What is it about customer service nowadays?

I went to McDonald’s for dinner tonight, because I just couldn’t bring myself to put the chicken I’d thawed out into the oven. This was, without a doubt, the worst trip to McDonald’s I’ve ever made.

For starters, the line was ridiculously long at the Drive-Thru. It was nine at night; there was no earthly reason they should be backed up at that time. Unfortunately, this isn’t an uncommon occurrence at this particular McDonald’s. It says to me that the management can’t seem to run a tight enough ship that they have enough of what they need for whatever people do show up at that time. This is the first sign that things aren’t as they should be.

The second is when I actually place my order. I pull up to the order-placing-thingie (speaker?) and despite my already-long wait, the guy running the register said something along the lines of “Welcome to McDonald’s, you’re going to have to wait a minute.” I am not kidding. Let’s ignore the fact that it was busy for a second and look at what it was that he said. First, while I’m not entirely sure that was exactly what he said, that was the gist of what he said; what’s more, it was said in a way that made it sound like I was inconveniencing him. I mean, the gall of me to want to order food.

Now, let’s address the “we’re busy” issue: When I worked at McDonald’s (all of six months, but this actually demonstrates how easy this is), I could easily take a customer’s money and place another order at the same time. What’s so hard about it? This guy was making it plainly obvious that he couldn’t do both separately, let alone simultaneously.

When he finally got to me, I began to place my order, and he interrupted me. If he had let me finish speaking, he would have known what else I wanted, but no; he decided it was more important to get the question out.

Fast forward a few minutes, when I finally pull up to the window. Yes, it really took that long. The guy wasn’t at the window any longer, and I’m starting to wonder if that ended up being a good thing or a bad thing. In his place was a girl who made it blatantly apparent that I was severely annoying her by being there. There was no greeting, no smile (I’ll get to the smiles in a little bit), and what’s more, she had no idea which order I had made. I had to tell her what my order was—again. This was apparently because she had to double-check to make sure that nobody had screwed up and charged somebody for the wrong order.

She didn’t give me a total or anything; she just held out her hand, as if to say, “Well, it’s not going to pay for itself.” I handed her my money, not even certain whether I’d get appropriate change back. Luckily, I did, and she handed me my order. I asked for some barbecue sauce for my chicken nuggets, and she replied simply with “We don’t have any of that,” as if I’d asked the stupidest question in the world.

Well, last time I checked, barbecue sauce is something that’s offered with nuggets. Let’s ignore the fact that she’s supposed to ask if I want any sauce to go with my nuggets. But “We don’t have any of that”? What the hell? To clarify, I asked if they were out of barbecue sauce, and with another semi-exasperated look, she said yes, that they were out. Boy, wouldn’t it have been easier if she’d merely said that they were out?

Then, to pour salt in the wound, she merely turned away from me. Not satisfied with that, I extended a “Have a nice night” to her and drove off.

Let’s examine this step by step.

First: The mismanagement in terms of keeping proper amounts of product for people to be served in a decent amount of time. From the moment I drove up to the joint until I left, about fifteen minutes passed. Fast food? I think not. If this was an isolated incident, I could understand that maybe they just weren’t ready for a rush of customers, but this is a regular occurrence with this particular store.

Second: Being so curtly told that I was going to have to wait. Being busy is no excuse to act this way to a customer.

Third: The dismissive attitude with which I was treated by the girl at the window.

What has happened to customer service in this society? In every situation where I worked to serve other people, I’ve always made sure that the customer felt as if they were the only person in the world and that I was there just to help them. I smiled. Smiling can go a long way toward disarming a potentially annoyed customer. In all honesty, I can’t think of a single instance of buying fast food in the last, oh, year or so where the person actually smiled for me. If we couldn’t help a customer (as in, for example, being out of a particular product), I would politely explain how sorry I was that we weren’t able to fulfill their request, and I almost always offered a suggestion for what we could do in its place. Again, something I haven’t seen much, if at all, in recent memory.

When did working in service positions become an entitlement issue? It’s almost as if these people seem to think that I owe them something because they’re there to help me. No. I don’t owe them anything, because I am the one who is paying for the service.

We need to start realizing that a lack of customer service contributes directly to a lack of interest in the product. When people feel good after working with us, they’re more likely to return. A little more pleasantry and a little less expectation from those we serve might just make us all feel a little better. It’s a thought worth having.