Since arriving in Caruthersville, I've come to learn, through disappointing experience, that getting fast food orders wrong is the rule rather than the exception. Fast food, and particularly McDonald's, was a once a week staple back home. The order rarely varied - A quarter pounder with cheese, two apple pies, and a large hot vanilla latte for Don and a quarter pounder meal for me. What's to get wrong, right? I won't go into details at this point but suffice it to say that any variation beyond this simple order inevitably got screwed up. Generally, this involved items that were left out of the order. After the third time, I started scrupulously checking the contents of my bag before leaving.
I also started trying other fast food option. C'ville also has a Taco Bell. Back home, the Taco Bell was always busy and so I rarely waited in the long lines I would, with certainty, see there. But I did remember that I liked Taco Bell. So, feeling nostalgic, I drove through the Taco Bell drive-thru and ordered the 12 taco meal, a super big something (I forget what) to share with Don and a side of rice and beans. And yes I did check the bag but this was after I was getting what felt like a bum's rush for me to get going. The long and the short of it was that the side of rice was NOT in the bag and the small item that came with the super big something was on the bottom and had been flattened. Included in the bag was enough mild taco sauce packets that I could have made a base for a tortilla soup. And yes, I did open, empty, and freeze the contents. It would have been sinfully wasteful to dump all of it.
And so went my Taco Bell experience. Once was enough. On to Sonic. Really Sonic, how hard is it to screw up a hamburger order? Well, apparently not hard at all. Two cheese burgers with fries, please, one with mustard and ketchup and one with mustard only. The mustard and ketchup order was fine. The mustard only - not so much. There was NO mustard. AND there was no tomato, lettuce, and onion either. The burger was incomplete. Hoping to hide the incompleteness, at least, from Don, I switch out my bun which had the goodies on it. But it was our mustard that graced the buns. No more Sonic for us. When service gets so bad that you are forced in the direction of not only checking the completeness of your order but also checking to make sure the burger is built right - well - enough is just flat out ENOUGH.
Six weeks in and the mind boggles at the sloppy dispensing of orders at three different location by three different fast food chains. And along with the sloppiness was an attitude of service from the clerks that just couldn't be overlooked. I'm used to smiles, politeness, and friendliness. What I get is something that borders on bland disinterest, lack of animation, and in the one case, a serious case of the bum's rush. I don't get it. In an area that suffers upwards to 40% unemployment, these young people have JOBS. Are service standards so low that they feel confident that their jobs are safe?
On the upside to all this, there is also a Subway in town. Subway has been a winner. Friendly clerks and food prepared correctly is a perfect prescription for many return visits. Subway has become my new go-to fast food place. As for the rest, I'm going to be better prepared with my personal grocery shopping and make my own hamburgers and fries from now on.
Taken outside of Wellington Station in Turlock, CA
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