Despite there being an estimated 3.74 million Americans working in fast food in 2017, American fast food workers are, for the most part, an ignored and undermined sector of the workforce. And although we are a nation that holds up the drive-thru—and the dollar menu—as the gilded pinnacles of human ingenuity, most Americans' thoughts about the people actually making and serving their fast food begins and ends the moment they pay for their meal.
But the world tends to work in mysterious ways. This weekend, one man's tweet about his Chipotle ordering hack (if you can call it that) has a hell of a lot of Twitter users reconsidering how marginalized and unappreciated fast food workers are today.
It all began on Sunday, when a Californian named Josh Williams stopped at a Chipotle located 45 minutes away from his home and placed an order for tacos—a non-event by all standard measures.
But here's the thing: Because Williams didn't want the tacos to get soggy before he delivered them to his wife and three kids, he came up with a "brilliant" idea. He asked the Chipotle employees to individually package each ingredient—separately—in a small plastic container. Then he posted the fruit of their hard work on Twitter and asked, "Am I weird? Or brilliant?"
The internet then promptly imploded. Some opined that Williams was a mad genius, having devised the perfect answer to the horror of limp and pallid tacos. Others, though—including no less than JK Rowling—felt otherwise.
Sure, we all hate a mushy taco, but what about the poor employees who had to deal, on the fly, with Williams' request?
When MUNCHIES reached out to Chipotle to ask what their protocol was for handling unorthodox or excessive customer requests, a spokesperson provided us with the following statement: "We always want for our guests to enjoy their experience at our restaurants, and our restaurant teams are trained to accommodate special requests, within reason, as best they can."
But what is "within reason"? Where should that line be drawn? What should an employee be expected to deal with on a minimum wage salary?
We decided to turn to some vocal Chipotle employees to find out what they thought of Williams' scheme.
Twitter user @phillymontanna, a Chipotle employee who responded to Williams' tweet, said the order was indicative of how many customers feel about fast food employees. In a Twitter message, he told MUNCHIES, "As a chipotle [sic] worker, I feel like customers don't appreciate my time or effort to make their food in a timely manner. I feel like since most restaurants have that 'customer is always right' outlook, the customers let that go to their heads & have a superiority complex towards the workers."
Is it really that hard to individually package ingredients, you may be wondering? Le Fine$$e says, hell yes. "He's not the only customer in line," @phillymontanna told MUNCHIES. "Chipotle is a very busy restaurant so I guarantee, regardless of what time of day you come in, there's most likely a line & for a customer to think that they can do [something] like that without [thinking about] other people (like the worker or other customers) is simply disrespectful & shows the superiority complex that customers now have when purchasing items in this world of consumerism."
What should Williams have done? @Phillymontanna said, "The alternative to what he could have done was to get 2 separate bowls, 1 with the hot stuff & one with the cold stuff like salsa. The bowls have more insulation than the side cups so that is what I'd recommend for anyone who is a picky eater."
@Joeli_lewis, a fellow Twitter user and Chipotle employee, agrees. She told MUNCHIES, "If lots of people started doing that, so much plastic waste would be produced. Also it's kind of rude if he were to do that during really busy times because we move at a really fast speed and it's kinda inconvenient to have to put a whole bowl into little plastic containers... like how taxing!"
Joeli isn't kidding. "I have small hands, ok? It's hard, the cap pops off of the chicken, and then I have to pick it up and change my gloves."
Frankly, though, she's a little torn. She told us, "We're talking about Chipotle and it's not that deep. I'll make whatever anyone wants." But then she added, "Idk it's just lame and inconvenient, just eat your bowl, stop being so extra ya know? Like who wants 9 cups???"
When we reached out to Williams himself for his assessment of the entire ordeal, he told MUNCHIES: "I love Chipotle, so when I posted the tweet, I figured some friends would get a kick out of my efforts to keep the ingredients fresh for the drive home. In retrospect, it's easy to see how the masses viewed the tweet, but in the moment I never would have expected this."
Williams claims he got no attitude whatsoever at Chipotle. "It was late afternoon on Sunday, and no one was in line when I arrived. The crew was super helpful. My son was with me, and it was pretty obvious I was taking the bag home to the family." What's more, he says he has great respect for fast-food workers. He told us, "People who work the line truly have one of the most challenging jobs in food service, and they're certainly not paid enough. Unfortunately quick service restaurants don't always allow you to add a tip to the credit card receipt, and we don't carry around cash like we used to. It should be easier to compensate folks who provide great service."
Williams added that he was pretty shocked by the response his tweet received: "Given the response, I'm not sure I'll be able to visit Chipotle again for a while. I get the vibe I'm public enemy #1. I hope they'll have me back though. I love the place."
And to set the record straight on one last question, Williams told MUNCHIES, "And no, I've never asked In-N-Out to deconstruct my burger. That would be crazy."