What Not to Say to Fast Food Workers

By: Kiki Arochas Shneur Agronin  |  May 10, 2024

By Kiki Arochas, Staff Writer and Shneur Agronin, Staff Writer

Sometimes, after an exhausting day of classes, studying, exams, or abject boredom, the last thing you’d like to do is prepare a meal yourself (and caf food, is, well, caf food). So, like many others in your shoes, you decide to head to one of several restaurants which cater (pun quite intended) to the needs of a stressed-out student body whose members like to indulge in some greasy and satisfying fast food of questionable quality. We’ve all been there. While neither we nor health inspectors can truly guarantee either the freshness or nutritional value of whatever you decide to order, we can certainly promise you one thing: the poor sap taking your order has had a worse day than you. From personal experience, the authors of this article, and anyone who has worked in fast food, can rattle off endless lists of the disadvantages and downfalls suffered in the course of trying to make an extra buck on the side. Yet, salaries lower than the Dead Sea’s elevation and obligatory shifts often lasting deep into the night grow more tolerable with time. Do you know what generally doesn’t? Rude, mean-spirited, inconsiderate, and entitled customer demands and attitudes. During our months working in the fast food industry, we’ve encountered it all and compiled the worst of the worst into a short list of things not to say to any fast food worker should you possess a beating heart. Unfortunately, it took us about thirty seconds to come up with this list – we wish we were joking. 

  1. “What’s the difference between x and y?”

Questions are fine, welcome even, if they are necessary. If you’re unsure about something such as an allergen or kashrus, ask about it… with one crucial caveat: make sure you’ve read the menu first. Unless you’re illiterate (in which case, you’ve got bigger fish to fry than whatever it is we’re frying in the kitchen), there is no reason to ask questions about menu items whose details are – shockingly – described on the menu. “Oh, I’ve practically glued my eyes to a screen or textbook all day, it’s so much easier to just ask,” you may reason. Well, so has every other person who ordered before you, and your question will be the hundredth or so like it we will have encountered that day. 

  1. “But the owner always lets me do that!”

Listen, we’d like to believe that most people are honest. We don’t assume someone is lying unless we’ve got a reason to suspect as much. Nevertheless, just how many people can claim to have “special permission” from the restaurant’s owner before that permission doesn’t seem so special anymore? “Yeah, yeah, just charge me the same for extra beef, the owner always lets me do that when he’s here!” “Come on, whaddaya mean I can’t have a free order of fries? The owner even gives me two when she’s around!” “What? This extra large, fully loaded laffa costs money? But I’m the owner’s fifth cousin fourteen times removed and he gives me that and a salad, free of charge!” Well, we don’t really care. If the owner isn’t here, don’t ask for some unique privilege which we’ll just get yelled at about later when the owner finds out about your shenanigans. Pay the extra few bucks it normally costs or accept that the owner isn’t here and we have less authority than whatever a University Provost is. Isn’t it peculiar that these close friends and family members rarely seem to stop by when the owner is actually around? 

  1. “Can I speak to the manager?”

If there are six words to send chills down every vertebra in our spines, these are the ones. We implore you, we beg of you, do not ever ask this question. Seriously, please allow us to preserve any morsel of dignity still miraculously left within us despite working at a fast food joint. Unless you’ve (G-d forbid) just suffered a nearly fatal foodborne allergic reaction or been violently mugged by one of us employees, we promise that whatever problem you’ve encountered is minor enough to warrant an exercise in patience over an expression of pamperedness. Maybe we’ve mistakenly overcharged you or accidentally packaged an order incorrectly – sh’giyos mi yavin: nobody is safe from error. If you absolutely feel the need to air your grievances, just let us know as politely as you can. Please don’t cost us our source of income because one of your fries was burnt and the manager feels compelled to placate you by replacing us. 

  1. “Do you have any locally sourced, non–GMO, organic, vegan, halal, gluten-free, dairy-free, and food-free options?” 

Ma’am, this is a pizza store.

  1. “Oh, you’re closed? Can’t you just check the kitchen?”

We don’t care that your five kids below the age of 12 are all starving. We don’t care that this is your family’s favorite restaurant, and we really don’t care that you have been waiting all week to come here. When we say the restaurant is closed, it is closed, not open to negotiations. We and the workers in the back have been here for 7 hours longer than you have. Asking what we have in the back is plain disrespectful. Go to any of the other hundred kosher restaurants in this area. 

  1. You close at 8? But it’s 7:55!”

No. No no no no no no no no no no. See, we leave at 8. We stop getting paid at 8. But that by no means is to be understood as “you can order until 8.” We start cleaning up the kitchen and countertop early enough so that we can leave by 8. Have a good night.