serve. I don’t just work at Taco Bell for the money, but also because I do genuinely enjoy working there, and making people happy. But the customer-employee relationship is a two way thing, that both parties must put in an effort. See this as a way to help make that relationship work, as well as a guide to help make things go smoothly. Thank you for choosing my Taco Bell, and have a nice day.

The views in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of the GENESIS staff. Reach Xavier Sullivan at [email protected].