5 Polite Things You Do at the Drive-Thru That Are Actually Rude

There is such a thing as being too chatty at the window.

Drive-thru businesses have become an integral part of our modern American culture, and they're not just places to get burgers anymore, either. The convenience of not having to get out of your car has spread to other types of foods and drinks, like coffee chains, liquor stores and even daiquiri bars if you're lucky enough to live in certain states.

The appeal of the drive-thru is its efficiency, at least in theory. But all it takes is for one person in line to have not read the assignment for the whole operation to make you wonder if it wouldn't have been quicker to make that burrito or iced coffee yourself.

Chances are, we've all been that one person at one point or another. Believe it or not, there are some things that we may think are polite but are completely inappropriate to do at a drive-thru, if not just plain rude. Here are five examples.

a photo of a "Drive Thru" sign with an arrow pointing left
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1. Being Too Chatty at the Window

"I got into this business because I love interacting with customers, but we also have a job to do," says Rich Lahti, a former Burger King manager. "If we chatted with every customer, before you know it there'd be an hour wait for food," he continues.

What many customers don't really think about when visiting a drive-thru, is that this type of operation isn't intended to totally replace the dine-in experience. In other words, this isn't the time to chat up your waiter and linger over coffee. While we all know it's nice to acknowledge a drive-thru employee with a smile and some pleasantries, it's best to keep it short and sweet. There are too many reasons to include in this article. But, for starters, it holds up the line, and the person five cars behind you may not be so friendly when he finally gets his food only to find out his lunch break is already over. And taking up too much of an employee's time can also have bigger consequences for the restaurant, especially for big chains where efficiency is tracked with timers, and a drive-thru line that's moving too slowly can get the attention of corporate offices and lead to that employee you were chatting up getting in trouble.

2. Taking Your Time When Perusing the Menu

If you don't frequent drive-thru businesses often, the brusqueness of the exchange might be jarring. Listening to other customers shout their orders into a speaker can actually sound a little rude, and if you were dining in, it probably would be very rude. Leisurely looking over a menu is not only bad form while you're ordering at a drive-thru, but also rude to other customers and the employees.

Although we acknowledge that many businesses' menus change often and you might need a second to figure out what you want, if you're completely unfamiliar with the menu, it might be best to park and go inside. Alternatively, you can look up a restaurant or coffee shop's menu online or via their app before you visit the drive-thru or even while you're waiting in line. By the time you arrive at that little speaker, you should know what you want.

3. Paying with Small Change

The kind of money that jingles (aka small change) is something that most retail businesses like to have around. Almost all of us have been in a situation where we've been asked if we have exact change or smaller denominations. And some of us may even have been caught in a circumstance where we've had to wait around until someone went to get change for us. There have even been times when there's been a shortage of coins and many businesses were requesting that customers pay with credit cards or exact change. These experiences could naturally lead a customer to think they're doing a kind act by paying at the drive-thru window with a pillowcase of loose change, but they may be leading that poor employee to have a panic attack.

Counting change takes up a lot of valuable time, especially when it's a lot of change. Drive-thru employees may also not have access to enough workspace to be able to effectively count the contents of your piggy bank. If you really want to get rid of that loose change, stop at a bank first to convert it to bills. Or if you really are dead set on the idea that your favorite taco chain really needs all that loose change, count and organize it yourself and then go into the dining room.

4. Bringing Your Own Cup

File this one under not only a little weird but also kind of rude. When a drive-thru is running smoothly, your drinks should be waiting for you by the time you arrive at the window. If you insist on bringing your own cup to fill up at the drive-thru window, you may be causing a delay that may snowball into a huge backup. As well, soft drink dispensers are oftentimes calibrated to dispense appropriate amounts based on a restaurant's own cups, and many restaurants also count their soft drink cups as a way to keep tabs on how many drinks they're selling.

In short, bringing your own cup can really throw a wrench into the whole operation. Now, we understand that certain coffee chains may even prefer for you to bring your own cup. These drive-thru coffee shops already take this into account when they set up their operations, but you should still be conscientious. If it's the morning rush hour and there is a line of cars at your favorite coffee shop's drive-thru that stretches from the highway exit ramp, you may want to park and step inside to reuse your favorite mug.

5. Giving Trash to an Employee

You may think you're doing the courteous thing by asking the employee at the drive-thru window to throw some trash away for you. After all, littering is extremely inconsiderate, and you've missed that garbage can located just as you're leaving the drive-thru too many times to know better than to try your aim again. But if you can just hold off until you get to your destination (or a rest stop) to throw away your trash, that would actually be the most polite thing to do. A drive-thru employee really isn't prepared to throw away trash, and having to stop what they're doing to dispose of your waste can take them away from receiving and fulfilling orders. This can not only back up the line of cars behind you and slow down drive-thru service, but it can also get the employee into trouble. But most importantly, handing your trash to an employee who is also handling customers' food is unsanitary and can endanger the health of the employee along with that of other customers.

Bottom Line

We're sure there are other things people do at the drive-thru that are much more appalling than the things we outlined above. But sometime's its the things we think are polite that can cause the most harm on a day-to-day level at many drive-thru businesses. So, the next time you're in the mood to enjoy a treat in the comfort of your own car, remember that what's polite in one place may not be polite in a drive-thru situation.

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