You Have One Job When Ordering Fast Food

How to avoid being a jerk in service interactions.

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People ordering in a fast food line
Photo: Sorbis (Shutterstock)

Do you know about the Disney Point? At Disney theme parks, no employee—er, sorry, “cast member”—is allowed to point anywhere with a single index finger, aka the normal way human beings point to things. Instead, they must extend two fingers, a gesture considered less severe-looking by the powers that be. I’ve always marveled at details like this, which no one but the brand itself could possibly care about. But it turns out people care way too much about the details sometimes, as is the case with Chick-fil-A corporate, which requires employees to respond a very specific way when thanked by a customer. If you make a stink about the way someone responds when you say “thank you,” you’re part of the problem.

Why Chick-fil-A employees never say “you’re welcome”

As explained in a recent Entrepreneur article, Chick-fil-A workers are trained not to say “you’re welcome,” but rather, “it’s my pleasure.” This reply, management believes, expresses more gratitude to the customer. To me, this need for the cashier to be “grateful” for the customer’s business sounds like a rather extreme, supplicating interpretation of “the customer’s always right.” But it clearly reaps rewards, because Entrepreneur points out that QSR surveys tend to rank Chick-fil-A very high on customer service attributes.

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Behaviorist Adam Grant explains that “you’re welcome” can inadvertently imply that the person you’ve helped is being a burden by requiring your help at all. “The problem [is] the subtle appeal to reciprocity,” he says, adding that he doesn’t “want to leave them feeling like they [owe] me.”

Respectfully: What the hell? That is a lot to read into one reflexively polite little phrase. And in service interactions, the one thing we can do to be better customers is give employees the benefit of the doubt.

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All the proper ways to respond to “thank you”

It turns out that there’s a whole subculture in which people scrutinize social interactions for incorrect responses to “thank you.”

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While “no problem” is a common response—one that might be a direct translation of its Spanish equivalent—lots of people hate the way that “no problem” implies that they are, somehow, a problem. The same goes for “no worries,” which sour people might counter with, “Um, I wasn’t worried. I was thanking you...”

Can we all just try assuming the best of each other here? If you’re thanking someone in a service interaction, it’s presumably because they have already performed a service for you, whether that’s fielding your order, handing off your food, letting you know if there are allergens in your Happy Meal, whatever. And if they’ve already helped you out, their duties end there; any response to your thanks is just icing on the cake.

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So, let them say “you’re welcome.” Or “no problem.” Or, really, any of these:

  • You got it!
  • Sure thing!
  • Anytime!
  • Right back at ya!
  • My pleasure!
  • No worries!
  • Happy to help!
  • Absolutely!
  • Don’t mention it!

I’m sure there are dozens of other acceptable responses, because in a world where customers don’t expect the utmost supplication from their service workers, acceptance is the best policy.

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