Updated: Nov 7
I met my first Straw Nazi yesterday..
Her grimaced face betrayed the happy logo of the fresh, freckle-faced, pig-tailed girl she represents.
She acknowledged me with vexed stare. Her pursed lips conveyed indignation as she grabbed a straw and a logoed security sticker that affixes atop the cup she’s about to serve me - an attempt at corporate compliance…or malfeasance.
Maybe it’s both.
The sticker secures nothing, nor does it bond to liquid or sweating wax cups very well. It does adhere to the thin straw wrapping, though not its intended purpose…or is it? That’s part of the problem - no one knows what they’re doing.
Is the sticker emblematic of a clueless, bloated corporate culture attempting to be useful - and instead - the gesture is negligence wrapped in irony? Like the placement of the decal, the policy falls short of it’s primary objective. There’s a lot of that going around these days.
No one could ever accuse Wendy’s of being overly enthusiastic, prepared - or even interested in delivery. In fact, Wendy’s is nothing if not contrarian to successful delivery operations. And while we might want to scream at it’s employees for hours for attempting to do anything while they're doing something - this is not an indictment of employees as much as it is a systemic impeachment.
It’s not just Wendy’s failing their employees from the top down with operational dysfunction. They just happen to be better at it right now. Popeyes is neck in neck with them in a feverish race to the bottom while Burger King presents a hold my beer attitude bringing up the rear.
It is many a fast casual, fast food restaurant stubbornly clinging to their DNA of atmosphere or dine-in culture while bitching about (ridiculous?) fees charged them by GIGs for a service that they signed on for and that offers them labor on demand and free advertising while simultaneously displaying passive-aggressive tendencies towards the drivers catering to their customers.
Talk about dysfunction!
I've seen the drive-thru weaponized by sadistic, lazy employees, been expected to deliver eight cups of drinks without lids or a drink caddy, and a “ready in two minutes,” wait become a 45 minute - second coming watch.
And even though our restaurant partners keep finding new ways of packing food that's not driver friendly, I find the straw trick particularly unhelpful.
It’s right up there with making me stand in a dine-in line, while watching my order getting cold and its accompanying - now watered down drink - sweat on a shelf two feet behind the counter while a guy named Dick asks to be read the entire menu. Nurse Ratched could learn a few tricks from these folks.
Wendy’s is a late adopter of delivery preparedness. Indeed, they haven’t even adapted. That makes them stand as a poor example of what not to do. But they don’t stand alone on that hill of complacency, Many companies abide.
To be fair, the image I’ve posted here is from Burger King. But rest assured, Wendy’s is more than capable of duplicating this nasty little trick with malicious rigor.
What my straw nazi did yesterday was verbally spar with me over correct procedure for attaching straw to cup. She insisted the three drinks be "strawed” correctly or no delivery.
You see, the straw MUST be attached to the top of the drink and affixed thereto with some sort of glue or tape that renders it tampered with if removed. Meanwhile, the thin paper bag that contains the food has three equally useless stickers to seal the bag - do nothing of the sort.
If straw is not attached to drink in such manner as directed by the SAIA (Straw Attachment Institute of America) then said order shall be suspended and revoked forthwith. Why, it’s right there in the manual. Just ask her.
Perhaps I should be happy to have a lid on the drinks at all.
I was told by my tormentor that these are the rules of delivery and I must not deviate from years of research on straw protocol.
This is a problem and it's one reason for this blog; everyone, and no one, knows the correct anything when it comes to delivery of food, other than asian and pizza restaurants. Why them? Because they've been doing it for decades.They know the science. They created the tools, from the pizza box to the oyster pail and they perfected every nuance of the process.
The GIGs, on the other hand, are newcomers - relatively speaking. They have fallible tech. They came in with no experience in the industry and no real knowledge of the process.
There had not been, nor is there now, any training or cooperation between GIGs, restaurants or drivers. No training visits other than a salesperson (maybe) to convince restaurants they knew what they were doing - they didn't.
I was invited to a UberEats driver forum several years ago. We talked about issues faced out in the field. About seven middle managers attended. Not one of them had a single day of experience between them. Hell - most had come from Ivy League schools and some never had a job before Uber offered them a “Director of Operations” title. Maybe it’s just me but if you're gunna be a DO, shouldn’t you know something about the O?
The only tool a restaurant owner was provided was an iPad and an invoice - and if you didn’t know how to use an iPad? Just slap me with bread and call me a sandwich! Is it any wonder that such a chasm exists between four parties that need to be in synch to make this work?
Delivery isn't rocket science but these folks took what was considered a given; what the asian food and pizza delivery businesses made look so effortless, and cluelessly assumed every restaurant had delivery pedigree.
But most restaurants aren't built for delivery. And that includes learning and preparing. Also, evaluating and ordering the proper inventory of paper goods to package product correctly . Hell - ninety percent of restaurants I deliver for don’t have heat racks or warming bags to hold the finished product in.
Real DOs of pizza delivery companies that caught their managers committing such sacrilege would run them through the oven.
So when my straw nazi demanded adherence to her policy, I yielded. I had tried - and failed - to explain how straws affixed the way she demanded was problematic. At least she was attempting a policy.
Where did this straw scheme come from? It seems like the latest corporate thing. I’ve no idea its origin. It seems to have taken on a life of its own, spreading from Wendy’s, to Burger King, to KFC faster than waistlines at a Golden Corral buffet.
It’s a rainy Friday, a little after 9:30 a.m. and I shake the water from my person as I approach the counter for my third pickup of the morning. The demure Dunkin Donuts employee looks at me sheepishly as she offers her rendition of the straw maneuver. I quickly dispatch any notion she has of trying it with a stern look and violent shaking of my head.
I’m not high maintenance. I’m not anal retentive, nor am I fussy or picky. I just want what makes sense - and life a little easier, while I’m juggling a thin leaking paper bag of brown stew chicken and goat water.
So far the straw virus has been contained to corporate vicinages. I’m thinking social distancing and masking may not be the remedy. It may go viral.
Someone somewhere needs to step in and offer some sort of training. Set a standard or few. If not, the lack of training that trickles down from corporate hegemony to customer dissatisfaction could be as disappointing and vexing as being served a Frosty without a spoon.