Jody Vance

Chewing on Automation – by Jody


Getty Images: Richard T. Nowitz

This post will not be what you expect.  Yes, I am about to complain about McDonald’s, however, I’m not going to talk about pink-goo-nuggets or what type of fat is in the fryers or EVEN what’s in the fries.

Comment away about the nutritional facts, I know them.  I know how some say that this junk food is worse than handing your child poison.  There are a zillion reasons why you should not consider any fast-food a meal option.  That is not the topic here.

The topic here is the lost art of training customer service.

Me and my kid love McDonald’s — we like burgers and fries.  We do.

We are “out” about it – even as my holistic nutritionist bestie tells me over and over that it’s evil – we treat it as a TREAT, not a meal.  Moderation – our cheat.

There are closet Big Mac’ers and McChicken’ers, you know who you are.  So many of us grew up with that french fry flavour being the taste of fun, and often post-amateur-sports reward.  It’s part of the memory bank of childhood fun (scary clown and all).

Now, to my point, this is an honest mommy blog about how far this iconic fast-food brand has slipped.

Last weekend I had a car load of kids — post 5K dog walk in the rain — I offered up a McDonald’s stop.  As is often the case with the surprise treat, the response was: “Whoa, didn’t see that coming!!!”  They were thrilled.

I called out, “OK, what’s your order?”

Kid 1: “I want a quarter pounder, no cheese, ONLY ketchup.”

Kid 2: “I want a quarter pounder, with cheese, nothing else on it.”

Kid 3: “I will have a quarter pounder, with cheese, and all the stuff they usually put on it, except pickles.” (we could take the pickle off)

OK, so….the drive thru at 41st and Arbutus (the only drive thru McD’s west of Main and Terminal) was packed.  Jammed with bad drivers in massive SUV’s.  I opted to do the dash-in-and-order to save time.

I walked in and was blown away by the change in this space that had always been so predictably familiar.  The joys of going to McDonald’s had always been that NO MATTER WHERE you went to one…you could expect – almost to the slightest detail – familiarity.  Not this day. It was the twilight zone.

There was one, unfamiliar, line up with a massive “ORDER HERE” sign, beside a wide counter to the left with an equally large “PICK UP HERE”.  I followed the masses and stepped to the order here line and waited.

My turn came and there was the rather pimply pubescent face, clad in polyester, behind the counter — but gone was the eager smile and practised: “welcome to McDonald’s may I take your order?”.  Instead I was met with pouty face that looked lost.  I laid out the order that you see above — the one easily dictated to me by 8 year olds.  The slightly put out worker behind the counter couldn’t grasp it, he actually asked “so, you don’t want any meat on two of those, right?”  I almost didn’t know how to respond.

Good timing here to point that I have worked in fast food: Dairy Queen was my first job and I spent my high school years at Kentucky Fried Chicken.  I’ve been that teen in polyester, I’ve taken thousands of orders in my time, and was proud to deliver hot “food” fast to satisfied patrons.

Back to McDonald’s last weekend…  After a solid five times going over my three burger order — I went to stand in the PICK UP group.  In this new age McDonalds imagine it’s where the guy waiting for a cup of coffee finds himself behind the construction worker there in for a dozen crew Big Macs, next to the kid with the now melted soft serve cone — all being laughed at by the make-it-to-order-we-will-deliver-it-to-your-table folks who just pressed a bunch of options on an oversized iPad thingy.

OMG I’m old.  Fine, I’m old…old and all of a sudden nostalgic for customer service.

All of this isn’t even my beef (pun intended).  After my painful ordering I perused my receipt only to notice that there were only two burgers rung in.  Back to the ORDER HERE line.  Same annoyed employee, (who, this time I interrupted during his snack of a small fries while standing at his till – a fireable offence back in the day) looks at me with a slightly veiled eye roll.  I pointed out his error and we went back to the original confused order.  We had to get a manager.  (Can you imagine?)  Three burgers and we need a manager.   The reason to GO to McDonald’s is that it’s convenient….this was anything but.

Finally, 15 minutes after first walking in, I retrieved my bag of burgers.  I hightailed it back to the car – only to find that the 3-burger order was wrong.

Quarter Pounder with cheese w/ ketchup (wrong), Quarter pounder with cheese with nothing else on it, and a Quarter Pounder with cheese as it usually comes.

Back in I went, back in the “ORDER HERE” line.  Same kid, now I’m frustrated at the 20+ minutes this was taking….he tracked down the same manager — he apologized and then disappeared.  Off I went to the PICK UP HERE line — you betcha, stuck behind another big order. I lost count of the minutes burned getting junk food for the carload of kids.

Zero customer service.  I’m not sure the “crew behind the counter” even realized their was a gathering of “guests” in front of them.  I watched as they ran in circles, doing nothing really — eating fries and chatting, a couple of them leaning against the counter drinking coffees out of logo’d paper cups.

I waited for my number to be called, it was anything but service. More than the wait, and the complete lack of customer interaction, I pined for lost art of training — something McDonalds was famous for.

Automation is ruining McDonalds.  Automation is ruining a young work force.  Automation is ruining customer service.

End Rant.

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  • Reply sharonhales November 29, 2016 at 9:24 am

    Once upon a time I worked at McDonalds. The manager at the next job I had said that the reason he hired me was because McDonalds was renowned for their training skills. They had a motto: ABC – Always Be Cleaning. I worked my tail off – they used to give incentives for selling a lot in an hour – once I sold $500 worth of product – but lost my enthusiasm for it when I realized I just put $500 into someone else’s pocket and only $2.60 or so into mine after deductions. Maybe that’s part of the problem?

    This summer we drove across Canada and ended up inside more McDonalds than I care to remember. Each one had that silly ordering machine. The person at the register? They spent most of their time just idly standing there. Seemed odd. Maybe it’s time for individual McD’s to review their hiring and training practices.

    • Reply Jody Vance November 29, 2016 at 9:50 am

      Exactly! It’s incredibly gratifying to have you hear my point so clearly and quickly. We love that you commented here and that you are reading #mybackyard.


  • Reply Ian Strachan November 29, 2016 at 9:53 am

    Unfortunately it’s not just McDonalds the same can be said for most retail outlets.

  • Reply Wendy Beckett November 29, 2016 at 9:54 am

    Ouch…….what an awful experience for you. I looked in at the McDonalds in Walmart here yesterday to see if they were doing what the new TV ad shows……the careful make up of each burger and the delivery to you at your table,,,,,,,,,HUH! I just knew that was not going to happen here and I was right.

  • Reply Leslie Hill November 29, 2016 at 8:26 pm

    Count me in on the chorus of “back in the day…” I too worked at McDonalds and worked my tail off for my $2.35/hr (the boys started at $2.50/hr!) and was also told at my next job that I was hired in part because I had worked at McD’s. If you want $15/hr minimum wage my order better be perfect every damn time. =)

    • Reply Jody Vance November 29, 2016 at 10:24 pm

      Amen Leslie. Amen.

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