Not Sure If I Should Do This, But……

I was reading this article today, and it got me thinking.  Now, I don’t know if I should congratulate the author on her humbling experience working behind the counter of a StarBucks, or if I should point out this line, “Just as I was tempted to remind my coworkers that they were new once, too, I wanted to tell customers that I was way over-qualified for this job, and hoped they’d see me on the street in normal clothes, not in khakis, a black T-shirt, bright-green apron and baseball cap,” and tell her she has no real idea what it is like to work in customer service.  Three weeks is barely enough time to get your feet wet in this brutal environment.

I have worked at McDonalds since I was sixteen.  It was my first job, and it will likely be my only job.  I started at McDonalds with the intention of it being a Summer job in 1997.  I stayed on part-time while finishing my next two years of high school.  I was made a shift manager at the age of 17.  I worked a full time schedule between taking college classes and deciding what it was I wanted to do with my life, all the while not realizing that I had already found it.  I am not a stupid person, nor do I or the majority of my co-workers fall into the sterotypes of “typical” fast food employees.  I work with a vast array of people from all different backgrounds who, to me, are some of the most interesting people I have ever met.  Now, it is fair to say that a large number of the employees are young teenagers in their first real job, and it is easy to pick on them as listless slackers who really don’t care about their job, as it is simply a paycheck to get them their next pair of sneakers or tickets to a movie.  All this being said, unless you have actually worked behind the counter of a McDonalds, a StarBucks, a Wal-Mart, take your pick, you have no idea what it is like to have to deal with some of the rudest, condescending, down-right disgusting people who populate our planet.  Now before you laugh and say, “Oh, that’s not me,” think about how you treat the folks who gather your french fries, decorate your lattes, or ring you out at the supermarket, all the while not saying a word when you hand them piles of coupons after ordering or you return your sandwich because you wanted extra pickles and you got no pickles.

I like customers.  You probably don’t believe that, but in all honesty, the majority of people I come across are genuinely nice people who appreciate the job you are doing for them and offer a smile and a thank you when you present them with their meal.  There are, however, a huge amount of assholes in the world, and many of them make their way to our retail world every day.  Now, once again, honestly think about who you are before you set yourself aside from one category or another.  Take your opinions about those who work these jobs and truly think about them.  Fast food jobs are classified as low skill jobs.  Ok, granted, I wouldn’t trust the sixteen year old behind the counter working at, say, a nuclear power plant, but if you think it’s so easy to ring in people’s orders, assemble the orders, take their payment, return their change, and move on to the next customer in line, all in about three minutes, then by all means, come see me at my job.  “How hard is it to flip a burger?” is a question I have heard from day one.  Well, you’re right.  If you’re standing in your backyard on the 4th of July, cooking up a batch of burgers for family and friends, it’s probably not that hard.  And if you drop one, well, you can just make another, right?  Ok, now come to my place, where we’re cooking anywhere from 50-200 burgers in an hour, not to mention all the chicken and fish products we sell.  By the end of the night, we’ve sold over 1000 sandwiches.  Have you ever had to cook for 1000 people in a day?  I work with people who move at speeds you’ve never dreamed of when it comes to preparing meals.  The people who work in retail can remember every item that goes on your sandwich, make you some obscure drink that no one’s ever heard of, or tell you where every item in every aisle of the store is located.  We wipe the tables, mop the floors, and make sure the restrooms are clean so you can bring your kids in there.  And guess what?  We’re not the one’s who make the mess.  We don’t spill chocolate milk all over the floor and not tell anyone until it dries and smells like death on the floor.  We don’t stick our unwanted condiments on the tables or walls before leaving without throwing away our garbage.  And I promise you, not one employee I have ever worked with has ever done some of the things I have found in our restrooms.  No, these are things left for us by our beloved customers.  So when you want to turn your nose up and say you are over qualified to work in fast food, remember that those who do work there are not too proud to pick up a mop and do some honest cleaning.  Maybe you went to college, so you’re too good to wipe a counter top, but when I go home at night, I am satisfied with doing a good job.  I enjoy teaching young kids how to do their jobs and show them what it means to get a little dirty sometimes.  I enjoy seeing customers walk through our doors and say, “Wow, this place is nice!”

Not once in my life did I ever say, “Gee, I’d love to work in an office someday where I sit in a cubicle and push buttons all day, never seeing the light of day.”  No, I’m on my feet for 9-11 hours a day, and sure, when I come home, I’m tired.  Exhausted.  But it is what I want to do.  Is it hard to do what I do?  Maybe stressful would be the better word.  Can anyone do it with proper training?  Sure, but don’t be so sure you’d be an expert just because you like to take your kids out for a Happy Meal a few times a week.  I take pride in what I do and all I ask from the general public is a little respect for those of us who put up with so much aggravation everyday.  But maybe I’m wrong.

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~ by James on December 16, 2011.

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