The Courteous Robots of the Fast Food Industry
At my Taco Bell, I try to be extra friendly to customers. Why? Because I dislike the stereotype for fast food staff, somber-faced apathetic youngsters who couldn't give a damn about the job. It's not just a stereotype either; several people at my place are like that. I think it looks bad and gives the place a terrible image. Not that we have to lie and put on a false Ronald McDonald smile, but a little friendliness is in order. Even if the customers don't return the same politeness and manners, I still must give it to them. Why do I do it? Because I want to show them I'm human, and that I recognize that they're human too. Otherwise it might as well be robots lining up to deposit scrap metal in return for organized heaps of organic matter, and robots behind the cash register taking the metal and giving the food.
This philosophy, I don't only apply to front cash and drive-thru. I also apply it when I'm doing the dining room checks. I ask the customers how their food is, or simply if they're having a good day. Sometimes I can't interact with them on this simple level. They might be in a bad mood and unapproachable, or very frequently they have no manners whatsoever, or the one fellow that was reading a book with funny looking plugs in his ears. I asked him how he was doing without noticing his "implements", and he didn't bat an eye. I carried on wiping the table. And then there was the lady and her two kids that looked so sad and forlorn I thought they'd just come from a funeral. They probably did. But sometimes the customers even make conversation, which is great. It makes me feel good and I'm sure they appreciate not being treated like robots, by other robots.
The truth is that it really is like that. We are robots and the customers are robots too, but it's not very polite to make it obvious. People come in to the place and stuff themselves and their kids full of unhealthy food, it's actually quite dehumanizing to watch it happen.
And us? We're no better in our purple shirts and baseball caps. It is actually in our rules to upsell, that is, to offer drinks or desserts when the customer does not ask for it.
Would you like any drinks or desserts with that?
should be interpreted as:
Would you like to gain ten pounds for just a dollar six more?
The menu is engineered so that newbies to Taco Bell can't tell that combo items can be purchased on their own. The combo menu is 70% of the width of the menu above our heads, and the prices of individual items take up a miniscule area in the corner of each pane of the combo menu. Quite honestly, I have to tell many fooled customers that combo items can be purchased alone. It would be like a burger joint refusing to sell a hamburger without fries and a drink accompanying it.
I saw Supersize Me last night. Holy damn. What are we doing to ourselves? I want whole wheat tortillas at our place now. I consider Taco Bell's food to be much healthier than McDonald's or Wendy's, but nonetheless I have gained 5 pounds in a month without working out.
I leave you with a question to ponder. We know it's bad for us, so why do we keep on coming back? Morgan Spurlock's documentary suggests that fast food is filling and addictive. Combine that with fast and you have a sociological recipe for disaster.
If I can give this writeup some coherent flow, maybe it can have a place outside of daylog.