Monday, June 04, 2007

Spouse Sparrow talks about: How a McDonald's legend is born

Spouse Sparrow says:

During my time as a manager at a McDonald's in Belfast, the head restaurant manager was an English girl called Jill. Her style of management was bossy, she was always there to catch you doing wrong and never saying a good word about you. She was a Psychology major, as you would say here in America, and thought she knew how people's minds work. If it was some young person's first job or someone had worked there for numerous years she thought she could treat them like shit, as they wouldn't leave. One time she did say "This is all they know." I felt insulted that she had summed someone up like that, and it occurred to me that she was just a dickhead without a clue. When I get pushed I suddenly feel the urge to go slower and not really give a crap, which is why the Army didn't suit me well, and Jill pushed me.

Jill would do the 6 month Progress Reports (or P.R.s as these dreaded things were called) on her managers. If you did well you got a raise, not much but it added up with the hours you do. I used to get these from school and they usually said "quiet in class" and "must try harder." I would be doing my job, happy and content that I was doing a good job. I could motivate crewmembers, I was liked and I sold burgers. Well okay, I did get 2 complaint letters, one from a customer that was drunk and an asshole, and another from the owner's friend who said he saw a blue-shirted blond manager eating fries on front counter. I knew I would never do that, the fries stink and besides I lead by example; also it sounded like the other blond manager that worked there but it got pinned on me.

When it came time for my P.R., I felt confident. Then I had an hour of Jill telling me how crap I was. This became the routine at every P.R., and I expected it; those that didn't lick up to her got the shit end of the stick. I am glad to say I never kissed anyone's ass which is why I didn't do as well as I should have. I grew to hate Jill, and I did my job, no more no less. I sold burgers, kept the place clean and protected my staff and customers, and I only did favours for other managers I liked.

Then it happened; Jill got moved to our other store in DunDonald. I had worked there for a while, it was a drive-thru unlike the Belfast one and definitely not as violent as the Belfast one.

We got a manager called Michael but then the franchise owner, Ian, screwed him over and demoted him forcing him to leave. Then we got a manager called Johnny. I loved that man; funny and easy going and quick to compliment you. I knew him from when I was a crewmember and he was a trainee manager, he spoke up for me to get my (manager's) shirt.

One shift, Johnny told me I was going on my BOC at the end of the year which is a promotion and meant I'd be salaried with a white shirt. Sure I was happy, I'd be about 4th in charge. Well, the end of the year came and went and no one told me a thing. Johnny said Ian had changed his mind. That's when Ian made his big mistake. He was a good businessman, but always f**ked you over for a profit. A McDonald's slogan was "People are our most important ingredient," I guess they meant in the Mac sauce as they f**ked you over in the work place.

I got the newspaper "The Belfast Telegraph" every Friday for 3 years as that's the day the job finder was out. A fellow manager, Sharon, used to joke that I would never leave, and how long have you been looking for a job? I even applied for a funeral home as dead people usually don't try to punch you over burgers. I creeped Sharon out by saying that if she died I might be the last person to see her naked. I'm sure she imagined something else happening, as I didn't have to say a word, the look on her face was priceless. To see a millie lost for words and disgusted at the same time is a wonder.

For 3 years I searched for a job. We were always short-staffed at McDonald's as Ian loved the low labour figure (who cares what corners were cut), then Johnny announced he had given in his 2 weeks notice, then a Dunkin' Donuts opened (first ever in Belfast) and 2 other managers gave their notice. One of them was called Eileen, a tall girl with a kind soul, she called me "Sparrow Boy full of the horn" whatever that meant; it was a term of endearment. Things really went downhill fast. No adverts were placed in the paper for new workers, it was very unreal, and Ian worked shifts doing everyone's head in with busy work.

I had a really bad morning shift one time, as the night manager Mark was really slack. I had called him on it before. This time he left a really shit clean up, also my front counter staffer sent a night staff person home without me knowing, saying that she would finish their job of removing Ajax from stainless steel. My 10 am person didn't come in, and we were packed to the doors. Tracy on till and me in the kitchen, that was it. Lobby full of people, trays all over the place because fast food customers can't manage to put their rubbish in a trash bin. Nevermind it's not your job, you're just a lazy f**ker, otherwise you'd be cooking at home, ha!

That was the day that 2 regional supervisors walked through the door. I am not making this up. They asked "Where is all the staff? Have you phoned anyone in?" all the questions you don't really need when you are trying to feed the 5,000, then they worked in lobby for me.

When it all had settled down and some staff came in one of the regional supervisors sat me down and told me of his worse shift, he was trying to make me feel better. I was shaking due to adrenaline and not having eaten anything all day. They went and threw some sauces that were a few days out of date, possibly due to bad rotation and when everything was fine they left.

Ian, the owner, came in. He wasn't angry, he was like "Oh shit, what do they know? What did you tell them?" He took me and Tracy to Laveries (the pub next door) and got us a couple of drinks and pried some info from us.

I was still in shock at having the worse shift I've ever had, and now I was a little beer buzzed, although I only had 2. Ian got me to go through the trash area and bring in the sauces that were thrown out, as they were only out there for 2 hours and in black plastic bags so to him they were all right. I didn't give a shit, I just wanted the nightmare to end.

Then the impossible happened; one of the many jobs I applied for came through. It was working days instead of nights for the same money, and it wasn't McDonald's, so I gave 2 weeks notice.

I was working a graveyard shift at McDonald's, as we were open 24 hours. And at the end of that shift Ian called me to his office. He showed me printouts of low profits (so he said) and how he couldn't have promoted me back then. I recalled how him and his secretary (that he was banging in the top office) both got new cars then. He asked me what I thought of getting my white shirt and now going on my BOC. Well, 3 managers leaving, which leaves 3 not so good managers and one good one (Sharon) and she was going to be the restaurant manager. I said to Ian that I was pissed off that no one had told me I wasn't getting my shirt, he blamed Johnny of course. Ian told me I'd only do day shifts, and he even offered me to work just Saturdays, cash in hand, and then I said my movie line "The only move I want to make in McDonald's is out."

On my way down the stairs, I saw Eileen who had waited to hear about it, I told her he had offered me my shirt and I told him to stuff it. She was so excited and couldn't wait to tell her mum who for some reason really disliked Ian. I was now a hero.

Johnny agreed to stay on an extra week before he realized I was leaving too, then he kicked himself for being dumb. On my last shift, a morning, I came in with a sweater on, and in slow motion with trumpets sounding (well in my head that was happening) I took it off. I was wearing a white manager's shirt underneath the sweater. I had been issued one when I first started, until I got my blue one. This was a statement completing my legend. Ian came in and said that it looked good on me.

I didn't want to leave that last shift but my time had come. When you wish for something to keep you at work it never does.

Weeks later, one of the inexperienced managers called my home so I could talk him through the safe's combination. I was happy to be the on-call assistance. Later a customer, a bright female student, was using the hand dryer in the disabled toilets and it electrocuted her dead, it was on his shift. Unlucky for both of them. Drunk customers punch and break anything in McDonald's, including hand dryers; I cringe every time I use one now.

They made a manager of a moron that Ian swore once would never be a manager and he poached staff from a Burger King. I may have been burnt out at the end, in need of time off but I do miss working there sometimes. Jill had a baby and mellowed out though I still really disliked her and would avoid her in the street.

Now I am in America, and I still have Mac sauce in my veins. Every time I eat at a McDonald's, I have to open up my burger before I eat it to check and make sure the dressings are centered, and that the pickles are side-by-side, and not touching. They never are, as Yanks are slack f**kers who just can't be arsed. They are all soft as shite over here, the McDonald's in Belfast that I worked at was like that movie "Roadhouse" but with burgers.

Spouse Sparrow


Sassy Sundry said...

Ugh. I hated my McJob. I was slower than dirt and sometimes rude.

First Nations said...

My McDonalds was an Arby's.

*with 'The Battle Hymn of the Republic steadily growing louder in the background*

Fast food is shit, fast food jobs are shit, fast food upper management are shit. It is a shit propositioin marinated in shit and dedicated to the proposition that people will pay money for shit and put it in their mouths where it will be digested and end up as....shit.
in conclusion i must state definitevely and for the record that it was, all in all, a defecatory, mephitic pile of ass rabbits, a coil of brown in this porcelain whirl we call life, poopy doodies, smelly toilet trout, and finally, shit.
* ...'his troooooth is maaaaarch ing OOOOOOON!*

Old Knudsen said...

I was offered a blow job from a gurl named McFee once.

When I say offered I mean money did change hands, so did she.

fatmammycat said...

Even reading that gave me the hibby jeebies. Fucking mcJobs suck, bar work for lechy old duffers sucks, selling scratch cards door to door in the middle of winter totally sucks. I feel for you mr. bird.

Manuel said...

Brilliant post. I too have suffered under the American fast food franchise system. I was a manager for Pizza Hut (Dublin Road)for about 7 years. I walked when they screwed me for promotion to area manger. I deserved it, end of story. I enjoyed my time in the Hut but its the bullshit and crap acronyms that get you down in the end. C.H.A.M.P.S, or B.E.S.T. and so on. Every year or so there would be another new camapign wrapped up in an acronym.

You should see lavery's now. Got a real quality face lift recently cause of the smoking ban. That McD's is now very shut. Has been for years now.

Bet I've met you.....

whyioughtta said...

Great post, SS. Adding my voice to the chorus of former McDick's workers. Did it for 3 months when I was 15 and to this day I can barely step foot in the place. I had to quit because I had an allergic reaction to something at the french fry station (probably the grease, since I'm not allergic to potatoes or salt). Big rash all over my arms.

But I have to say, even though fast food is truly evil, it's like you suggest: it's the people who make it fun and interesting. We had some real characters at that McDick's too.

Also: I will never use an electric hand dryer again.

savannah said...

everyone should work in food service at least once in their life...i didn't do mickey d's, mine was a diner near usc...i was 17...the worst customers were the faculty/professors, almost put me off going to college *L*

Lord Milky said...

If you have Mac Sauce in your veins, you're pretty much fucked. By that point, I'd stop worrying about gherkin measurements.

So are you Roadhouse's Dalton, beating up the King Pin's thugs, or is there a Dalton in the snarling face of every customer?

Spouse Sparrow said...

Sassy -- You must have fitted in nicely; I believe that's a requirment.

First Nations -- I was shit upon for 6 years and I ended up liking the smell. I think I may be mad.

Old Knudsen -- I think I threw you out once.

FatMammyCat -- Your scratch card job beats any of mine for crappiness. The country was just out of the Thatcher recession so I was lucky to get this job. I guess I'm the only one that liked their McJob even with the weekly death threats. I was able to buy a house and a car on my wages from it.

Manuel -- I met a female manager from Pizza Hut who worked in Bishops. I was thrown out of Lavery's once for being too drunk (if there ever was such a thing). Was the McD's closing due to the girl being killed? I hope our meeting was a good one and you haven't got me confused with someone dull.

Whyioughtta -- Many people get rashes but the grease usually only gives your skin a slick coating that can be used instead of butter for your bread. Maybe it was the cleaning products. I made some good friends in that place, but it's like the Internet, people come and go so fast.

Savannah -- That's funny because my worst customers were students. Maybe that's why I never became a professor.

Lord Milky The managers took turns at being Dalton; the thugs were the customers when the pubs got out.

Medbh said...

Spouse Sparrow I was forced to get a job at 15 and went to the local fast food chain. The work was miserable but luckily they found out that I wasn't really 16 and they fired me, telling me to try again after my next birthday. After that I vowed to only work at restaurants that sold booze and weren't chains.
Great post.

Sam, Problem-Child-Bride said...

Mcsucks, the Mcfucks.

Eddie Waring said...

Very nicely posted sir!

The problem with people like Jill is they get where they get based upon technical ability to do a job, no doubt put there by someone of the same mindset. However technical ability or job knowledge alone are not enough to successfully manage people,especially in a fast paced and high pressure environment like that, you need a high degree of empathy, emotional and communication skills which she obviously didn't have. Success in any job is down to 20% IQ and 80% EQ.

Manuel said...

"I met a female manager from Pizza Hut who worked in Bishops", thats Maj that is...

Around My Kitchen Table said...

Another great posting, Ms Sparrow. I'm enjoying your blog so much that I have chosen you to receive The Thinking Blogger Award (see my latest posting). You don't have to do anything except nominate five other people. You can then display the award on your website. I had mixed feelings and was torn between feeling chuffed and thinking it all a bit naff ... so if you ignore this tag I shan't be the slightest bit offended! Please also don't be offended if you happen to catch this last bit copied and pasted in comments on the other four recipients' sites!

Akelamalu said...

Just popped over from around my kitchen table to check out your blog and congratulate you on the Thinking Blogger Award. Loved your post, will be back to read more.

Twenty Major said...

Fucking hell.

Spouse Sparrow said...

Medbh -- A place that sold booze... you're an example to us all.

Sam Problem-Child-Bride -- You may be right, but they paid my Coke habit.

Eddie Waring -- So yes, we agree; she's a massive cunt?

Manuel -- I fancied Maj a bit.

Around My Kitchen Table -- Did I win or did Fat Sparrow win?

Akelamalu -- Thanks. Regular posting by Fat Sparrow will resume shortly.

Twenty Major -- You said it.