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The #1 Thing Drive-Thru Workers Hate

Take notes so you don't make this common mistake ever again.

Sometimes, when you pull up to a drive-thru window, you're not exactly sure what you want. As you take a few minutes to peruse the menu, you can practically hear the irritation from the person on the other side of the intercom waiting for you to decide. Then there are the times when you get to the first window and are scrounging for correct change while the cashier sticks their hand out in annoyance. But believe it or not, these aren't even the things that annoy drive-thru employees the most.

There is one major drive-thru mistake you've most likely made that is actually the worst of all. Even though it sounds so minor, this seemingly harmless habit has a big impact on the person at the drive-thru window.

What's the number one drive-thru window mistake you can make?

It turns out, the biggest thing you should never do at a drive-thru is changing or adding more items on to your order when you're at the cashier window to pay. Deciding to add on an order of fries or that milkshake you forgot to get for your friend not only slows down the entire process—for both you and the customers in line behind you—but it also makes the employees' jobs more difficult, too.

See, the employee then has to re-enter the order (they can't just tack it on) so that they can charge you for the new items, and you have to wait longer for your order as a result. But what you don't realize is that many drive-thrus have some behind-the-scenes things going on that get much more complicated once you add on to your order.

One KFC employee noted on Reddit that ordering more food can actually come at a cost to the restaurant. "It's irritating because if we total the order, we can't go back and change it except to add more to it. Which means if they want something completely different, we have to void it out of the system," the employee wrote. "The location I work at is very strict on the amount of voids that we get in a day (even three is too much and we are actively encouraged to avoid them as much as possible). The cost of the voids adds up really quickly. Each night we have to report the number of voids that we get and the cost of each."

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Adding on more items could get the employees in trouble, too

Another fast-food employee noted on Reddit that drive-thrus are often on timers. "There are timers installed in the drive-thru, and once those times get up to about 60 seconds, the boss starts flipping out on the crew because they aren't working fast/hard enough," the employee wrote. So if someone has to take the time to add new items onto your order, it could get them into trouble with their manager.

The timer starts as soon as you pull up to the drive-thru, another employee noted on Reddit. So if you change your order, stare at the menu for several minutes, don't have your payment ready, or need to order something else, you could also potentially be getting someone into trouble with their boss. One person posted on Reddit that oftentimes the more "fast food" a restaurant is, the more strict they tend to be about the timers.

Basically, knowing your order before you get to the speaker—and not changing it when you pull up to the window—can save employees a lot of headaches. (And if you're someone who stops to check the accuracy of your order before pulling out, that can affect the timer, too. If you have to inspect the bag, pull into a parking spot so you don't hold up the line.)

Obviously, there are worse things than ordering an extra side or a drink at the drive-thru window. But if you're not in a huge rush, it'd be better for both the employees and your fellow customers if you either get back in the drive-thru line again or order the additional items inside. Everyone will be grateful, and you'll still get all of the McDonald's fries you want.

Meghan De Maria
Meghan De Maria is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, specializing in food, product, and restaurant coverage. Read more about Meghan