Confessions of a Fast Food Worker

{From Bailey, Precariosities’ Director of Content}



I am a Dairy Queen employee. I prefer ice cream extraordinaire. Because it sounds cooler.


In all honesty, I’m primarily summer help at DQ. I love it, because blizzards are famous, so I kind of feel like I’m famous by association. It’s a stretch, but I take it and run with it. It’s all I’ve got, okay?


The problem with being a fast food worker—or any type of customer service worker—is how thankless it is. My mom always told me I needed to work either fast food or retail. I hated the idea. I don’t anymore.

Since becoming employed at Dairy Queen, I’ve learned so much about grace. I’ve learned how to give it when people don’t even know they need to ask. I’ve learned how to ask for it from people who may or may not be willing to give it.

When you step into the customer service industry, you learn quickly that the customer is always right. That’s just how it is. No rhyme or reason. You can make what you think is the perfect blizzard, and someone is going to find that one tiny piece of M&M you dropped in there.

So what do you do? Smile and make them a new one. Apologize. Profusely.

That’s the story. It’s simple, but it’s also kind of not. Especially for someone like me—who hates being wrong. But learning how to serve others well is invaluable. Even when people are unfair and demanding and rude.

As a fast food worker, I’ve found that people treat me differently when I’m wearing the (oh-so-classy) visor. When I’m behind the counter, I am irrelevant. Just that one girl who is standing there to take and make orders. And yet, some of the very same people who breeze by me at DQ—who treat me like I’m incompetent for working in the fast food industry—will see me at different times throughout the year and ask me how my life is going.

Imagine my surprise upon realizing it’s not me people are ignoring. It’s the fast food worker.

People who work in customer service are not worth less. They aren’t in this industry because they’re too lazy to go anywhere else. They’re in the industry to work. They’re in the industry because it is either their career or the job they’ll have until they can pursue a different career. My manager at DQ works hard—too many hours—and doesn’t get appreciated nearly enough. I work at DQ in this transition period of life, trying to earn money so I can have savings and eventually afford adulthood.

Civility is impossible when we lose the truth that all people have value, simply because they are humans. I am the fast food worker behind the counter, and I’m not worth any less than the businessman who swings by the drive-thru on his lunch break.

I love being the worker behind the counter. It’s thankless and messy and stressful. But I cannot tell you how much more I appreciate everyone else behind the counter now that I know what it’s like back there.

We aren’t ER doctors. Not even close. I don’t save any lives at the local DQ. It’s not a terribly hard job. But it is a job, and I can testify to the fact that it is so much more enjoyable when people come through the doors and treat me like a human being.

I don’t think minimum wage should be raised. I don’t think I deserve a Nobel Prize for making a really good blizzard. (Okay, actually, I would like a Nobel Prize because I made a top-notch sundae last week.) I don’t think I should get any more recognition than the next person who clocks in and out of work on time.

But I do think I deserve to be treated like a living, breathing human being. My worth isn’t grounded in the visor I wear or the ice cream I make. I—along with my co-workers and every other Homo sapien—have value simply because we are people.



I work fast food. I am an ice cream extraordinaire. I really like my job. My job has taught me patience. It has given me a window into what customer service is like. I have endless respect for people who spend their entire lives in customer service, because it is undervalued and overly exhausting.


Sometimes I screw up orders. I make mistakes. I am not perfect. But no one is. Next time you’re in a fast food restaurant, maybe try to see the people behind the counter as just that: People. Imperfect people.

Before you go:

Anyone ever worked in customer service? What was your experience like? What did you learn?


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