Today on Blogcritics
Home » Welcome to McDonalds – Please Hold

Welcome to McDonalds – Please Hold

A story has been making the rounds for about a month regarding McDonalds fast food restaurants in Oregon which are apparently outsourcing their order taking to North Dakota for some reason. The idea being that when you drive in and place an order at the microphone in Oregon, you’re actually talking to someone in North Dakota who takes your order and then sends the info to the pickup window by computer. There are currently only 14 McDonalds involved and the plan is to initially limit participation to 50 selected stores. This means that even if you’re in Oregon your chances of visiting the drive-through of one of the stores testing this system are relatively low. If the system succeeds it will presumably be expanded.

The coverage of this has ranged from skeptical to outraged. Some see this as a blatant attempt to outsource jobs from a state with an inflated minimum wage to a state with a very low minimum wage. It’s been latched onto by liberal bloggers and leftist media as an example of how rapacious businesses can be to save a couple of dollars.

There’s a particularly incensed article on MSNBC based on complaints from residents of Hermiston Oregon who are enraged over the implementation of this system. News coverage of this issue has died out in the last few weeks, perhaps because only a few McDonalds are participating or perhaps because the reality of the situation doesn’t quite match the alarmist expectations trumpeted in the MSNBC article and elsewhere.

As to the frequently heard complaint that this is a case of outsourcing within the country to save money and cut employees, that theory really doesn’t hold up on examination. The presumption is that because Oregon has a state mandated minimum wage of $7.25 and North Dakota uses the federal minimum wage of $5.15 an hour, the people taking the orders in North Dakota are being paid less than the employees in the actual stores in Oregon. The conclusion is that this is a way for the bastard managers of the McDonalds in Oregon to save money and fire employees.

There are a bunch of holes in this theory. Contrary to initial reports, the order taking is not being outsourced to other McDonalds. The orders are actually being taken in a call center run by a company called CCS-SEI. The calls are not being taken by minimum wage McDonalds employees at a store in another state, but by professional phone support staff in a calling center. The idea of this order taking alternative is not to save money so much as to make sure that the people taking the orders get them right – apparently complaints and replacing incorrect orders uses up a lot of staff time and materials. What savings there are to this system are in increased efficiency, not lower wages. If your order takers get the order right the first time then you don’t have to replace screwed up orders as much and less time is wasted asking questions and correcting the order. Really skilled order takers are faster and more accurate, and that means major savings for the restaurant.

Although CCS-SEI is not revealing exactly what they are paying their call center staff, based on Bureau of Labor Statistics salary figures for that type of work in the Fargo area they could be earning over $10 an hour. Even if they were actual McDonalds employees in North Dakota, despite the fact that the official minimum wage there is $5.15 per hour, McDonalds employees in the state still earn about $7 an hour, only a few cents less than their compatriots in Oregon. Assuming CCS-SEI hired the best McDonalds order takers in the area and moved them into their call center they’re probably paying them around $8-$9 per hour for the work.

In addition, according to The Oregonian, Lee Adams, who owns one of the McDonalds in question, has stated definitively that no jobs were lost in this process. The problem they were having was that taking orders and filling orders were done by the same person and they tended to get overwhelmed with the double duty. If the window worker doesn’t have to talk to the customers and enter the orders on screen they can concentrate on making sure that the right stuff goes in the bag and gets to the customer. That person is still employed, but now they can focus on doing just one job while someone else takes the orders and does the data entry. McDonalds wants to process orders as quickly as possible with a minimum of mistakes, and the less work they put on the person manning the window the better they can do their job.

The theory that this is outsourcing to save money on salaries seems pretty unlikely since no one is being fired and salaries for call center workers are probably actually higher than salaries in Oregon McDonalds. But it’s quite true that this is all about saving money, not by firing people or sending jobs off to be done at lower wages, but by making the operation more efficient and making fewer mistakes. Since they’re now paying the cost of a call center worker, McDonalds is actually employing more people than they were, but the cost is worth it because if they can avoid wasting a handful of miss-made meals an hour that covers the hourly wage of the call center worker as well as leading to greater customer satisfaction, which has a definite cash value in repeat business.

It seems that the complaints about this instance of ‘outsourcing’ are unfounded. This appears to be another case of outsourcing opponents knowing what they want to be true and trying to reinterpret reality to fit their assumptions. They want to believe that McDonalds is sacrificing jobs and paying people as little as possible, but since these McDonalds are actually effectively adding a new job, quite possibly at a higher wage, their complaints just don’t match what’s really going on here. Corporations aren’t evil. In this case McDonalds just wants to be more efficient and provide better service – that’s what ultimately makes a business more profitable, and that’s how capitalism is supposed to work.

About Dave Nalle

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    None of this will stop the trial lawyers from suing them for “making” their customers morbidly obese…

  • http://counter-point.blogspot.com Scott

    Jeez, and I thought they got my order wrong alot now! And now they’re sending it to another state? Aye aye aye.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    >>Jeez, and I thought they got my order wrong alot now! And now they’re sending it to another state? Aye aye aye.<<

    I think the key is that they’re sending your order to another state so it can be processed by someone who’s a few IQ points smarter than the guy filling the coke cup and perhaps qualified to tell that cog in the McDonalds machine what to give you more accurately and reliably than another cog just like him.

    Dave

  • http://adamantsun.blogspot.com Steve S

    We might get a lunch at a mcdonalds maybe once a month. I would say probably 80% of the time, they’ve gotten an order wrong. It never ceases to amaze me because their menu is so simple. A number 1 or a number 2 or a number 3….with a coke. It’s amazing how many times they get that wrong.

  • http://xrrf.blogspot.com simon hb

    Here in the UK, the orders are often wrong at the drive-thru; at least at the monet you can park up and go back in and remonstrate: ‘didn’t you take my order”?

    Clearly, the idea here is to provide an extra layer between customer and product which allows the typical customer service shrug “sorry, someone else took the order…”

  • http://www.kolehardfacts.blogspot.com Mike Kole

    Pizza Hut centralized their phone orders long ago for delivery. While the phone bank jobs weren’t relocated over state lines, they undoubtedly were over municipal lines.

    Keep in mind that fast food joints are automated and streamlined in their processes to the greatest extent possible in order to keep costs down. This is just the latest wrinkle in that approach.

    If there is a serious problem in the livelihood of a significant number of adults due to changing the ways fast food orders are taken, there is a bigger problem than the issue of trying to cut costs, mainly, the education people are getting, and the ambition of these people.

    Really, if the best one has to offer to potential employers is the ability to say, “make that a combo?”, then they really have almost nothing to offer. Let’s look at addressing that problem.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Really, if the best one has to offer to potential employers is the ability to say, “make that a combo?”, then they really have almost nothing to offer. Let’s look at addressing that problem.

    Despite the negative impression many have of McDonalds they’re actually an extraordinarily good corporate citizen. They offer training and advancement opportunities to those workers who stick with them and have any ambition, and they also offer college scholarships and other incentives.

    Dave

  • http://www.yoursatellitelink.com dg

    What truly amazes me is the sheer volume of people they have working. I’ve often counted something like 12 people “working” behind the counter. Yet, even though I’m the only one at the front of the counter, it may take 2 or 3 minutes for them to find the time to take my order. Then, some pre-pubescent teen wanders over, clearly annoyed that she can’t continue describing in vivid detail how she got the ham-sized hickey on her neck to the other death-metal, spiked-haired, stud encrusted femme “laboring” at the counter.

    And then, the order is wrong more times than not.

    I also find it facinating that the registers now output how much change I’m getting back, and, how often they have to glance up at the LCD display to even get that correct.

    To quote R.E.M. “It’s the end of the world as we know it”

  • http://paperfrigate.blogspot.com DrPat

    Thanks for digging below the surface, Dave. I have to admit that for burgers, I go to Burger King (or that California icon, In-and-Out). But Mickey D’s still has better fries than BK, so I’ve been known to drive through both places to get a lunch fix.

    MD’s folks here are often nearly unintelligible over the drive-up speaker. (Although for absolute gibberish, I can always count on the drive-through at my local KFC…)

    BK seems to hire people who can talk and do data-entry at the same time. So I would welcome MD’s outsourcing this function to a similar specialist, even if they have to go to Fargo to do it.

  • Tristan

    I love it!
    I’ve gone to the Mc D’s next door to me for breakfast the last 2 weeks a few times; they have consistently gotten my order wrong right in the store in line!

    The last time I went– 2 days ago–I asked for a steak, egg, & cheese biscuit and a milk for “here”—
    the Latin girl was quite busy playing with her hair as I walked up and talking to another employee—I waited patiently until she stopped and turned to me. I saw by her badge she is an asst. mgr.
    She then repeated back–”sausage biscuit ?”– I said no–told her my order once again-and said “for here”….

    one minute later she hands me a bag with a steak biscuit and cheese–no egg—and no milk—IN A BAG…!!!!

    I asked if she could please stop talking to her friend and listen to the order this time…she got very snippy and upset….and threw a tray towards me and said “sorry”. I had to ask AGAIN for my milk that she HAD charged me for~~!!!!

    Phewwwwwwwwwww……..

    And they wonder WHY they are losing business …!!!!!!

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    I have to point out that not all McDonalds are created equal. After hearing all these horror stories, I realize that many of you deal with McDonalds which are nothing like what we have around Austin. Almost all the Austin area McDonalds are efficiently run, the employees are clean and courteous, and they get your food to you with amazing speed.

    Rather than outsourcing the order taking, many of the McDonalds here in Austin use the double window technique, where they have no loud speaker and instead have one person take the orders face to face at a window – massively reducing confusion – and then another fill your order at the next window. This method seems to produce very few errors. Another technique which seems to work is the computer screen at the ordering speaker which shows your order in text before you finalize it. That works even better.

    I also think that the quality of service is directly related to the amount the fast food restaurant pays. If they pay even 50 cents more than everyone else they get the cream of the high school crop. People who can do things like listen and type at the same time. If they pay less they get the nitwits who have been described in some of the previous comments. I know that the starting salary at a couple of the better McDonalds I’ve been to is $8/hour, which is a dollar more than most fast food workers around here.

    How well a fast food restaurant works is largely the responsibility of the franchisee. McDonalds franchisees typically own multiple restaurants and you can tell which ones belong to which owner by the quality of the service. The corporation makes a lot of assistance available – like those order screens – but some franchisees are too cheap or put too little emphasis on service to pay for those kinds of innovations.

    Finally, my fast food horror story. We’ve got a local burger chain – which will remain nameless – which went through some troubles a few years ago when the owner and his wife divorced. They ended up splitting the chain and the quality of the wife’s portion suffered substantially and had a lot of problems with worker-management relations. One of my wife’s coworkers had the unique experience of going to the drive through at one of their outlets recently and hearing whispered conspiratorially through the speakers “You don’t want to eat here today, it would be a very bad idea. You should go somewhere else.” Scary.

    Dave

  • http://www.iamcorrect.blogspot.com Lono

    For the record, I covered this story last summer right here. Also interesting, at least to me, is that no one cared at the time.

    Anyhow, read on if you are interested:

    http://blogcritics.org/archives/2004/07/20/124500.php

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    “I have to admit that for burgers, I go to Burger King”

    “But Mickey D’s still has better fries than BK”

    Dude, we are on totally opposite wavelengths on this one.

    McD’s has decent burgers, but I can barely choke down the filth that BK offers. But, McD’s fries are just so-so, whereas BK has some of the best in the FF industry.

    IMO, of course. It’s all very subjective…

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    FWIW, we have only one Hardee’s around these parts. And I’m not a big fan of their food. But on those rare occasions that I go there (usually for breakfast, which is decent), their service is exceptional. Better than you get at most sit-down restaurants, like a Denny’s, for instance.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    >>For the record, I covered this story last summer right here. Also interesting, at least to me, is that no one cared at the time.<<

    Yes, but you just repeated the initial alarmist take on what was going on without looking into the reality of the situation in any greater depth. A good start, but not the complete picture I’ve tried to present here.

    Dave

  • Bill

    Just another example of a company having poor management who unable to get the job done using local employees.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Or of a company having management good enough to realize that their local employee pool isn’t cutting it and willing to take the initiative to look elsewhere – and in an inventive way.

    Dave

  • Eric Olsen

    I care Lono

    not only are all MCdonald’s (or whatever) not created equal, but individual stores seem to vary widely in terms of accuracy depending upon the actual employees in the place at any given time. We go to Wendys a fair amount because it’s right on the way home from picking up the little kids at school, and they have a pretty good variety besides just burgers (theirs are the best of the major chains, I think) but I have learned to check the bags every time right when they are handed to me because errors are so common

  • Tristan

    i hate that~
    especially when i’m at lunch at work & i’ll give in and take an order for the girls at the front~~~
    even though i always~~every single time~~
    end up paying a few bucks extra—-
    go through all the emotional turmoil & trauma—-
    get back to work late—
    AND~~~
    nothing in the bag is “right” —
    call up–get the manager:
    same story–oh–what’s your name? tell us next time and it’s on us~~~
    (i should drive up—make up like a $200 order and “remind them” …!!!!!)

    Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr…………!!!!!

    http://witchery.myblogsite.com

  • HW Saxton

    I feel pretty lucky to be out west and
    to have In & Out Burgers and Whataburger
    at my disposal. Esp.Whataburger, as they
    make REAL Ice Cream shakes and they have
    jukeboxes in their stores chock full of
    Blues,Jazz and 40′s/50′s Jump Blues and
    R & B(Big Joe Turner,The Treniers,Louis
    Prima,etc.)Very cool way to lunch.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    >>Whataburger, as they
    make REAL Ice Cream shakes and they have
    jukeboxes in their stores chock full of
    Blues,Jazz and 40′s/50′s Jump Blues and
    R & B(Big Joe Turner,The Treniers,Louis
    Prima,etc.)Very cool way to lunch. <<

    Wow, we’re in the homeland of Whataburger and not only do the ones around here not have real ice cream, they also don’t have juke boxes – even the original one in Corpus Christi isn’t that nice. Damn, I’m jealous.

    They do have a damned fine breakfast sausage biscuit tho.

    Dave

  • HW Saxton

    That’s strange Dave.I’m out in Las Vegas
    and all of the “Whataburger”s here have
    the real shakes and cool sounds.I always
    thought they were de rigeur in each of
    the places. They’ve been open here about
    8 or 9 years maybe and I only knew of
    them as another LA fast food joint that
    finally started to expand around the
    southwest.I’ve never had their breakfast
    sandwich but I’m hooked on their double
    Chili cheeseburger topped with a fried
    egg.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    They actually originated in Corpus Christi, Texas about 70 years ago. My guess would be that when they went to fancier areas they upgraded their features and because all the stores here have been around for decades they won’t get the cool stuff until they have to be replaced or upgraded because they get too old. It’s a lot easier to implement innovations in a new location than in one which already exists.

    Dave

  • http://www.appraisercitywide.com Michael Walsh

    McDonalds needs to do something to improve customer service. I dont know how many times I need to repeat my order or listed to someone say Huh? when I go in there. It must be hard to run a business with all part time people. This call center idea just shows you that they are trying

  • fred-the-drive-thru-guy

    Its really too bad. I’m an order taker, and bloody good at it, too.

    What Mcd’s wont tell the ordering public, is that most food errors are due to customer errors in ordering. Mom is yakking on the cellphone, and thinks she told me no onions, when in fact, it was the person at the other end of the phone that said ‘no onions’.

    etc. etc.

    A little customer cooperation goes a long way here. Save yourself time and hassle, and toss the damn pickles out the window like everyone else. You’ll live.

  • http://paperfrigate.blogspot.com DrPat

    Fred, there’s room for blame on both sides of the microphone. And people who don’t want pickles (or onions) really don’t want them – they don’t want to have to pick them out, and shouldn’t have to throw out food.

    And not to pick on the golden arches, Carl’s Jr has a similar spotty order completion – I have learned never to drive on without checking my Western Star to see if they did leave out the onion rings.

    When they build this burger, they drop the sauce on top of the ring, and most of it gets absorbed into the batter crust – it just doesn’t taste the same if you simply “pull out and toss” the onion ring!

    It’s one reason I go to Burger King by preference. If I ask them to leave out the onions, they do.

  • http://victorplenty.blogspot.com Victor Plenty

    I wondered who threw all those pickles on the road!

    Give a hoot. Don’t pickle-lute.

  • http://www.sei-it.com Jaime

    Ilive in North Dakota where this company is and a girl I work with left her job making $10 per hour to work for this company to make “more money.” I didn’t ask how much.

  • Bridger Anderson

    I think the idea behind this is time managment, and that 1 call center person could do the jobs of 4 people at 4 different restaurants.

    How is that you ask? Well you don’t have to make the person making food while stopping to do orders.

    To the people that complain of how they constantly have misplaced orders:

    Question: What different does it make to you if a McDonalds employee at the restaurant screws up your order as opposed to a call center employee screwing up your order?

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    Since they’re call-center workers I imagine they make about $15-$16 an hour. A good investment if as the last commentor suggested they can handle 4 times the volume. My guess is it’s 2-3 times the volume with higher accuracy, but that still makes it worthwhile.

    The side benefits are even greater than you may realize. Moving the order takers out of the building creates more work and storage space, reducing overhead, for example.

    Dave

  • Wayne Allen Ginnis

    first off I had a really good friend that used to work for mcdonalds and they refused to give her, her check. If they treat their employes like crap how do you think that they treat their customers? Most of us work and eat at the word wide known place called Mickey D’s and our children eat their as well. I went to a mickey d’s and they were using profanity behined the counter, it is supposed to be family oreianted and my 3 year old daughter has to hear that crap. I don’t think so! So how do we manover around and boycot a place that our kids love so much? Do we take their abuse because they are overworked and underpaid?
    not our fault! How can this corporation be so big and yet treat their customers and their employees like dirt. We need to do something about this corporation. I may not be the perfect aspect of a person, but I refuse to have my children and my friends eat at a resturant that treats employees and customers like they are the worst of all things to happen in their lives. You decide if this corporation needs to do something or if you want them to continue this abuse! The choice is ours…

  • marshall

    I agree.

  • ronald mcd

    Stop having a go at me and my burgers.I`m just a clown that makes burgers.

  • mr wimpy- burger

    The call centre workers who take the calls are also making the burgers, they then send them by u.p.s to the drivethru window at the relevant restaurant, it`s a seamless operation and mcdonald burgerworld are to be applauded for this innovation in fast service.god bless krusty.ban the new world order. David Icke was right the world IS run by Lizard people, they want us to feast on chicken nuggets to fatten us up for when they use us for food. wake up America this is happening now.

  • canadianlaughs

    First off: All of you need to stop your bitching. Just because your the customer doesn’t make you better than me, the worker. (And I do know what I’m talking about. My boss is Lee Adams, along with his brother Scott, who together own 14, soon to be 16 McDonalds in SE Washington and NE Oregon.) I love the Call Center. They make our job so much easier. When you guys come through the Drive-Thru and yell at us, we get pissed off. (BTW, we can hear you just fine.) Call Center doesnt seem to have a problem with it, mainly cause they dont have to sit there and wait for you to pay for your Double Quarter Pounder Meal Large with a Diet Coke (WTF?!) in nickels and dimes. Secondly, everyone is freaking out that this Call Center losses jobs. That is farthest from the truth. I work at the second busiest store in the company, and we still need the same amount of employees regardless. Just want a little respect from all of you. Besides, for all you know, we could be putting the “special sauce” in your burgers. And you dont even know the difference. HA!

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Nice to see someone with the sense to tell the customer to stop bitching. The customer is NOT always right!

    I used to work the drive-thru at Burger King dealing with the same kind of scum who come to the mike gabbing on the cell phone, wasting time telling some idiot about the hot chick they picked up at the bar, totally forgetting and not giving a damn about the people working at the drive-thru or the people waiting behind them in line.

    Finally, the idiots would wake up and holler their order. Thinking about it, outsourcing the orders is a great idea. Drive-thru workers don’t have to deal with the stupid absent-mindedness of fools who don’t know what they want, can’t make themselves understood, etc., etc.

  • Meh.

    I work for a McDonals. I’m a manager in fact. I’ll admit that our crew make mistakes but you have to think about certain things. Fast food restaurants typically have a pretty high turnover rate. This means a lot of new employees a lot of the time. Also customers do make up a lot of the problem. We have the screen at our speaker that says your order, we confirm the order to a “yeah yeah” response only to later get a complaint from this person that they wanted something that wasn’t on their receipt.

    Customers that can barely speak English come through the drive thru. I don’t care if you speak English or not, but have the decency to come inside and speak to us face-to-face so we can better figure out what you are saying.

    Also there are a lot of different people with a lot of different jobs. A simple slip in communication can really throw off even an entire line. While this is of course our fault, it is often a really simple mistake to make.

    Customers complain that we are rude to them and never bother to consider how they and other customers are treating us. It’s really easy to blame all of your life’s problems on McDonalds employees but really if you weren’t so lazy and accustomed to some bizzare level of pampering.. if you could take the time to check your order.. if you could take a 30 second break from your phone call to properly take an order…. if your reaction to a missing small french fry wasn’t cursing, swearing, and a near nervous breakdown…… you might find your mcdonald’s experience a little better.

  • Ruvy

    Meli,

    If the greasy concoctions served at Mac & Don’s didn’t cause so many cases of diarrhea and stomach upset, Americans, and others, might find their McDonald’s experiences a bit more enjoyable – see comment #9 on the food….

    Other than that, Meli, you and I agree on the nature of the pigs rushing to the trough in the drive-thru (the advantage of being a former Burger King manager is that I can afford to be brutally honest in my characterization of those who once paid my salary – the customers), and how they don’t understand that they are placing an order that is taken seriously by the managers of the restaurant.

    Folks don’t take fast food seriously (how many times have you heard “get a mclife!”?) and they should. The stuff costs money, and it is a business, not a joke.

  • kaytlen phillips

    ok so went to mcdonalds yesterday and they scerwed up all of my familys orders and i am so sick of it cuzz every time we go there they mess it up sometime so yeah im gonna stop eating there thats fur sure