Next Outsourced Job: Fast Food Order Taker

McDonald's has begun outsourcing drive-through orders in 40 of its restaurants, using 125 workers at a call center in California and submitting orders back over the Internet.

The process saves "seconds" on each order. Workers make $6.75 an hour, get no health benefits and handle up to 95 orders an hour in a job that sounds like a workplace massacre in the making:

Ms. Vargas seems unfazed by her job, even though it involves being subjected to constant electronic scrutiny. Software tracks her productivity and speed, and every so often a red box pops up on her screen to test whether she is paying attention. She is expected to click on it within 1.75 seconds. In the break room, a computer screen lets employees know just how many minutes have elapsed since they left their workstations.

One of the dire predictions of the Lou Dobbs crowd is that Americans will be pushed into low paying service jobs because all of our white-collar work is being sent overseas. But McDonald's could just as easily take those orders from Bangalore, where by one estimate a college-educated call center employee earns $2.40 an hour.

Our best hope to keep these jobs: sacred cows.


I think there are a few roadblocks in trying to send the call center for these kinds of things to India (or anywhere overseas, for that matter):

1) Net lag. Ever had a skype conversation with someone in Australia? You can detect the lag

2) Accented call responders. If you define success as rapidly filling an order, then anything (such as an accent) that gets in the way of the order speed is a problem.

On (2) alone, I doubt we'll see a lot of offshoring for this kind of task.

In Tom Friedman's _The World is Flat_, he notes that Indians are actively training for American accents for use in call centers. He also discusses this outsourcing of fast-food order taking. Friedman sees all this as positive -- improving the lives of Indians while making money for American companies, which, he argues, creates more American jobs. We'll see.

Great. Now maybe instead of blank stares I'll get an occasional "Thank You Come Again!!"

>Friedman sees all this as positive

sure, sure - lets wait until they start outsourcing badly written 700-word metaphor-laden editorials to india. then friedman will be singing a different tune.

This is obviously because so many McDonald's workers cannot speak English.

So cluster the few who can speak English into one place and then there won't he usual delays due to the language gap.

Any American citizen who eats at a fast food chain or any restaurant that uses hispanics whether legal or illegal is an idiot paving the road to our demise.

I boycott all restaurants as much as I can. But I do have to eat and here in S. California all the supermarkets are manned by illegal aliens.


Any American citizen who eats at a fast food chain or any restaurant that uses hispanics whether legal or illegal is an idiot paving the road to our demise.

Can I still eat at a fast food restaurant that legally employs Hispanics if they serve Mexican food?

If I pulled in to a Taco Bell and all the employees were Germanic in heritage, I'd be leery of the food.

Then again, I'm leery of Taco Bell in general, so maybe that's a bad example.

It's only a matter of time before an entire McDonalds is just a robotic assembly line, with maybe one human on hand, trending towards zero. I wouldn't be surprised we've got the tech to do it even now, if we put our minds to it, although I don't know that it could be economic yet.

I wouldn't be surprised that the prototypes for this come within ten years, and I have the feeling that's a conservative estimate.

McDonald's has always been concious of their PR. At this point I highly doubt they would risk the backlash of outsourcing. One of their best claims to fame is how many young people they employ, so I don't think were going to see any job elimination due to technology either. Think about it, one rediculous movie comes out and the immediately eliminate the SuperSize and start selling sallads. They care about more than efficiency and sales, they want a good rep.

The primary reason that fast food restaurants are using call centers is to improve the consumers experience. Hence, consistently providing polite and courteous service and improved order accuracy. If the calls are outsourced to India, the consumer will again opt to go inside as opposed to using the drive-thru OR go to a fast food restaurant where there is no language barrier.

I'm with Jeremy, seems like they could just chuck the whole interacting with people thing and put a touch screen on the drive thru.
Then again, MCD seems to be going in several directions. Some stores in Denver have remodeled to have 3 windows in the drive thru, so you give your order face to face with an actual person. Based on experience alone, I much prefer that method, especially if you want to order something that's not on the menu. My wife likes to order the egg & cheese biscuit meal, which translates to a "#2 without bacon", and order that has a 50% chance of being screwed up.

Well, the idea that as a worker you have to sit in some room at a computer screen dilbert cubicle and take McDonald's orders for 6 or 8 hours with 125 other voices in the immediate area is horrifying enough, but add in the 1.75 seconds to click a randomly timed red flashing rectangle on the screen, and the break room name and minutes into the break posted, and for me anyway it sounds like cruel and unusual punishment. I frankly do not understand how ANYONE could get through it for more than a week or two. It's absolutely horrifying for me to even imagine it.

Secondly, and perhaps not so topical, I'd love to see McDonalds banned from the USA, along with Wal Mart, since our radical democrat leftists now hate both of those businesses. Then I'd love to see how much they whined after Wal Mart and McDonald's was banned.

Heck, make sure it's all the fast food restaurants and all the K Mart styled businesses as well. They all do the same thing Wal Mart and McDonalds does.

I can just hear the raging horror from the left for years after "my policy" gets implemented. They now have to trudge to 4 different Mom&Pop stores for their daily items, and they no longer have the LUXURY of grabbing that bacon and cheese bagel at McaDees on the way into work...or after the game or meeting or soccer practice...

If we want to help out the USA, let's hear three huge cheers for Mcdonald's and for WalMart and all their kindred brothers and sisters, and let's crack down on 1.75 second redbox click requirements and insulting break minutes room postings for the poor souls who have the NIGHTMARE job that is the result of the great Henry Ford's production line coupled with computer technology and convenience of the modern day.

We would do well to send the illegals back to whence they came from so they could stop being tortured, and cut the transatlantic internet cable to India...

One more thing:

"...a college-educated call center employee earns $2.40 an hour.

Yes, that's the other problem of the modern world, isn't it. we have hundreds of thousands of "educated" college graduates that whine they can't get enough pay for their massively knowledgeable intellects, and it has apparently spread to Bangalore...

John Kerry, I will never forget, announced while prezzy campaigning that he would make sure every American got a college education.

How about we get back to the idea that knowledge is it's OWN GIFT, and that no matter how much you have and how much you or the parents AND some taxpayers paid for it, it DOES NOT entitle you to a high paying job.

Horrendously, even after hearing the incessant whining about USA college perkies with diploma who cannot get a decent job, we have the just as irritating endlessly played Ad Council ilk commercials declaring how with a GED, a high school education, and at the pinnacle a college education you will earn 75,000, 200,000, and 450,000 dollars more during your lifetime than if you didn't have one of the three.
Now, I know I'm being picky and specific, but if the truth is there are all these suffering underpaid poor deplorable underappreciated souls with degrees who can't get a decent paying job, then why do we also have the "opposite effect commercials...

Well, that's the modern system of LIES. It's like the USA has perfected WHINING, and if you wail and moan and shed some inner tears while sharing one of your personal horrors from your past life experiences, suddenly you are considered a real person, and given a "break", and the evil mean person coming down on you apologizes and says he or she was too harsh and they understand and agree with you...

It's so SICK I almost can't believe it.

So which is it ? Is an education a dire neccessity to increase your lifetime earning power or it is a terribly underappreciated yoke and burden unfavorably bestowed upon the poor graduate whom cannot even utilize his aspiring and effective literacy in the world to earn a buck and have some respect and a life?


Hey people,
I am a reporter from India and cover outsourcing scenario. I have few points for you people to get the exact picture and then make your conclusions about sourcing McDonalds customer care business to India:
1) We do not have call centers using "Skype" to interact with the US or European customers. There are dedicated fiber optical lines with the apt bandwith for the communication purpose
2) If it wasnt for India, many IT companies would have been making less money (IBM, Microsoft, HP, Dell. So eventually your companies are gaining a lot as well we are gaining a lot.
3) Even if the order taking business is outsourced to India, there would be a proper training program (2/3 months) to cater to different accents and the process.
4) If a person from Bangalore is able to do a job in less than half the cost and with more efficiency then that rationally a best thing for all the parties around it. No matter what.

All I wanna say is give India a chance to improve this world.

Vivek Seal

I just want to say that I think the less we depend on countries like India, China and Japan the better off America will be. I'm not intrested in giving India a chance to improve the world if it's going to hurt the U.S. economy. It's people like Vivek Seal in the abouve commet that hurt America!!!


I am a BPO employee with a huge company in US...we work with its employees only not with all US citizens.

I admire americans for their discipline and punctuality as far as i have seen...

The flip side is that many youth who work in call centers- bpo are picking up unhealty aspects from US culture rather than the good.

1.partying on weekends like they were in a prison all 5 days of a week, driving drunk at 100 KPH on roads which cannot take anymore than 45 KPH.
causing accidents (summary negligent drinking--driving)

2.ignoring indian culture traditions
It is a shame that a BPO with 4000 strength sees just sees 40 to sing national anthem on a Indian Independence day..but overwhelmingly celebrates by boozing

just two here..i cant type anymore
Hope we learnt better things

For the nonce McDonald's better than Dunkin Donuts. The ones local to me are all run by Indians. I believe that they "hire" all their relatives. I find the "accent" barrier to be just too much. It takes too much time to get them to understand what I am wanting. Because of this, I refuse to give them any of my business. If McDonald's out-sources to India, I will start making more time to eat at home (which I probably should do anyway).

BTW. I own an HP computer. Guess what I will not buy again? Why, you ask? It is because their customer support in India. I attempted to use it and it was horrendous.

Now I am mad..and the work force centers around the DFW area wonder why people file extentions on unemployment insurance.Even though this is intra-state, it still not right.Have corporations become this insensitive to the unemployment rate and this greedy for profits? What do they gain? what do they save? Now I know why my father called this country " the street coner of the world!" God help us all

What a horrible job!

Excerpts from the employee manual might look like this:

"Be certain to click on the red blinking thing to insure carpel tunnel and insanity!"

"...employees that make it past 30 days without 95 calls per hour burn-out will receive a $.0000000051 per hour pay increase. This powerful incentive will reduce turnover and make the employees deleriously happy."

I worked on a timed call cetre that tracked productivity and speed. We also only had a very few minutes allowed away form the computer.
What a living hell! All for as low as they can pay you.

Is someone TRYING to incite a revolution?

"How about we get back to the idea that knowledge is it's OWN GIFT, and that no matter how much you have and how much you or the parents AND some taxpayers paid for it, it DOES NOT entitle you to a high paying job.

Horrendously, even after hearing the incessant whining about USA college perkies with diploma who cannot get a decent job"

above quote from another poster^

It seems to me that anone willing to work should have a decent job.....not one that pays under $10 an hour. If you go to the work of four long years of college you should AT LEAST be able to make a living.

There aren't enough jobs to go around. It's not whining. It is a legitimate complaint.

I am truly amazed in reading all this at how very little people in the United States understand about technology and how small and interdependent we all are. The comment about "skype" was interesting. Most of us probably don't know about the tremendous fiberoptics that link us all just as quickly to India as to the house next door. Sad. This is why we are outsourcing to India and other countries. Because we are being left behind. Too busy playing video games and enjoying the things being developed in these "third world countries" with students that surpass our own, to realize that we are losing our jobs because we aren't keeping up with people who are still hungry to learn and achieve. I am on the other side of the world at times and don't have any delay in instant messenger or cell phone connection. The world is small, we can embrace it or be left behind. As far as not wanting to eat in restaurants where people have accents...good thing you weren't living in the early days of this country when your forefathers first came to this country. You would have probably starved. I bet the Indians were pretty pissed off themselves. How narrowed minded and ethnocentric. Don't go to Europe...they speak funny there. But if you do...try to speak their language.

Unfucking believable

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