Fast Food Hell
In winter 2001, Stay Free! asked readers to tell us about any interesting or disturbing fast food experiences theyve had. Dont read this on a full stomach . . .
Upon graduating from university, I took a job flipping burgers at a Canadian fast food chain called Licks. Working at a burger joint with a diploma in my pocket was bad enough, but this job particularly sucked since all employees had to sing burger-themed songs while working. The straw that broke the camels back and led to my quitting just three shifts after Id started, however, was my nametag. A Licks uniform consists of a t-shirt, a hat, and a nametag. They charged me $5 for the t-shirt. Fine. They charged me $2 for my hat. Fine, even though my hat was used and had the name "Michelle" handwritten on the brim. But, for my nametag, which consisted (swear to god) of a safety pin attached to a plain piece of paper, they charged me 75 cents. Completely unacceptable. Totally ludicrous. I simply could not work for a company that charged 75 cents for a safety pin and a piece of paper. The end.
I used to work doing street outreach to young homeless people in the Mission District of San Francisco. The Burger King on the corner of 16th and Mission was on my outreach route. One night, my outreach partner and I were talking to a sex workerlets call her "Sparkle"who was telling us about having gotten beat up recently. We went to the Burger King to sit down and talk, a relatively common thing on outreach. My outreach partner and I were in line getting drinks, and Sparkle said to meet her "over there" and went ahead and sat down. Once we got our drinks, we went to find her and discovered that there is this little corner in the Burger King, kind of under a staircase, that seems perfectly designed as a shooting gallery (though, actually, people shoot up even in the more open areas of the Burger King, like right in front of the door). We sat down to talk with Sparkle and after about 20 minutes, she got up, said "No one move, and only Ill get arrested," and before we had a moment to respond, started smoking crack in the corner. Suddenly, my outreach partner and I found ourselves in the position of guarding the passageway to make sure no cops were coming. The smoke was pouring out of the crack pipe like a smokestack, rippling out along the ceiling into the larger BK, and I dont know if youve ever smelled crack smoke in an enclosed space, but its a really chemically, sharp, pungent odor. After about five minutes, Sparkle stopped smoking and resumed her story. From then on, we told new outreach workers in the Mission to avoid the BK.
The worst chore was cleaning the fryer hoods. Large filters coated in translucent cheese-like grease had to be removed from over the french fry machines and soaked in a janitors trash can filled with acid. Unfortunately, the arm-length rubber gloves werent as long as the bucket was deep. Fishing the last filter from the bottom of the bucket inevitably meant that blackened, lard-infused acid would trickle down your arms leaving red, vein-like rashes from armpit to fingertips. It was damn itchy, not to mention horrifying. Im grateful to the Burger King Corporation for their pivotal role in inspiring me to pursue betterment through academia.
Some Taco Bell locations have automated "talking trash compactors" that thank the user for depositing trash. When they are full, the door locks and a robotic voice cries out, "Please empty this unit." One Friday night, my wife and I stopped at a Taco Bell/KFC in western Massachusetts. The place was a total madhousethere were little kids running all over screaming and a long line of folks waiting to order. The robot trash cans filled up and started flashing and crying out to be emptied. But the staff behind the counter couldnt hear them over the noise. And so people just started to pile up their garbage next to the robot trash cans. I couldnt help but laugh at the insanity around me-the kids screaming, the robots crying out, the trash overflowing. It was a pretty amazing spectacle.
I came across a curious sign at a McDonalds not too long ago for the lobster rolls (might only be available here in New England). It read "Now with more 100% real lobster," the word "more" being smaller and unnoticeable at first glance.
I was driving and a car ahead of me had just pulled out of a McDonalds parking lot and joined the steady moving traffic. Suddenly, a convertible Miata started weaving in and out of cars, passing aggressively. It swiftly cut off the car that had pulled out of McDonalds, very narrowly missing a major accident. A few seconds later, all of us came to a red light at an intersection, and the McDonalds car pulled up alongside the Miata. The driver of the McDonalds car rightfully had a few words for the Miata driver, who barely deigned it worthy to look in his direction. As the light turned green, a Big Mac flew through the air from the McDonalds car, smacking the Miata driver right in the side of the head, spilling tomatoes and special sauce all over him and his front seat. The McDonalds car squealed into a right turn, and the Miata driver drove straight aheada little more courteouslysilently picking tomatoes from the side of his face.
Pissing in the pickle bucket: I dont remember what provoked this. One of the employees just felt the need to piss in the pickles. Most of the employees knew that the bucket had urine in with it but continued to serve the customers the "special" pickles. With the level of brine, dill, and salt in the bucket, the urine wasnt too noticeable.
Cleaning rags: If youre eating fast food and drop something on the table, I dont recommend picking it up and eating it. The rags we used for cleaning the bathroom were the same rags that were used for wiping down the tables (and the counters in the back).
Food on the floor: Youre lucky if your food only hits the floor. Ive seen burgers sneezed on and worse.
Food thrown at customers: After arguing with a customer, the guy at the drive-thru window put about 80 packs of ketchup on a burger and, when the car pulled around, threw it as hard as he could out the drive-up window into the car. I didnt see this happen, but apparently the guy and the interior of his car was coated with sauce. And the burger thrower was the manager on duty.
General filthiness: I once filled in at a nearby store, which was the dirtiest place I have ever worked. I cleaned the grill because there was so much scum and built-up grease, and was told by the shift manager that "that grill probably hadnt been cleaned in about a year." There was about a quarter inch of grease all over the floor, with little grease stalagmites and stalactites running from the edge of the grill to the floor. Flies buzzed by occasionallyand flies mean that maggots are around somewhere. The bathrooms were kind of nasty as well, though, for some reason, the parts of the store that the customers saw stayed fairly clean.
pierre de gaillande
A few years ago McDonalds, or at least my local franchise, was indulging in some kind of campaign to improve customer relations because a manager actually came over to my table and, just like at a real restaurant, asked, "Hows everything?" After staring at him blankly for a few seconds I answered, "Its McDonalds. Everything is always the same." He seemed satisfied with that.
During the summer of 1979, wed all just graduated from high school. One of my four buddies, lets call him Ben, was working the night shift at the McDonalds so hed have some spending money at college. Ben used to come up with all kinds of crazy schemes, mostly of a scientific and/or pharmaceutical nature, but this time he came up with something very different: wed rob the McDonalds. It turned out that every Tuesday and Thursday night, the night manager on Bens shift would close the restaurant, wait until every employee had gone home, and then carry the entire cash take for the day to the bank across the parking lot and toss it in a night deposit drop box. The night manager was a small, slight woman, and she was walked across the dark, deserted expanse of asphalt alone with that canvas bag full of cash. Bens plan was simple: wed put on ski masks and easily overpower her, grab the bag, and run. Wed wind up with about a thousand bucks eachand theyd never know who it was.
A thousand bucks was a hell of a lot of money, especially back when Jimmy Carter was president. Ben kept the idea alive for weeks, baiting us with grandiose nightly totals. But time was running outsoon, summer would be over and wed all scatter to our respective palaces of higher learning. Wed never get another chance. Finally, the last balmy week of August rolled aroundthis was it, do or die. "Cmon, you guys!" Ben implored. "Well be rich!" But no one did it. We just couldnt.
A little over a year ago I went to the Taco Bell near my work. I noticed a large sign displayed prominently behind the order counter: "At Taco Bell we wash AND sanitize our hands." The word "sanitize" was underlined.
I worked at Arbys when I was in high school. My first night, after my shift, my dad came in to pick me up before closing. I went out front, ducked under the counter, and turned to leave. The manager, a girl who went to my high school (but was a senior and I was a freshman), came over to me, shocked: "You NEVER go out front out of your uniform. NEVER EVER! Its . . . forbidden!" So from then on, I left out the back door.
On college road trips, when my friends and I would stop for crappy interstate food, wed get excited about any chain restaurant that wasnt Arbys. Theres nothing more boring than a franchiseunless its a franchise that doesnt exist in your region of the country. Whataburger and Burger Time, White Castle and Jack in the Box, Kenny Rogers Roasters and El PolloLoco, Del Taco and Roscoes House of Chicken n Waffles: all offered totally new set of silly corporate slogans and mascots.
My sister and I were driving home for break and dropped by Wendys to fuel up. I got a chicken sandwich. Once we were back on the highway, I took a few bites, then immediately started feeling sick. I looked at the part of the sandwich where I had taken the bite and it was completely raw. Not pinkred. (Also, once at the Ohio State University dorms, I bit into a processed chicken sandwich and it had part of a plastic bag inside of it.)