I’m on the road again, staying in one of those generic hotels that is located in a busy commercial area, right next to a Chick-Fil-A and a Carl’s Jr. restaurant. It’s one of those places where you walk out of the front door directly into a parking lot for a bunch of other businesses in a strip shopping area.
Let’s just say it’s not exactly a bucolic hotel setting.
But, the hotel location does have the advantage of requiring me to walk past the drive-thru lines of those two fast food emporiums on my way to and from meetings. It always brings a smile to my face, because hearing the interactions between the customer in the car and the employee working the intercom as I walk by is pretty hilarious. It makes me think that fast food drive-thru lanes are probably the worst communications systems known to man. In fact, you could argue that they are consciously designed to avoid effective communication, rather than promote it.
Start with the generic message that you get, asking if you want to get the new menu item the place is featuring, which causes the customer to wonder whether they are talking to a real person or hearing a recording. Then there’s a long pause, while the customer wonders whether they’re supposed to go ahead with their order or wait. When the employee finally says go ahead, the flustered customer proceeds with the order, and there’s inevitably one or two questions from the employee that the customer doesn’t understand.
Squawk — “Do you want to Super-size that?”
Squawk — “What?”
Squawk — “DO YOU WANT TO SUPER-SIZE THAT?”
Squawk — “No.”
Squawk — “Would you like to make that a meal?”
Sqauwk — “What? No.”
And then there’s the awkward pause at the end, where the customer wonders whether the employee is done firing questions and the conversation is finally over and they can just drive ahead and get their food.
We’ve grown accustomed to this kind of stuff in the drive-thru line, but hearing it from a distance makes me wonder whether it wouldn’t be better to just stop, park, and talk directly to a real person when ordering food.