What I Wish I Knew Before My First Fast Food Job

I'd love to look back on my first job all these years later and say, "It wasn'really that bad now that I think about it," but nope—to this day, my very first gig as an underpaid trainee at a popular fast food joint was, by far, the worst work experience of my life.

Of course, I can look back and laugh (or use it to inspire articles like this one), but the harsh reality is, well-paid or not, the job sucked, and there's so much I wish people told me before I committed myself to six months of being treated like a peasant. And, to top it all off, this wasn't even at one of the worst known places to work.

While I kind of think having a crappy gig at some point in high school is a rite of passage (just do it for the story), I'm sharing what I wish I knew before my first fast food job:

1. You Take on Every Role, Including Janitor

If you're on a night shift, just when you think your work is done is when it really begins! I remember being about to clock out during my very first shift, when I was informed that I missed a few areas. When my manager pointed to the floor and the bathroom, I thought, don't the cleaning people take care of that? Oh, wait, we are the "cleaning people." Yep, your glamorous duties include getting down on your hands and knees to scrub floors and spritz toilet seats to remove grime. While both suck, the floor is actually worse, TBH—it takes forever.

miserable girl scrubs floor at work

(via Shutterstock)


2. You Can Kiss Your Weekends Goodbye

Weekend party-goers love their late-night bites, so you can be sure your work is staying open late to make that $$. Don't be surprised if you get out anywhere between midnight and 1 a.m. on a Friday or Saturday. Even if your spot closes earlier than that, you'll still need to stick around for cleanup. Unless you're the energizer bunny, you'll be way too tired to go out afterwards, and plus, see No. 3 below.


3. You'll Come Home Smelling Like Dirty Dishes

Take as many morning showers and spritz on as many fragrances—they won't cleanse or cover that lingering fast food shift smell. Whether it's dairy from ice cream, mildew from constant stops at the sink, or droplets of food you've accumulated over the course of the day, you're bound to come home wreaking of dirty dishes. And if you think only you can smell it, trust us, you're wrong.

girl is all smiles as she serves ice cream

(via Shutterstock)


4. Your Uniform Is Likely Flimsy and Thin, Worn by Many People Before You

This is no five-star restaurant, so, unfortunately, your uniform has been worn by the best (and worst) of 'em. Don't be surprised to find tiny holes in hidden places, or freeze because your shirt is so darn thin from wear. Heck, you may even spot some stains. But the good news is a few tosses in the laundry will at least keep the darn thing smelling good as new!


5. Customers Will Have the Most Bizarre Requests

"25 ketchup packs, please!" Umm, yeah, be prepared to field strange demands from pesky customers who won't take no for an answer. "Cheeseburger with no cheese!" What? Yeah, these folks have no shame. They think of you as a poor little peasant and they'll spew whatever nonsense at you that their heart desires.

Rachel Leigh Cook in She's All That

(She's All That via Miramax)


6. Customers Love to Tattle to Your Manager (Usually for Nothing)

Do you swear someone ordered a cheeseburger, only for them to freak out because there's melted American on top of their meat? A customer who thinks you're in the wrong will jump at the chance to tell on you for it. Little things, big things and everything in between—even if you graciously offer up a side of free fries with their amended item, they still feel compelled to throw a tantrum. It's part of the job, so just suck it up with a smile. Ha!


7. Free Food Isn't Always Flowing

An obvious perk to working anywhere food's involved is the freebies, amirite? And, especially in fast food, where everything's made so cheaply, one would think you'd have cheese fries for breakfast, lunch and dinner! But what I learned is, while indeed there's a generous discount on all your workplace meals (usually 50% off), you can't just take things as you please. The manager has to take inventory, so everything that goes missing must be accounted for. In other words, thinking you're going to walk off with three burgers unnoticed just won't fly. And, depending on who's watching you, you can only pile your burgers (for example) up so high.

Whopperito from Burger King

(via Burger King)


8. Your Manager Actually Watches the Cameras

Had a mini-meltdown in front of a customer? Got into it with one of your coworkers? Don't even try to lie to your manager, because all it takes is a quick run through the videotapes to catch you in the act. At my job, we'd even be caught sneaking out with extra ice cream, for crying out loud. You just never know how nit-picky your manager will be, so best to stay on the safe side!


9. You'll Complain Nonstop, But Refuse to Actually Quit

Prepare to enter the land of broken records. From the start of your shift to the end, you and your coworkers (whether you love 'em or hate 'em) will bond over how much you hate your job. Whether it's a nagging customer, your hours, your mean manager, whatever—you'll complain nonstop. Oh, but you'll still show up, just to start the same vent cycle over again.

13 Reasons Why movie theater job

(13 Reasons Why via Netflix)


10. The Food You Once Deemed So Delicious Gets Old Fast

Discounted burgers, fries, ice cream, fried chicken and more at your fingertips multiple times a week—does it get any better than this? Oh, it does, because, trust me, you'll be over it in no time. Like everything else in life, this will get old. Not only will your tastebuds tire, but the nasty workplace smell you associate with the food will be enough to turn you away.


11. There Are a Few Fun Moments

Okay, buried under all the atrocities of working in fast food, I did have some enjoyable moments. It was fun bonding over the common source of income I shared with my coworkers. And I did, in fact, become close to one of the girls at work. It was nice to have someone to hang out with when we didn't get out until late. It was also nice getting a chance to meet people from other schools who I wouldn't have met otherwise.

Overall, shifts do have the potential to be mildly entertaining if you're scheduled with the cool manager and at least one work friend. And, once in a while, you'll encounter a friendly customer who you end up chatting with far past the ordering process.


(Jessie via Disney Channel)


Are you super excited about landing your first high school job? You may change your mind after reading THIS!