Clean it Up
January 21, 2009 by The Constant Complainer
Welcome to the award winning blog of The Constant Complainer.
When I was 18 years old, I had an experience that shaped me into the cleanliness freak I am today. I think sharing that story first will help you better understand today’s post.
When I was in high school and college, I worked at a fast food restaurant to earn some extra money. When first hired, I remember being conscious of cleanliness and the training I received reinforced that. However, I was young and to say that I didn’t exercise the “five second rule” on a few occasions would be untrue. Anyway, my parents moved when I was 18, so I had to transfer restaurants. On my first day at the new restaurant, I was working the bun station – this was back in the day when the buns were slightly toasted before being used for hamburgers. Right as the Maintenance Man happened to walk by, I dropped one of the buns on the floor. I quickly picked it up, mouthed “ssshhhhh” to him, put the bun back on the tray and kept working. He looked at me, pointed and loudly stated, “No!” He then said, “I’m sorry, but we have to have some standards.” I was embarrassed, apologized and threw the dirty bun away. He was absolutely right and I can still, plain as day, see him yelling at me. To say that this one event totally changed me would be an understatement.
I soon became the most feared restaurant policeman my friends had ever seen. This was not only at my side-job, but when I personally visited restaurants to eat. At work, I became the conscience of the restaurant and gained a reputation for serving the best quality food and adhering to all food cleanliness and expiration standards. The funnier stories are incidents that happened when I went out to eat. Anything could and would set me off. A bun dropping on the floor, seeing an employee touch money and then make my sandwich, employees scooping product up with their hands instead of using utensils, an employee sneezing or touching their hair and then touching my food, etc. The list could go on and on. Frankly, I almost started a business that would have offered mystery shops for restaurants because I believed so highly in this cause. And to think – all of this happened because a Maintenance Man had the guts to yell at me.
With that being said, I can get back to today’s post. One would think that after all these years, and the fact that cleanliness and germs are increasingly on many people’s minds, that certain restaurants would work to eliminate such problems. But we all know that it doesn’t work that way.
Out of respect for all the fast food restaurants that do a good job, I’ll tell you where I ate lunch yesterday. It was Wendy’s. Even though I have had countless issues at this location with cleanliness over the years, I continue to eat there. Yesterday’s experience was no different than many others. I ordered my food, stood there and watched while the Manager (who took my order) walked over to the food preparation area, started to make my sandwich without putting on latex gloves (or washing her hands), threw something in the trash, pushed the pile of trash down with her hands and then continued making my sandwich. Yuck! Another employee wiped her nose and touched her hair, while wearing latex gloves, but then didn’t change her gloves and continued making some other guy’s sandwich.
A lot of people may not care about this kind of stuff, but it drives me absolutely crazy. I worry about germs and food poisoning all the time.
I’m the one that set the bar for all of these dirty dining TV shows and awards that are being given out. I worried about it before anyone else did. Well, maybe not, but I’d like to think that I did. So shouldn’t I be able to expect as clean a restaurant and product as they can provide? Maybe that’s why I find myself going through the drive-through lanes more often these days – out of site, out of mind – you know.
I think rather than me continuing to complain about this problem to the Manager, which is what I normally do (along with requesting a new sandwich), maybe I should not visit this Wendy’s anymore and tell everyone I know to do the same. Perhaps that would help make them realize how potentially costly their behavior can be to the business…
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This is interesting. I don’t know that I think like this at a burger joint. But now you freaked me out.
I used to work at Hardees in Grafton about ten years ago. If you frequented that Hardees during my tenure then I sincerely apologize. We were not interested in cleanliness or any of that “Nonsense”. We were 16 or 17 years old and hated our entire customer base. Here’s my Hardees story:
1. I never wore gloves and almost always used my hands to grab a burger out of the holding-area to put on a sandwich. We were supposed to use tongs to grab roast beef off the slicer, but not me. Every morning we made fresh biscuits for our breakfast sandwiches…well I split them in half with my hands.
2. I always obeyed the 5-second rule, except for when 10 seconds was required. If a frozen meat patty fell on the floor, so what. Whatever germs were on it would be cooked off from the grill.
3. The chicken prep area was absolutely disgusting. The process was that we had to take a bag of raw chicken pieces, dump it in a bucket filled with powdered breading, cover the chicken with the powder, then put the chicken in the seasoning “Liquid”, then back one more time in the powder. Once all that was done, it was over to the grease vat for cooking. Well, the chicken prep area was supposed to be cleaned out and washed after every use…but that took far too long. There would be times where I had to crank out over a 100 pieces of chicken and didn’t have time to clean it out in between runs. Each run consisted of 32 pieces of chicken. So, naturally the powder would get pretty chunky with leftover raw chicken bits…and the “Liquid” would start to look more like gravy.
Now lets talk about the flies back in the chicken prep area. There were flies everywhere back there and in order to get work done, you had to kill a ton of them before making chicken. I would always make sure that no swatted flies fell into the chicken prep bucket, but still it wasn’t sanitary. If any health inspector had saw me doing that…Hardees would have been shut down.
4. The grease vats were also supposed to be cleaned out twice a day…but once again that wasn’t gonna happen. They were a pain in the but to clean out. First you had to let all the grease drain through a filter and into a tub, then turn a knob and have it flow back into the vat…and then we had to clean out the filter and tub. This was some hot stinkin grease and it would burn the crap out of you. It was even worse when we had to dispose of the grease in buckets. We’d load the extremely hot grease in buckets onto a little wagon, and roll it out to a dumpster. Some nights I had third degree burns down my legs and hands.
5. Probably the most disgusting thing I ever saw at Hardees was my manager using raw chicken that was clearly turning for the worse. It was starting to stink and we were told to cook it ASAP.
6. Also, we’d take the plastic toys from happy meals and throw them in the grease vats to see if they’d melt…surprisingly they didn’t. Or we’d take the toys and watch them melt on the grill.
I’m much cleaner these days. As I’ve gotten older I no longer tolerate things like this and would complain just as the CC did. I look back on some things and wonder how the hell I didn’t get fired. I do feel somewhat responsible for that particular Hardees shutting down shortly after I quit though. There was some justification for my actions though, those customers were absolute jerks. I would have to clean the toilets three times a day because people would try and “Hover” over them, rather than sitting down. Needless to say their aim wasn’t so good for #2’s….YAY ME!!!
Cleanliness in these fast food joints are always a reflection of the owner, and never a reflection of the franchiser. The owner or manager knows exactly what is going on and chooses to ignore it because of how difficult it is to find employees that will actually show up for work.
For the record, it you are interested in visiting a very clean fast food joint, try the Mr. Hero in Garfield Heights on Turney. It is the cleanest and most efficiently run fast food resteraunt I have ever seen.
That’s funny Don. I thought for sure you’d say that if you wanted to see a clean and efficient fast food joint, try any of them at Disneyworld.
You’re right though, that is all a reflection on management. My managers at Hardees sucked. In fact, one of them would smoke weed on the roof with other employees. It’s quite amazing no employee ever died there. The worst injury I can remember was a friend of mine falling down and immersing his entire arm into a fry vat. OUCH!
I certainly won’t speak for any of the resteraunts at Disney World except for the Pinnochio one where my family ate…but, I’m pretty confident that they’re pretty clean down there in general.
I had a friend that was working the roast beef cutter at hardees and took a big chunk out of his hand…they never found it in the roast beef either. Yummy…!!!
When my mom was younger, she ordered a burger from Wendys. She took a bite of it and looked to see if it was a little pink inside… Well it wasn’t pink, but she did find a huge patch of skin/hair, presumably from a rat that got chopped up with the beef in a grinder. I wish she had filed a lawsuit, but instead she fed the burger to our dog.
Mike, you are the MAN! But, by admitting you took part in all those disgusting actions in relation to customers’ FAST FOOD, I think you opened yourself up to lawsuits by former patrons of that Hardees. I, for one, found a thumb tack in my burger at Hardees in Grafton about ten years ago. Do you want to talk settlement?
Also, I want to speak to your mom about EATING…err FEEDING, my pet rat…to your dog!
Haha Zig. First off I was a minor. Secondly, I’m sure the statute of limitations has run out on all the crimes I committed against fast food America. …And that was my lucky thumb tack. I want it back.
I have been sitting here laughing out loud at all these comments. Very entertaining. And I’m glad I don’t know where that Hardees was.
I think it’s the same at every fast food restaurant.
I worked at Pizza Hut during High School. I actually get a little queazy thinking about some of the stories. Most of the employees were High School kids and our managers were only 4-5 years older than we were. Like Mike, none of us wanted to be there half the time, and when we were, it was just a big game. When some of my co-workers got bored, they would play a game called “body dough imprints”. Take a guess at what that entailed and think the next time you order pizza (from any pizza place)!
Now, like Mike and the CC, I am very careful about the cleanliness of restaurants, and sometimes I turn around and leave if it looks dirty inside.
Judith, what are you doing back? You are not allowed here… I can see from you previous post, January 23, that you cannot enjoy a little fun. How can you participate in the name calling, when we cannot call you any names…just kidding! Keep posting. I am gathering information and building a good response for you now!
Mike, what about my pet RAT?
Zig. Here’s an idea. Actually have a response and share it. All you do is sling sarcasm.
Judith, I use up my “little grey cells” on far more serious matters than telling a bunch of homebound computer geeks my opinions on today’s pressing matters. See, I have a life! NEWSFLASH…This site is about FUN! I do “sling” my sarcasm pretty well, don’t I?
Judith, can I call you Judy? Judy, do you want to add a litle fun to your life? I have a single brother and… Oh, and when you address a person, put a comma after the name of the person you wish to address…not a period!
Zig, thanks for the grammar lesson. Keep in mind that based on what I have read in your last few posts, you are the last one to be providing me with an English lesson. This sight does seem fun, I agree, until you start slinging mean spirited comments at everyone. And about your brother, sorry, I am married. But yeah, thanks for stalking, I mean, thinking of me, I think.
Judith, Oh, Judy…I am happily married also. I wouldn’t dream of stalking you or anything else. I make a few typos, don’t I? I hope you didn’t take my comments to be hurtful…If you did or you do, wait 2 miuntes. You’ll get over it! I just blow off steam after a hard day. My fun comes when I can use language well enough to express my points and dispell other people’s lies…NCD!
Zig, let’s try to stay on track with the comments – shall we…
Although I am new to this site, I like what I see so far! Even though we’re always supposed to see the “silver lining” of every day, it never hurts to vent some frustration with a good rant!
I digress. What I intended to relate was my own experience of this nature, taking place at a well-known fast food place in my general area. My boyfriend and I walked into the restaurant, where there was a small line, and a male employee (who, judging by his different uniform, was the manager) was taking orders and ringing people out. Wearing gloves, mind you. Then, since we were the last ones in line, he took our order and rang us out, then proceeded to go start making our food wearing the very same gloves that had just touched money for the last 10 minutes. Since we all know that money contains trace amounts of literally every disgusting thing under the sun, I was nauseated.
I was staring him down in utter disbelief, but noticed that he and all his employees were giving me quick, uncomfortable glances as if they couldn’t figure out why I was staring at him. I never saw him change his gloves, but he switched to working the drive-thru window before I could confront him. Needless to say, our appetites were gone.
Why fast food employees think that simply wearing a glove means you are cleanly is beyond me. Apparently they don’t understand the whole point of gloves being disposable in the first place…
Thanks Brittany, and welcome!
[…] can’t tell you how many e-mails I received after publishing “Clean it Up” last month. That post addressed a horrible experience (involving cleanliness) I had at a […]