It is high time that some rules were established, some common courtesy and etiquette dictated for the use of fast food drive-through windows. Myself, I generally prefer to go inside a restaurant and order - I find face-to-face communication to be far more effective, and the chances of something being wrong with your order decrease dramatically. I will patronize a drive-through if I am attired in a manner inappropriate for public viewing, like a swimsuit, or pajamas (natty pajamas - anyone who knows me is well aware I am not above wearing pajamas in public). I also generally choose the drive-through on my lunches from work, because I don't really want to be around people. So I will hit the drive-through, get my food, and go to a park somewhere or go sit by the bay and eat, blissfully alone, the only noise being 'All Things Considered' or some similar NPR program on the car radio.
There should be requirements for even entering the drive-through lane. Maybe a big sign. If you attempt to use a drive-through teller at a bank, there are requirements there, discreet little signs posted along the entrance saying things like, "The drive-through teller is for account holders only" and "Please have all deposit forms completed before entering" and whatnot. Why can't fast food restaurants do the same?
I have some suggestions. If you pull into a fast food establishment and are debating drive-through versus walk-in, take a moment to consider the following:
Do you have a vague idea of what you might like to order? If the answer is yes, proceed to the drive-through. If the answer is no, get your lazy ass out of the car and walk inside. If you have to ask a question like, "Ummmmmmm...What makes the Asian salad Asian?" or "Can you give me a list of the ingredients in your oil?" then you need to go inside. Or possibly home. Some other factors to consider:
Do you have a large order? Are you picking up lunch for yourself and six co-workers? Were you on the losing end of a rock-paper-scissors game to see who had to go pick up dinner for you and your fifteen friends? Go inside. This should be obvious, but to many it is not.
Do you need to pay separately for each individual meal, even though you are buying twelve individual meals? GO INSIDE. Are you trolling underneath your passenger seat for change to pay for your meal? Park, complete the trolling, and go inside to mull over what you can get for $1.39 in pennies.
Do you need a menu suggestion? Go somewhere else entirely, it's fast food, not gourmet fine dining. Do not pull up to a drive-through and ask the disembodied, static-y voice, "So what's good here?" If they were honest they would answer, "For you, nothing, because once you finally decide what to order we will punish you for wasting our time by dropping your food on the floor, or by giving you old, smelly lettuce or covering your sandwich in the mayonnaise that someone accidentally left by the grill for four hours. And Jim has a cold, so there's no telling what else could happen".
It's all about common sense and courtesy. The drive-through lane was created to speed up the ordering process, and should not be abused by those who are merely lazy or stupid. This is an actual conversation I overheard at a McDonald's the other day, which inspired this post:
Minivan Driving Idiot: Can I get chocolate milk with that happy meal?
Poor McDonald's Employee: I'm sorry, maam, we're out of chocolate milk
MDI: How can you be out of chocolate milk?
PME: I'm sorry, maam, we just ran out
MDI: Do you have regular milk?
PME: Yes, maam, would you like that, instead?
MDI: Can you use that to make chocolate milk?
PME: Um, no maam
MDI: Fine, just give me a coke, and does that come with apples or oranges?
PME: You can get apple slices
MDI: Hmm, could I get orange slices instead?
PME: We don't have orange slices
MDI: You can't just give me orange slices instead of apples?
PME: No, maam, because we don't have oranges
MDI: So you're telling me I can't have oranges, I have to get apples
And it went on and on, for seven minutes, because I timed it. I was fascinated and repulsed all at the same time. She bought three happy meals and three combo meals, and insisted on paying for them separately. She violated most of the rules of drive-through etiquette: asked about the oil, even threatened legal action, at one point, over wheat products and gluten. It was utterly insane.
So, I say, people of the world, unite, against bad-mannered, thoughtless idiots, clogging and congesting our drive-through lanes with their stupid questions and comments and needy ways. Taking up our precious time that we can never get back, saying things like, "And if it isn't decaf coffee, I'll know". Let's take back the drive-through. Or we could just go inside. :-) Whatever.