I’m not entirely sure why, but I’ve always enjoyed work. Whether it was a fruit stand at five years old, or selling golf balls at the golf course at 8 years old, I had a blast making money, and still do. But it wasn’t until I turned 13 that I started my “career” and what a better way to start than at McDonald’s.
My mother hates having people in her house (even her family, which she loves) so she lined up a job for me at McDonald’s when I was in 8th grade. Two school nights a week and every Saturday, I worked as a dining room specialist (the cool way to say I cleaned the floors, trays and took out the trash). 15 hours a week @ $5.05 an hour meant I was racking up around $250 a month post taxes. Half the money went in the bank (Mom’s rule) and half the money went toward my baseball card collection.
Working in the dining room of a McDonald’s was surprisingly fun for me. Even at 13, I was somewhat obsessed with order and cleanliness so I took great pride in the look of my restaurant (that’s right, it was mine). For the most part, I didn’t have people telling me what to do, I just had to keep my head down, keep trays coming to the cashiers and keep garbage going out to the dumpster. I guess my skills were so good, the current manager didn’t want them wasted so I was promoted to front end cashier!
My promotion also came with a few more hours each week and it gave me my first real taste of “customer service”. Can you believe that at 14 years old, I had a woman in her fifties threaten to have me arrested for attempted murder because her cheeseburger had pickles on it and she was allergic to pickles. Mind you, I didn’t make the cheeseburger, only took her order, where her receipt clearly said “no pickle”. Fun times …
And even though there were bad experiences, the overall job was still delightful. Graduating again to drive-thru order taker, this is where I excelled. I could up-sell 2 Apple Pies for $1 better than anyone, and my talents were so strong that I competed nationally to earn a spot to work at the 2000 Olympics in Salt Lake City. You heard correct, there was a national competition held in Maryland for the best McDonald’s employees on the east coast. Even more strange was that I had to train for a few weeks before the competition (I swear I’m not joking). I was judged on all things drive-thru and at the end of the day, I received a score of 123/125. I lost two points for not having a wash towel at my station (I take orders on a computer; WTF) and not thanking my judges when I left my station.
The top 2 participants made the journey to Utah, and I finished in 3rd. Not bad for 15 total competitors at my position but not good enough, so the dream of going on vacation only to work was dead. Even so, I received a raise for my performance and became a night-shift manager at just 16 years old. During select nights and most of the summer, I was the guy in charge of a 3 million dollar a year store (not fully in charge, but enough to answer the question “who’s in charge here?).
Many times during my six year tenure, the question came up from my superiors if I ever thought about attending Hamburger University and working for McDonald’s as a career. Just a week ago, I read a story about a young woman that did just that, graduating from the accredited university and it reminded me of the good times I had working for the golden arches. In fact, after college I became the store manage of a Boston Market in Miami because I couldn’t find work in the mathematics field. My McDonald’s background secured that job for me and it bought me the time I needed to find something better.
The worst part of working for McDonald’s was telling people you work for McDonald’s. I always found myself having to explain that it’s a pretty nice job, good people, free meals and the experience you gain is like no other job out there. Learning how to work with different people, and keeping cool when certain customers explode had prepared me well for college and for my current career. I certainly wouldn’t suggest everyone look into a long career with Mickey D’s, but if you’re struggling to find work or are young and thinking about a first job, I can think of no better place.