Electronic Cashiers & Burgers

standard May 16, 2015 Leave a response

This meme has been floating around the internet for a while, and it annoys me to no end.


I’m not going to go into the fast-food-worker-wage-debate (even though there’s plenty of evidence backing up the claim that fast food workers don’t make a livable wage), but more the fallacy and complete lack of thought that happens when people repost these idiotic memes.

One of my first jobs was a “team member” at a Taco Bell franchise in Fort Worth, Texas. I spent three long months there, dealing with everything from tornadoes touching down nearby to being hit on by customers to burning myself on deep fryers (I’m not that bright).

One thing I can say for sure: fast food workers will not be replaced by automated terminals in the near future.

First argument: People don’t realize that there aren’t dedicated cashiers at fast food places. Sure, there are people who do it a lot more than others, but we would all take turns prepping food, doing dishes, mopping, cleaning pubic hair off the bathroom walls, etc. There’s a lot more that goes into serving fast food besides slinging a burger together. Yes, the work isn’t the most intellectually challenging, but there is a lot of work, and a lot of standing on your feet.

Plus you go home smelling like tacos all the time.

Second argument: If you’ve ever been to Sheetz and used their automated computer order taking thingy, you know that you have a bunch of screens to go through. Do you want breakfast or lunch? What type of sandwich? Did you want to make any adjustments? What type of side did you want? Did you want to add a drink to that order? What about dessert? Does the order look right? Please take your receipt and pay at the front counter.

I’m not saying people are idiots, but unless you order the same thing every day at Sheetz, it’s going to take you a while to order. Even seeing the menu overhead doesn’t really help once you see all the options available to you.

Fast food registers, on the other hand, either have a keyboard of buttons (like Arby’s) or a simple touchscreen with all the combos/options; they are abbreviated and easy to modify a meal. It would take me all of two seconds to input an order for three soft tacos supreme, no tomatoes, extra sour cream, a large drink and a bean and cheese burrito with no cheese.

How long would it take you to input that at Sheetz? Can you imagine how long it would take to place an order if a bus full of children appeared out of nowhere? People would eventually leave and go someplace else.

Third argument: Places that have the automated food ordering machines (what are they called?) usually provide other services. Waiting on your kickin’ chicken sausage breakfast sammich? Might as well go pick up a Five Hour Energy because you know you’ll need it, and maybe some cinnamon gum while you’re there. You forgot to brush your teeth this morning and you don’t want to maim your coworkers.

Besides, you still have to go to the counter to check out.

Most of those automated machines don’t allow substitutions, rather, they aren’t programmed for it. Want to add cream cheese to your Twisted BLT? Sorry, out of luck.

Facts, Figures & Links

Minimum Wage. AFL-CIO

In 1938, the Fair Labor Standards Act established a federal minimum wage to serve as “a floor below wages,” to reduce poverty and to ensure that economic growth is shared across the workforce.

Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2014. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 25 March 2015

Mean hourly wage: $9.15  |  Mean annual wage: $19,030/year

Gould, Wething, Sabadish & Finio. What Families Need to Get By, The 2013 Update of EPI’s Family Budget Calculator. Economic Policy Institute, 3 July 2013

The basic family budget for a two-parent, two-child family ranges from $48,166 (Marshall County, Miss.) to $94,676 (New York City). In the median family budget area, Topeka, Kan., a two-parent, two-child family needs $63,364 to secure an adequate but modest living standard.

Pylayev, Mariya. Surprising Stats About Fast Food Workers [Infographic]. AOL.com, 13 August 2013

70% of fast food workers are 20 years and older, median ages is 28.  |  59% are white  |  One in four adult workers has a child

Jones, Janelle & Schmitt, John. The Minimum Wage Is Not What It Used To Be. Center for Economic and Policy Research, 17 July 2013

“…the federal minimum wage peaked in 1968. If it had been indexed to the official Consumer Price Index (CPI-U) from that point forward, the minimum wage in 2013 would be $10.75 — $3.50 per hour higher than it actually is. If we measure inflation from 1968 forward using the same procedure we use today (the way we calculate inflation has been updated several times since the late 1960s), the 2013 value of the minimum wage would be $9.42 … almost $2.25 higher than it is today.”

Tritch, Teresa. F.D.R. Makes the Case for the Minimum Wage. New York Times, 7 March 2014

“No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country.” (1933, Statement on National Industrial Recovery Act)

“By living wages, I mean more than a bare subsistence level — I mean the wages of a decent living.” (1933, Statement on National Industrial Recovery Act)

Header image // Luz Bratcher


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