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Molly Peach / Her Campus
Life > Experiences

32 of the Worst Things You Can Do in a Drive-Thru

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at VCU chapter.

We’ve all been there—on a long road trip, passing a Chick-fil-a and suddenly realizing how hungry you are. Making a quick judgement call, you go through the drive-thru to spare some time on your trip. Or perhaps you just ate at a really fancy restaurant (AKA you had a very small, unsatisfying portion) so you run through a McDonald’s drive-thru afterwards. Whatever the scenario is, chances are you definitely have some sort of drive-thru experience, as the NPD Group reports that customers made 12.4 BILLION trips through drive-throughs in 2011 and 2012 alone. Quick Service Restaurant and Insula Research say that 50 to 70 percent of sales come through a drive-thru window. Between 12.4 billion trips to a drive through, there should be some drive through experts out there, right?

Whether you’re going through a drive through to save time or just out of convenience, drive through’s have made access to food that much easier. But are you making your drive through cashier’s life harder than it needs to be? These are the things you should never do in a drive through to make your experience and your cashier’s day a little easier:

1. Speaking too softly. Don’t be scared to speak up. Speak up to ensure that your drive-thru cashier can hear and understand your entire order completely.

2. Yelling. On the other hand, you don’t need to yell your order at the cashier, either. Actually, you don’t need to yell in general.

3. Speaking too slowly. Your cashier might be a high school student working a minimum wage job, but they’re not dumb. You don’t need to speak at a super slow pace for them to be able to ring in your order.

4. Speaking too fast. Then again, your cashier’s fingers only move so fast! Bottom line; just speak in your normal tone and speed.

5. Skipping the ordering box or window. When you miss the spot to order or pay, you’ve thrown off the entire order of the drive-thru. All of the orders behind you have been set back minutes—which is like hours in drive-thru time. If you realize you missed the place to order, pull back around.

6. Not knowing what you want. Menus at places with drive-thrus don’t change often. If you’re going to need more than three minutes to look at a menu and decide what you want, you’re better off just coming inside instead of holding up the line.

7. Using the drive-thru on your first visit. Do not—I repeat, DO NOT—use the drive-thru if it is your first ever visit to said restaurant. If you’ve never seen the menu before in your life, come inside and get your order to go.

8. Changing or adding to your order when you get to the next window. Order everything you need at the ordering window or box. If you want an empty cup or an extra spoon, say so at the beginning. That way, your cashier can write the specifics on your order. By the time you get ready to pick up your food, you’re entire order will be complete; extra spoons and cups included. When you get your food and THEN decide to add two more things to your order, you’ve added on to others (and your own!) wait time and the drive-thru workers have to scramble to fulfill your order in seconds.

9. Not pulling forward. Don’t be scared of the car in front of you. In the drive-thru, pull forward as much as possible to allow more cars to enter the drive through and avoid back-ups.

10. Asking 1,000 questions at the ordering box. Your cashier isn’t going to be able to tell you the calorie count, gluten content and all substitution options for every item on the menu in under three minutes. If you need this information, come inside and inquire or call ahead so an employee can give you the information before you get to the drive thru.

11. Telling the cashier to “hold on”.  Your drive-thru cashier simply wants to take your order and expedite the drive through process as much as possible. When they ask, “Is there anything else I can get for you?” or “Is that everything on your order today?” do not rudely reply “Yeah, if you could just hold on.”

12. Having a passenger try to yell the order. No, the cashier cannot hear any passengers yelling their orders from the backseat. The driver, the closest person to the box, should recite the entire order.

13. Smoking in your car. You might not mind the smell of smoke in your own car, but your drive-thru workers would really appreciate not having the smoke in their faces when you pull up.

14. Sitting at the ordering box to count change. Using a credit or debit card is the most efficient way to pay in a drive thru. However, if you want to pay in exact change, don’t sit at the ordering box to count it out. Pull forward to the next window and then count your change. This way, the cashier can continue to take orders while you count.

15. Having more than two separate transactions. Your cashier will gladly break things down into separate transactions for you. Make sure to specify that there are separate orders and what will be on each when ordering, not when you’re getting ready to pay. Although, if you have more than two different transactions, it’s easier for you and your party to order inside.

16. Trying to be funny. This is Burger King, so no; we do not have a Big Mac. You’re not in the drive-thru to be an entertainer.

17. Not turning off your diesel truck. Remember how loud your truck is? Think about how loud it is in the ear of an unsuspecting drive through cashier who can’t hear what you’re saying.

18. Cutting off or interrupting your cashier when they’re talking. If you’re cashier is trying to repeat your order back to you or ask a question for clarity, don’t interrupt them. Wait until they’ve clarified your order before cutting them off.

19. Hitting on the cashier. Okay, really though, the drive-thru is not an ideal dating pool. Order your food, get your food and get on your way.

20. Not having your money ready. Nine times out of 10, there’s either a screen with your order total printed or your cashier will tell you your total before you pull off. Have some form of payment ready, or at least have your wallet out, when you get ready to pay. Your cashier does not want to wait on you to dig through your car or your pockets.

21. Asking for a friend. I’m sure your cashier is thrilled that your homie John works here, but your cashier doesn’t have time to waste because you want your friend to come talk to you in the drive-thru.

22. Asking for a manager. Certainly ask for a manager if your service in the drive-thru was awful and you need to speak to management immediately. What you shouldn’t do is come through the drive through and say “I’m just here to speak to a manager”. Come inside if you need to speak with a store manager.

23. Pulling too far away—and then reversing to try and fix it. Sometimes drive-thru cashier’s leave their extendo-arms at home. Pull as reasonably close to the drive through lane as possible. If by chance you aren’t as close as you think, don’t freak out and reverse to try to fix it. Putting your car in reverse in a drive through literally sends every single car behind you into a panic.

24. Pulling up too close. Try not to take out the building and your cashier when you’re trying to pull up closely.

25. Saying “hello?” into the microphone. Um, hello, where do you think your cashier went? Your cashier didn’t just disappear into thin air. You can continue with your order without your cashier saying “okay” after everything you say.

26. Driving off before the cashier reads your order back to you or tells you your total. Okay Mr. I’m in such a rush I can’t wait 10 more seconds—So now how does your cashier know if you just drove off because you’re impatient or if you drove off and left the drive through completely?

27. Not responding when you’re greeted or asked a question. Yes, all drive-thru cashiers are mind readers. No, you don’t even have to respond when they ask you what you want. (But really, just say SOMETHING.)

28. Not turning your music off. Thanks for the free concert, but your cashier really can’t hear you over the Beyoncé album you’re blasting in your car.

29. Getting out of your car to use the restroom, etc. Let’s get this straight…you stopped your car in the middle of the drive-thru lane so that your passengers could get out and walk inside to use the bathroom….and you’re in the drive-thru lane because….?

30. Talking on the phone. This is rude when you come inside to order and it’s rude when you go through the drive-thru. Put your phone call on hold for five minutes.

31. Pulling a trailer, boat, etc. If you’re pulling a trailer or a boat behind your car, you’re taking up literally two to three more spaces that other cars could use. The drive-thru runs a lot smoother with regular-sized cars.

32. Arguing with someone in the car. Your cashier is awkwardly sitting there just listening to you argue with your passenger. Please spare them that awkwardness.

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