A lot of people have a love-hate relationship with McDonald's. Some people absolutely despite the French fry giant. Others? Well, they simply can't stay away from Mickey D's. No matter which side of the spectrum you fall on, you've got to admit that McDonald's is pretty convenient.
Instead of waiting in long lines inside a restaurant, you can just go through the drive-thru and place your order. But the last thing you'd expect as a client is to get caught on camera while you're ordering your food. One McDonalds employee explains why these cameras are necessary and how getting filmed could even benefit you.
There Are Over 13,000 McDonald’s in the US
As of July 25, 2021, there are 13,444 McDonald’s locations in the United States alone. So, they’re not very difficult to find when someone’s on the road. The only thing hungry drivers have to do is look for the infamous golden double arches and head to it. It’s that easy.
Drive-Thrus Are So Convenient
One of the best features about McDonald's is that customers can look at a massive menu and place an order through their microphone. After that, it’s just a matter of driving up to the first window, paying, and then driving to the pick-up window where the customer will receive their order without ever having to get out of their car.
Things Don’t Always Go as Expected
In some cases, orders can take a little longer than expected. When that happens, a McDonald’s employee may ask the driver to find a parking spot and they will deliver the food directly to them. But with so many customers driving into McDonald’s, how do these employees even know which car belongs to a specific order?
Placing and Taking Orders Can Get Chaotic
Placing an order for food is easy, but some customers have passengers who also want to shout out their order from the window. How on Earth can a staffer figure out who wants what with so many overlapping voices?
The Staff is Trained to Handle Everything
Luckily, the staff inside are pros at taking orders and they’re happy to repeat the order back to clients just to make sure they heard it right the first time. But did you know that when you're placing an order, you and the employee aren't the only ones there?
Smile! You’re on Candid Camera
Most customers don’t realize that McDonald’s restaurants have cameras aimed right at them when they’re using the drive-thru. But what purpose could it serve the popular fast-food restaurant to take a snap of each of their drive-thru customers?
Customers Know There Are Cameras
Customers are generally aware of the fact that McDonald’s restaurants have cameras strategically placed in the exterior for security purposes. But these aren’t the cameras that have been monitoring us as we grab our food at the drive-thru.
There’s a Camera at the Ordering Station
According to McDonald’s employee Katie Clarke, there’s a camera at the ordering station that's aimed directly towards the area where customers stop to place their order. And she explained why on TikTok in 2021.
TikTok Revealed a Well-Kept Secret
Unless you've been living under a rock, then you probably know that TikTok is a video sharing app that lets users make and share short videos. And this is where Clarke, who goes by @katieeclarkee, chose to reveal the truth about McDonald’s drive-thru windows.
McDonald’s Tries to Cut Down on Wait Time
Clarke’s revelation was baffling to some folks because McDonald’s has always made it their mission to reduce the amount of time that customers have to wait to get their order. And they’re always looking for new ways to improve themselves.
The Average Waiting Time is Less Than 5 Minutes
The average waiting time for a McDonald’s customer both in the restaurant and at the drive-thru is approximately five minutes. But in 2019, the fast-food joint did their best to cut down on the wait time by as much as 15 seconds. So why would they be wasting their time taking snaps of the drivers?
Clarke Knows Why McDonald’s Snaps Photos
Clarke was eager to explain on TikTok why McDonald’s snapped a photo of each customer’s vehicle. But the reason is so surprising that it left frequent visitors of the fast-food joint completely shaken by the revelation.
All Restaurants Have Secrets
Every restaurant franchise has their own secrets that they don’t normally share with their customers. Some places even have employees sign non-disclosure agreements to guarantee the brand’s privacy. But did Clarke violate the rules?
Clarke Opened the Floodgate to Comments
Comments started pouring in from long-time customers shortly after Clarke broke the news that McDonald’s took photos of customers at the drive-thru. But other comments came from current and former McDonald’s employees who had a lot to say about Clarke spilling the company's secrets.
Employees Are Listening in on Their Customers
Clarke’s TikTok revelation ultimately led to another McDonald’s employee spilling the beans on a few other secrets. In fact, one of the most interesting secrets shared was that employees are listening in on their customers' conversations.
Drivers Trigger a Sensor That Turns Staffers' Headsets On
The McDonald’s employee explained that there is a sensor that turns a staffer’s headset on whenever a customer drives up. This allow them to hear what the driver is talking about before they even ask what they would like to order. The staffer also wrote: “I’m waiting for the day they realize we hear them the moment they pull up, to the moment they leave the speaker box.”
Be On Your Best Behavior or Else
Most customers believe they only have to be on their best behavior when they are talking to the McDonald’s employee through the speaker or at the window. Bust customers should be on their best behavior while they're waiting in line too.
Another McDonald’s Employee Weighed In
In 2019, Andy, a McDonald’s employee, explained the following to Mental Floss: “The speaker is activated by the metal in the car, so as soon as you drive up, the speaker turns on in our headset. We can hear everything, and I do mean everything. Loud music, yelling at your kids to shut up…”
The Sensors Are in Place for a Specific Purpose
While some customers may feel like their privacy has been invaded by these sensors and cameras, the fast-food franchise is actually doing this to monitor how much time a vehicle spends at each step of the drive-thru in order to improve the whole process.
McDonald’s Wants to Avoid Excess Waiting
The sensors and cameras that employees use are an important part of the McDonald's experience. It can be very frustrating to wait in your car, sometimes for five or ten minutes, without any acknowledgment from the staff.
McDonald’s Gets Measured by OEPE
Bob, an assistant manager at an unspecified McDonald’s branch, weighed in: “We get measured based on something we call OEPE. Order end, present end. [That measures] from the second that your tires move from the speaker until your back tires pass over the sensor on the present window. My store is expected to be under two minutes.”
McDonald’s Keeps Tabs on Their Customers
Based on TikTok user Clarke’s inside information, it has become clear that McDonald’s likes to keep tabs on their customers, particularly the vehicles at the drive-thru. But it doesn’t necessarily explain why they have cameras that take photos of the customers.
They Serve as a Source of Amusement
More often than not, these hidden cameras are able to capture everyday situations, but sometimes, it catches unsuspecting customers doing rather embarrassing things.
The Woman Drove Up to a Closed McDonald’s
The employees at a McDonald’s in Columbia, Maryland have a lot to thank their hidden cameras for. One night, a customer went through the drive-thru lane in the middle of the night only to realize that the place was closed. And instead of driving away, she decided to lean out of her car and jiggle the drive-thru window. What happened next was completely unexpected.
She Broke Into McDonald’s
The customer had managed to open the drive-thru window because the staff had forgotten to lock it before they left. So, the woman reached in and poured herself a drink. Then the camera caught the greedy customer climbing in through the small window to get some food.
She Helped Herself to Everything
The customer spent 20 minutes helping herself to whatever she could find at McDonald’s. And she never even bothered to hide her face because she didn’t realize there were cameras recording her. Then, after taking some food and any cash she could find, she simply walked out the front door.
She Turned Herself In
The incident happened in 2017, and the woman from Springdale, Maryland eventually turned herself in after the surveillance video was shown on the news. The woman was identified as Jessica Marie Cross. She was 27 at the time and had allegedly taken $1,400 in cash, a purse, some food and a few Happy Meal toys. But unlike Cross’s wrongdoings, this next guy’s on-camera mistake was simply hilarious.
A Local Traffic Reporter Was Caught
A Baltimore, Maryland reporter named Traffic Jam Jimmy was supposed to report on the congested city streets live for FOX45 Baltimore. But, somewhere along the way, he got very hungry and decided to pull up to a McDonald’s.
The Cameras Caught Him Ordering
Traffic Jam Jimmy took a detour into a McDonald’s drive-thru so that he could order himself a Filet-O-Fish. He wasn’t worried since he was convinced that he had some time left before his report. But it turns out that everyone at the studio and at home were watching him.
Traffic Jam Jimmy Made Everyone Laugh
When the cameras rolled back to the studio, it showed the news anchor laughing her head off. Then with tears in her eyes, she said to him: “Jimmy, I told you we were coming back to you.”
Customer Wanted Nuggets for Breakfast
Sadly, not everyone’s on-camera mistakes could be as hilarious and innocent as Traffic Jam Jimmy’s. One time, a 25-year-old customer pulled up to a local McDonald’s drive-thru for some food. Unfortunately for her, it was still 6:00 a.m. and the fast-food restaurant only had breakfast items.
She Attacked the Cashier
Melodi Dushane from Toledo, Ohio, wasn’t pleased when a McDonald’s drive-thru employee told her that McNuggets weren’t served until lunch time. So, she reached in through the drive-thru window and started to attack not one, but two employees with her fist.
The Customer Shattered the Window
The employee was able to dodge the customer’s attack and close the drive-thru window. But the customer was so angry that she grabbed a bottle from her car and threw it at the window and shattered it.
Camera Footage Helped Authorities to Identify the Woman
Although Dushane drove off, the entire incident was caught on camera. This allowed prosecutors to identify her and charge her with vandalism. Ultimately, she was sentenced to 60 days behind bars and ordered to pay for the broken window.
TikToker Was Talking About a Different Type of Camera
These caught-in-the-act moments have proven why installing security cameras at the popular fast-food franchise is necessary. However, the cameras used in the previously mentioned incidents were not the type of cameras that McDonald’s employee Clarke was talking about in her TikTok video.
Clarke Explained What the Cameras Take Photos Of
Clarke explained that the McDonald’s drive-thru cameras snapped a photo of a customer and their vehicle right after placing their orders. And there is a perfectly logical reason for taking such actions.
Clarke Shared the Camera’s Footage
In the TikTok video, Clarke shared the drive-thru camera footage before asking, “Ever wondered how McDonald’s know whose car is whose?” Then she explained that “there is a camera, and it takes a picture of you and your car.”
The Photo Helps Pair the Order With the Customer
The McDonald’s employee uses the photo to verify that the customer’s car matches the meal that they ordered. This reduces the risk of someone getting somebody else’s food order by mistake, resulting in a chaotic mess.
Don’t Pick Your Nose at the Drive-Thru
Clarke warned customers to be mindful of the way they behave as they are always being watched. In fact, she went on to explain: “Maybe don’t pick your nose when you order… because we see it and we judge you.”
TikTokers Were Stunned
Clarke’s TikTok video gained over 150,000 likes and a ton of comments from folks who were utterly stunned by the revelation. One person commented: “Wait, y’all see us?” And another wrote: “Wow really? I had no idea there were cameras.”
Ex-McDonald’s Employees Were Surprised
It turns out that customers weren’t the only ones surprised by the revelation of a drive-thru camera. Former McDonald’s employees didn’t realize the fast-food franchise had this technology. In fact, one former employee commented: “We didn’t have that when I worked there last year.”
One Customer Knew They Were Being Watched
While some customers and former employees were shocked, one Twitter user recalled a time when they were having a really bad day. And when they drove up to order, it became obvious that someone inside the restaurant had been watching them.
A Twitter User Weighed In
The Twitter user shared an experience that made them question everything. “I recently pulled up at McDonald’s and was having a bad day. The person at the speaker said, ‘Welcome to McDonald’s.’ I said, ‘Hold on’ and started rubbing my forehead. She [said], ‘Oh, you look stressed.’” And that’s how they realized the McDonald’s employee was watching them.
Some Customers Were Uncomfortable
Twitter user @engxl tweeted: “Apparently the drive thru workers can see you when you order???? Idk how to explain it but I feel violated.” However, other Twitter users felt more uncomfortable about something other than being watched.
One Customer Poked Fun at the Situation
One netizen expressed doubt over whether snapping photos and recording customers actually improved the way McDonald’s served. “And y’all still gave my order to the car in front,” they wrote in regards to employees sometimes getting their orders wrong.
McDonald’s Isn’t the Only One Doing This
In the wake of Clarke’s shocking TikTok, several other drive-thru camera videos have gone viral, including one that showed how customers reacted when a Starbucks employee welcomed them with a song. And judging from the customers’ expressions, it was obvious that they were baffled by the singing staffer.
Starbucks Does More Than Take Photos
Starbucks doesn’t just snap a photo of their customers. TikTok user and Starbucks barista zandergjura claims that a camera activates the moment a customer drives up. And as they order, the customer is recorded while an employee watches everything on the other side.
Starbucks Hears Everything
The Tik Tok user/barista also added that the headsets on Starbucks’ employees activate when a customer orders just like at McDonald’s. “That means we can all hear you while you order your drinks…” He then added, “Good luck ordering at the next drive-thru.”
Not All Fast-Food Restaurants Spy on Customers
Anyone who is experiencing a panic attack at the thought of being recorded next time they order shouldn’t worry. One fast-food employee wrote on Twitter that not all establishments do this. “It’s not usually like this. [With] my camera at work, we can only see the car, not the people inside.”
Have Some Fun With It
Next time you get the urge to order at a drive-thru, have some fun and just pose. One Twitter user claimed they did this: “Posing at the camera in the McDonald’s drive-thru [because] EVERY camera is the chance for a photo-op.”