Customers Behaving Badly

Okay. I know I shouldn’t be ordering fast food but from a recent visit, I noticed something very bizarre. I watched three different orders placed with three identical outcomes. The first person ordered a cheeseburger. The next person ordered a meal with extra special sauce. The last person ordered a two cheeseburger meal. What made this whole encounter amazing is that each of the customers returned his or her food citing an error. The first person told another fast food worker she didn’t want cheese on her burger. The second person returned his food saying there were too many pickles on it. The last person claimed that she said she didn’t want onions on her burgers. I could clearly overhear the conversation because I had nothing better else to do. But it felt as if people are complaining just because they can. I was so interested in this rare form of people watching that I purposely sat and watched customers repeatedly do the same thing by saying an order and complaining about the outcome they initially never raised.

Is there some form of code or culture that allows us to waste products by laying false blame? I would argue that it is entirely acceptable to return French fries because they might be cold. But to turn away cooked food and have it remade because you didn’t specify how you wanted it prepared has to be the newest form of people behaving badly.

After my meal, I made it a point to ask a manager on duty about my discovery. The McDonalds manager told me that it happens all the time. In fact, she instructs her cashiers to repeat the order like they would in a drive-thru lane. The customer agrees and yet there is an inaccuracy complaint. She said, “people want to complain some of the time” but must throw away the food according to law and reissue the order. The only suffering is the customer having to wait a longer period to have his or her order remade. She did mention that fast food locations are testing new phone apps that allow a person to place an order and make custom orders like no onions or extra cheese. But will this change the culture or attitude of those that habitually want to complain about others errors? My guess is no.

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