McDonald’s without computers

Vacation over, time to start blogging again! I had an interesting experience today. I went to McDonald’s to get out of the house for a while. They have free WiFi, so I can do my computer work while sipping a Coke in an environment that’s a little more exciting than my living room.

Anyway, when I walked in I did not hear their standard greeting of “Welcome to McDonald’s”. Instead I was greeted with “We can only take cash right now.” Well, my family is on a cash-only budget system, so that was fine with me. Their whole computer system was down. When a customer ordered something, the employee had to turn around and find it on the menu board to know how much to charge. Then write it down on paper, do the addition for multiple items, collect cash, do the math to give the customer correct change, and have the manager unlock the cash drawer so they could count out the change to the customer. Then the manager would come over, read the paper to know what was ordered, and tell the people in the back what to make.

It was interesting to see the employees have to deal with basic math skills. The man who took my order didn’t have too much trouble with it, but in similar situations in the past I’ve seen employees really struggle with that. I’m glad I live in a state with no sales tax – can you imagine the mess if they had to add, say, 7.2% sales tax to the sales? It was difficult enough seeing the employee have to add up the 7-item order the person behind me placed. I can’t imagine the delay if they had to figure percentages, too. I paid with exact change, which the employee appreciated.

It was also interesting to see how much the employees relied on the computers to do much of their jobs. Nobody knew how much things cost. While I was there, the manager realized she had overcharged the previous customer 60 cents for her Frappe, charging her the amount for something else instead. We learned that a regular hamburger is not on the menu board, so I agreed it was probably a 95 cent item and paid that amount. Without an automatic timer on the french fry station, an employee had to be stationed right there to watch the fries cook and take them out at what they believed was the correct moment.

I was rather pleased with how the employees handled things this morning. I have seen similar situations where the problem was not managed nearly as well. But it did remind me how depended some people and places have become on their computers. It is amazing to me that one can work for a restaurant but not know what menu items are available – or how much they cost – off the top of their heads. It was interesting to watch the employees do actual math to figure correct change, since I was taught a way of counting back change that doesn’t require that much math and works faster, too. Apparantly that way isn’t being taught anymore, because it is no longer needed on a daily basis. It was interesting seeing a kitchen where all the timers were computerized – not one manual kitchen timer in the whole place. Outages like they experienced today must be so rare that it isn’t worth it to keep a few battery operated items around for emergencies.

Personally, I believe in being prepared for problems. Emergencies happen no matter how well we work to avoid them, and it is prudent to be able to handle them when they happen. Murphy’s Law tends to apply to anything touched by humans or nature! I use electric lights, but own candles and a shake-powered flashlight. I use a nice stove, but own camping gear that can be used on the outside fire ring if needed. We have electric and gas heat in the house, but I have a large bin in the garage stuffed with at least 8 large blankets and quilts. Being prepared for the unexpected is simply prudent.

I hear some loud beeping coming from the McDonald’s kitchen now. Seems like their stint without computers may be over. I wonder if they wish they had been better prepared.

How prepared are YOU for the unexpected?



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