Are McDonald's Employee's Pay Docked for Mistakes?
January 2, 2014 12:02 PM   Subscribe

Current and former McDonald's employees: Is there any reprimand or pay docked if you accidentally give a drive-through customer more then the food they ordered?

Long story! So I went through McDonald's the other day, and ended up with 20 more nuggets, 1 Big Mac, and 1 Medium Fry on top of everything else I ordered. It looks like she handed me an extra bag. I felt HORRIBLE when I realized it, because I feel like I had stolen it. It was probably a good $10 more then I paid for, not to mention the inconvenience to the restaurant and the driver who was supposed to get the food instead of me.

By and large I know it was a minor thing and that McDonald's 1. isn't hurting for money; and 2. this is exactly what comped stuff is for.

But my concern is that the worker will have her pay docked or she will receive a reprimand. Do you think she will?
posted by royalsong to Food & Drink (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I worked at a McDonald's in high school (sure, well north of a decade ago), but in my experience, it's likely nobody even noticed. With that much volume of product moving that quickly, mistakes like that happen about 5-10 times a shift sometimes. In our store, nobody was ever docked—just reprimanded in a "hey, don't do that again" way. But, it's franchised, so I can't speak for other stores.
posted by General Malaise at 12:08 PM on January 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

I haven't worked for McDonalds, but know tons of people who have, and I've worked crappy food service. She won't get her pay docked, she probably won't get a real reprimand unless she does this a lot or has a particularly dickish manager (which, on the downside, is pretty common at these types of places).

More like "Where's the bag for this guy? Suzie, what the hell. You gave it to the wrong car. Ok I'll get another one."

If Suzie does this a lot though, people will get pissed.
posted by celtalitha at 12:08 PM on January 2, 2014 [13 favorites]

I worked there in high school, and no, you could not get docked for doing that. If your register was wrong, that you could get in trouble for, but still not docked.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:12 PM on January 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah I worked in fast food also and like General Malaise said, it's likely no one even noticed. Usually, unless a customer comes back to complain, things go unnoticed or unreported.

Also, in my area, it's not common to have pay docked and in some industries, it is illegal. If someone noticed, she probably got a reprimand.
posted by cyml at 12:13 PM on January 2, 2014

It is generally illegal to dock an employees pay for mistakes made on the job. This varies state to state, however. A reprimand is not out of the question though - if it gets caught.

I wouldn't sweat it. Even if you took the food back, they sh/would have thrown it away.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:17 PM on January 2, 2014 [10 favorites]

I worked at Ron's 25 years ago when I was in high school.

Food like you received is not tracked per cashier, although production numbers are tracked and matched against sales. While processes have changed in 25 years, at the end of the day (or the hour as the case may be), some food is going to be thrown out anyway, so likely that's where your food would end up on the balance sheet. On a shift-by-shift basis, it's the "production caller" who ends up owning that (a production caller is the lead who tells the burger flippers what to make, although automated processes have probably replaced that role).

However, waste is merely tracked, and managers try to figure out how to bring it down. This could mean identifying the problem and then training staff to reduce waste.

For discrepancies in cash floats (eg, a cashier provides you with too much or too little change), this is also tracked. If your float is short, you typically do not pay (under employment laws where I live employers cannot charge indemnities for poor work performance).

But all this stuff is measured, and cashiers and employees are provided with feedback.

McDonald's is remarkable because of the amount of training and support employees receive, mainly because (25 years ago) for many employees, Bloaters is the first job they ever have, so there is tolerance for errors.

Theft is a different story, though.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:18 PM on January 2, 2014

Best answer: not to mention the inconvenience to the restaurant and the driver who was supposed to get the food instead of me.

Missing from this equation is the inconvenience to you. Yes, you got some food you didn't pay for, but now you're fretting over it, feeling guilty as if you stole it--when the alternative would be for you to turn your car around and return it to the restaurant. Which would then throw the food away, since they can't give it to someone else after you've driven off with it.

I would not worry about her mistake, and I doubt there will be any repercussions--or even that anyone would ever in a million years notice.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 12:19 PM on January 2, 2014 [5 favorites]

Over the summer, I went through a McDonald's drive thru and bought a sweet tea. Drink only. They handed me a bag with an entire meal in it in addition to my tea. I was distracted and not thinking, took the food, paid for the drink, and drove off. I realized before getting out of the lot, wait a sec, what IS THIS food, and looped back around. I told the guy and said something like "don't want you guys to get yelled at!" and the guy said "managers don't ever notice. I don't think they even care!" and told me to enjoy my fries. ha.
posted by phunniemee at 12:23 PM on January 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

In my food service experience, they will only ever use this kind of thing as a reason to fire or otherwise punish an employee that the manager already dislikes or is a bad employee to begin with. If the employee is otherwise a good employee, I doubt anyone will even notice, let alone say anything.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:23 PM on January 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

One more reason not to worry: in food service, there are spills all the time. Servers spill, and customers spill. This is no different than if they'd put those McNuggets on a tray, set the tray on the counter, and then when the guest's baby knocked over a drink onto the food, replaced them for free as a courtesy.
posted by salvia at 12:25 PM on January 2, 2014

As others have said, this different than getting an extra shirt or DVD by mistake. In that case, the store can just put it back on the shelf or give it to the customer who actually ordered it. When it comes to food, once it has been served to a customer, it can't be served again. This is why most places will just give you the correct item if they make a mistake and not ask for the incorrect item back. They can't use it.
posted by soelo at 12:31 PM on January 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Please don't feel horrible and instead look at it this way -- you likely did a good thing by NOT bringing the extra food back, since it would only have brought attention to the (easy to make) error and the food would have had to be tossed in any case.
posted by vers at 12:40 PM on January 2, 2014 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Mistake is on the drive thru team; your order likely got mistaken with the guy behind you. Guy behind you will act bewildered because he hasn't gotten his nuggets; team will realize mistake, roll their eyes at the person at the 2nd window (it is their job to verify the final order); person at 2nd window will feel bad/stupid, manager making $15/hr will give a stern look at the person at the 2nd window, but that's about it. Guy behind you will still get his nuggets.

Yes you could have returned if you noticed right away (people do that) but it is likely the nuggets would have getting tossed out anyway (since who knows what you did with them in the 2mins that you had them in your possession).

tl;dr - if you had noticed it within 1min of receiving it, then yes turn back and return it. Otherwise eat and enjoy.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:43 PM on January 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Here's some info on disciplinary docking under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Basically, docking pay can result in an exempt employee becoming nonexempt (and thus entitled to overtime pay). This is less of an issue for hourly McD's employees who are likely already nonexempt. However, pay of a minimum wage employee cannot be docked for disciplinary reasons (and docking cannot cause an employee's hourly wage to dip below minimum wage).

Note that some states have further restrictions on disciplinary docking. See, e.g., NY and CA.

In my experience, repeated mistakes lead to termination, isolated mistakes are just the cost of doing business.
posted by melissasaurus at 12:57 PM on January 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Not a McDonald's, but I am a restaurant owner. If there is some sort of screw-up with an order e.g. a meal has to get made again, no employee is docked. We just write it down as a comp or a void.

It sounds like you might have got someone's order, so that was probably noticed because that order had to get made again. But, it was probably just one of several such order screw-ups that happened that day. If there is a continuing problem with an employee screwing up orders, they are probably going to get a reprimand or fired. And frankly, I wouldn't worry about someone who screws up on the job getting a reprimand.
posted by Tanizaki at 1:00 PM on January 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

To start with, docking pay for something like that is illegal in the state I work in.

In the (fast food but not McD's) place that I work at, the kitchen staff might well be irritated and harass her, but no one is going to dock her pay or write her up. (That wouldn't even come into consideration unless it was a person that does these things constantly, and where I work,, still nothing would happen.) No one will even remember it twenty minutes later, unless it's a really spectacular or funny screw up.

But, I work in a REALLY laid back place. Franchise, but almost totally independent. Opposite end of chain fast food spectrum from MdD's. Stuff rarely even gets written up as waste, and it's not something they place a high priority on tracking. Screw ups are going to happen at the high rate of pace we're all working at, and they're (maybe) a 0.5-1% sort of frequency on the high end on the worst days, if that - and I'm including orders we randomly make wrong in that guesstimate, too.

The local TacoBell seems to be relatively similar in their handling; I've never heard the kind of chatter that former and future coworkers *would* be talking about, if reprimands were a common thing for this. It would be unusual. McD's, same thing - though they DO seem to be MUCH more picky than the norm about some things, so I can't say for certain what the reaction would be - but coworkers that have come from working there previously (of which there are several - we're definitely preferred by employees) have never mentioned anything that would give me that impression.
posted by stormyteal at 1:48 PM on January 2, 2014

I worked in a McDonalds for far longer than I should have. They never docked pay for anything. The biggest mistake you could make with a customer (that could lead to trouble w/management) was to have your drawer be off by more than $1.
posted by drezdn at 2:59 PM on January 2, 2014

From my son who's sitting across from me still in his McD's shirt from work today: "That's a big mistake and she'll definitely get a tongue lashing for it. She's got a screen above her that shows her exactly what should be in the bags, and even if the bagger messed up the order, which is doubtful, she ought to notice that much of a mistake just by its weight. But she wouldn't have to pay for it."
posted by headnsouth at 4:40 PM on January 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

Eh, I worked at a McDonald's when I was 15, and when I did this (two bags to one customer, another customer left waiting), my manager just laughed it off.
posted by roger ackroyd at 7:04 PM on January 2, 2014

As far as any guilt about "stealing" the food, please consider the number of times I got home and discovered I was missing a cheeseburger or fries or whatever and didn't go back or call or do whatever thing you could maybe do in that situation because it just wasn't worth the effort. Just enjoy the food. It's on me.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 8:58 PM on January 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

A worker was fired in the UK for giving her friend extra toppings on a McFlurry. However, I think in that case the grounds were that it wasn't an accident.
posted by mippy at 3:01 AM on January 3, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! I didn't realize that docking pay for mistakes was illegal. Way back when I worked a cash register, I swore they said they could dock my check if the math didn't add up. That was awhile ago though, and possibly different circumstances, since the food-giver was not the money-taker.

Next time I'll consider it just a thing that happens and hope the guy behind me isn't too inconvenienced.
posted by royalsong at 10:05 AM on January 8, 2014

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