What not to do at a drive-thru

I have been working at several drive-thru jobs for a net of four years, and please hold your sympathies to yourself — the jobs are fun. I’ve worked at B&G Milky Way, Dairy Queen, Scooters and Coffea, and I have encountered a significant amount of people who appear to have no idea how to use a drive-thru in a pleasant manner.

Thusly, I have five tips to offer that apply to any drive-thru experience.

1. Don’t smoke.

Do not light up at or before the drive-thru. I once had a customer who, after I asked how they were, greeted me by blowing a cloud of smoke in my face.

I promptly slammed the window closed.

In addition,, do not drop cigarette butts at the window, because the smell lingers. This absolutely seems like common sense, but I encounter about three people smoking at the drive-thru each day.

2. Respond to the worker.

This one is a little less intuitive, as it happens more often. But, when you are welcomed to the drive-thru, whether that be via a speaker or in person, you must respond, no matter what.

If you don’t know what you want yet, say you don’t know what you want yet. I understand that people don’t always want to talk to others, but when you choose to go to a drive-thru, you are signing a silent contract to speak to another human for just a few minutes.

As customer-service people, we match customer’s energy. If I ask someone how they’re doing and they don’t ask that question back, I assume they don’t want to be talked to. Remember that this is a real, human person you’re talking to, and they pick up on verbal cues.

3. No sunglasses.

This one doesn’t matter as much, because the customer might have light-sensitive eyes or some other condition. That being said, I find it rude when someone refuses to take off their sunglasses or even turn their head toward me while I run their credit card.

A simple solution is a smile. A smiling person with sunglasses makes me forget that they’re wearing shades.

4. Don’t hang your payment out of your stupid window until you hear the total.

It is extremely rude to just hold your debit card/money/gift card/whatever out of your window before the worker even arrives. Personally, I will refuse to take it at first and take my time with loading up the total so they feel awkward. Just keep your payment in the car until you hear the total.

5. Sorry, could you repeat that?

. . . is not a rude question. Every drive-thru employee that’s asked that question has felt bad about asking it.

When they ask you, don’t speak in a terser tone, don’t sigh impatiently, don’t say exactly what you said in the same tone and speed. What you need to do is apologize (which is not necessary, but you’re speaking to customer-service people who say and hear “sorry” about 100 times a day) and say what you said louder or slower. This is a standard procedure, and is nothing to worry about.

Drive-thru employees already have a tough enough time with some extremely rude and entitled people. The reason I implore all people to be kind to these workers is more than self-interest. It’s not easier to be nice to a stranger who takes your money in exchange for a burger or a coffee, but it is the right thing to do.


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