June 10, 2013

No thanks, I won't pull up

By Coneingcrew (Own work) [CC0],
via Wikimedia Commons
Every now and again, I am going through a local fast food establishment, and I get to the window to pay and receive my food, and, after paying, the restaurant employee asks me, "if you don't mind, please pull up," accompanied with a gesture to some nebulous blacktop waiting area where I am supposed to sit in my car, out of line, and wait for someone to inefficiently bring my food out to the car after they have prepared it.  Often, the request is much ruder: "Pull up over there and we will bring your food."

At times, I have complied with this request, pulling into side parking spots or just moving the car up a few feet, or even wrapping around the front of the building to wait.  But this practice has become so frequent among fast food establishments that I begin to wonder if we should remove the "fast" from their moniker.

The worst part about it is that I have occasionally had issues with the "pull up" routine.  The absolute worst of the worst experience is that on more than one occasion, the workers have just completely forgotten that I was waiting, leading me to exit my car, march inside, only to find that they have not even made my food, and I will be waiting longer.  They already have my money hostage, so there's a sense of powerlessness about it that I find frustrating.  Other disasters include waiting a long time and then receiving the wrong food, missing condiments, etc., all requiring a physical exit from the car to go back into the establishment to correct.

So, why do they even do this?  I can only think of two reasons.  The first is benevolent.  Something in my order actually will take longer to make than the order behind me, so they are just rearranging the queue to allow the first food ready to be the first food served.  I don't really have an issue with this, as it might benefit me one day.  The second is a bit more self-serving.  Lots of fast food restaurants are measured on "time to service" sort of metrics that measure (even electronically counting inside the restaurant) the amount of time that a car sits at the drive through window.  In some restaurants (I know because I worked in one), the timer starts beeping annoyingly if the car exceeds some allotted service time.  In this instance, there is no customer service mentality there, just a desire to artificially deflate the average service times or to avoid getting "dinged" for long wait times.  The problem is that you can't ever tell if the motivation is the first reason, second reason, or just plain conditioned behavior.

So what can you do?  I say you refuse to pull up.  Period.

I got introduced to this idea from a friend who said that he "refused to pull up on principle" and would just stick with that.  The response generates confused looks and repetition in the ask, but kept him at the window until receiving his food.  I loved the idea so much, I've taken to some adjustments of my own.

The first thought I had was to answer the question "Can you please pull up?" with some enigmatic response, like "I am not allowed."  I thought this would generate some sort of suspicion that I would play into, along the lines of my being a secret shopper or something like that, unable to falsify service times in my reports back to corporate.  But that opened itself to the same issues as "refusing on principle."

And then, it hit me.  A great response, that I (and others, now) have used with some level of success.  It is predicated on a two-pronged approach:  First, you let yourself believe that they are asking you to pull up as a courtesy to you, to generate great customer service.  Second, you let yourself believe that you will do the more polite thing and not require them, at their minimum wage job, to have to run out and serve you food when you are perfectly capable of sitting and waiting on them.  The response, "No, thanks, I'm fine."

So, here's how this conversation goes in practice.

Cashier: Sir, can you please pull up?
Me: No thanks, I'm good.

Cashier: Sir, if you can pull over there, we can bring your food to you.
Me: Oh, you really don't have to do that.  I'm OK, I will wait for it.

I've tried some other variants, like totally ignoring the request, or pulling up only two or three feet, which negates the purpose of my pulling up but doesn't allow them to protest anymore, but I've found the "polite refusal" is most effective, and generally only results in being asked once or twice.  And after you've done it a couple of times, it's just as easy as the obligatory "No thanks" when offered new credit card offers to save 10% off of your $14 Target purchase or the like.

My goal: to eventually end the "please pull up" automatic request, and get it really back to "total exception" scenarios.  But I need your help.

Will you join in the refusal?

1 comment:

Eeyore said...

I almost said, "No thanks, I'm fine." the other day, but chickened out because I've seen the same server so many times and she's never asked me to pull up before. Maybe next time.