On February 20, in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio, police were called to a Taco Bell because a customer thought her French fries were too salty. She also thought the best way to remedy this problem was to challenge an employee to a fist fight. Fortunately, the customer took off in her car as the police arrived, before things could get violent. Sigh.
I want to say this nugget of info from Cleveland.com’s police blotter is but a quirky anomaly in the food news cycle, like that time 50,000 apples were stolen from a pick-your-own orchard, or when a customer upset by an insufficient amount of hot sauce held up the entire drive-thru line to make a point about... something. In a different world, I would be saying, “Fighting over salty fries? That’s highly irregular!” Alas, we do not live in that world, and I come across stories just like this at least once a week. Lest you think this is a solely American problem, I’m sad to report that it is not. In 2005 a McDonald’s in Scotland began playing classical music in an attempt to calm customers down after having 200 incidents that required police intervention in the span of 14 months; the strategy was later adopted by locations in England and Australia that faced similar problems. I haven’t done a thorough examination of fast-food-related violence worldwide because I don’t need more reasons to be disappointed, but if you feel you can handle it, search “fast food fight” on YouTube and prepare to have your spirit broken.
It’s unfortunate to have to reiterate this, but: If you go to a fast food restaurant and are unhappy with your order or any other part of the experience, please do not verbally or physically attack the employees. The Taco Bell employee who over-salted that woman’s fries (if they were actually over-salted at all) isn’t being paid a lot of money—not enough to cover many basic expenses and certainly not enough to deal with anything close to the behavior that these police blotters are always describing. On top of being no type of way to treat a fellow human being, turning to abuse will guarantee you won’t get what you wanted in the first place. Know what will? Asking for something rather than demanding it. Explaining the mixup rather than punishing someone for what you perceive as the ultimate injustice.
On the flip side, if you’re pleased with your transaction, compliment the employee to their manager, if you can. Even better: check the bottom of your receipt to see how you can send a customer service review to corporate and leave a nice note. (Bonus: you’ll often get a coupon for a free item for doing this, so everyone wins!) It only takes a minute to do, but it can make a big impact. Heck, you can build a moment of “customer satisfaction survey time” into your morning Twitter scrolling. And if you have a problem, approach the staff in a way that focuses on the issue, not the person fielding it. The way to convey an incorrect order is to say, “I’d like my missing Crunchwrap Supreme,” not, “I’d like to lecture you about how you’ve wasted my valuable time.”
When you’re nice, or even just polite, the world moves along more smoothly. It’s a system that’s easy and effective. There are so many real, terrifying problems in this world we live in. Nobody needs to be risking people’s safety (or jail time) over salty French fries.