By Lacy Hiliard
The fast food industry is one of the largest employers in Johnson County. These franchise establishments provide employment to a variety of people from high school students to middle age workers. It is often assumed that working in fast food is a no brainer and an easy way to earn a dollar. As a former fast food employee, I can tell you that nothing is further from the truth. Knowing the perils I have faced in this field, I was inspired to find out what several other locally employed fast food workers thought about their jobs and what they would like the public to know about what they do.
There are several shifts per day at fast food restaurants due to the long hours of operation. Because fast food is notorious for low wages and no benefits; dependable employees arent always easy to come by. If the person thats supposed to relieve you doesnt show up for work, you face leaving the next shift short-handed or working a double shift. Fast food workers are often on their feet for eight or more hours per day; in many instances with no breaks. Though the lack of breaks reported in comparison with the duration of hours worked is in violation of federally mandated labor laws, the majority of employees reported this as a frequent occurrence. While the nature of the work may seem uncomplicated and non-labor intensive, the fast paced environment provides a monotony of physical tasks that become draining over the duration of the shift. Movements like bending, twisting, reaching, and lifting are a constant and the expectation is rapid production.
Though the physical demands can be challenging over time, the most common complaint from fast food workers was the working atmosphere. More than one fast food employee reported having food thrown at them by disgruntled customers. Every employee asked relayed accounts of customers yelling at them and using profanity. One employee recounted a situation where a customer became inflamed because the restaurant was out of a particular ingredient and responded by holding up his middle finger in close proximity to the employees face only to exit the restaurant and stand at the front door while continuing the less-than-friendly gesture. Another local fast food employee relayed her account of a situation where a customer physically assaulted her. According to the employee, the patron saw an ad on television about a promotional discount and when the employee informed the customer that the offer wasnt valid at that particular establishment; the customer grabbed the employee by the shirt collar and shook her.
The employees interviewed were asked what they want the public to know about their jobs. Many said that its frustrating when customers get angry with them because often the source of their anger is something out of the employees control. Even managers spoke about the lack of control corporate restrictions and franchise owners allow them to have. Another employee said that they wish customers would realize that not everyone that works in fast food does so because they are of inferior intelligence or self-worth. The flexible hours attract people like college students and even professionals that are looking to earn a boost in their salary. Sadly, every employee reported at least one account of a customer treating them as though they are stupid and sometimes the customer even verbalized the sentiment. Overall the employees just wanted to remind customers that the next time they step foot in a fast food restaurant, they should remember that they are not in Le Petit Nice and while the employees are there to provide a service, they are not there to be doormats.
By Lacy Hiliard