I tried to get a job at Burger King and failed miserably
You read that headline correctly: it's possible for someone to try to get a job at Burger King and get rejected. I know this because it happened to me.
You know how there are videos of employees doing horrible things to food at fast-food joints? Those people got hired. I didn't. I wasn't even going to do gross things! I'm humiliated. If you wrote this into a plot of a TV show, critics would say it was unrealistic, and the show would get canceled and replaced with one featuring Dane Cook and a ticklish camel.
Why the hell would I want a job at Burger King?
A little background on me: I went to a four-year college and graduated. I've been gainfully employed since 2005. I am reliable. I like to think I'm smart. I have no fast-food experience, but I was eager to learn.
And I'll admit that my reasons for wanting a part-time job at BK were a little shady. I was going to try and work 100 hours there, and try to understand what it was like to be a fast-food worker -- try to understand how the people who work there live off of $7 an hour. And also what it's like to make a Whopper. To be a cashier during lunch rush. And then I was going to write about it.
The Burger King application process
Like Coldplay sang in that song about scientists, I'll take you back to the start. I could've applied online, but I figured I'd scope out the location I wanted to work for, so I went into the store and asked for an application. The floor was sticky. This is one of the newer BK's on the outside and inside, but still the floor was sticky.
I sat in an empty booth and filled out my application. I got one from the manager, who seemed nice enough. Had arm tattoos and a big smile. He was Latino, as were some of the cooks, but for the most part it looked like the Captain Planet team behind the counter -- white, black, and Hispanic all working in concert to make sure America got cheap, plentiful beef. NOTE: the lame kid with powers of heart and the monkey did NOT work there.
The things they asked me on this application seemed unrelated to how successful I'd be at the job. Why did they need to know my GPA in high school? Had they ever rejected someone with a 2.5 GPA? "Sorry, but if you think a 2.5 GPA is good enough to be able to scoop Chicken Fries into a paper box, you're dead wrong."
I called to follow up a day later, and they said to come in at 9:30am in the morning to interview with a manager.
My big interview
I sat down with the manager. He was missing a lot of his lower teeth and had a patchy white goatee. I didn't know what to wear to a service industry job interview -- a suit? I was told by a coworker to wear a button-down and khakis. I dutifully put on khakis. They had a pleat in them, which shows you I haven't worn khakis since I bought these in 1997.
The manager was interested in what I wrote was my current job. “Thrillist, is that some sort of magazine?” This was a funny question. I tell everyone I write for a magazine, because most people call Thrillist a blog, thinking it's a side project I do in my spare time. It's better than a blog. But I didn't freak him out by telling him was a full-time food and drink editor, I told him it was a blog.
He said he did this job to pay the bills, but I was wondering what sort of bills he could pay with it.
“Cool,” he said. “It's not relevant to the job. I went back to school and got my journalism degree a few years ago. I do this to pay the bills, you know?”
“Yeah,” I replied. “Me too.”
I couldn't imagine what sort of bills I'd be able to pay with this job (I'd be able to buy a regular Starbucks drink every once in a while?), but I was interested in finding out.
He didn't ask me any questions. Mostly we talked about the hours I could work. I guess I showed up wearing clothes and appeared to have a beating heart. I was hireable.
First he offered me a maintenance job. Scrubbing the deck, cleaning outside.
I told him I was looking for more of a cashier job. He could tell I was more of a cashier type from looking at me, he implied with his eyes. I was mainly bummed out I didn't give a more masculine vibe -- like that I could scrub the deck with my bare hands while smoking an unfiltered Marlboro. He must've seen my hands and thought, “Those are cashier fingers.” I've been told I have soft hands, so I guess that makes sense.
Then he said he wasn't willing to give me evening hours because that's when the high school workers work for him. It was kind of comforting to hear that, because I've read that many fast-food jobs are not done by students anymore -- they're done by older people with multiple jobs trying to make a living. I guess in the small-town bubble I live in, this doesn't hold water.
We talked for a bit more, and it was clear that since I couldn't work their busy hours (from 11am-2pm), that this wouldn't work. I shook his hand and left without a job. But I refused to take no for an answer.
Burger King treated me like a girl who didn't want to date me anymore
After I got approval from my bosses at Thrillist to work the day shift a few days a week, I excitedly called BK to tell them the news. "They're gonna be so excited that a catch like me moved his busy schedule around to work for them!" I thought, like a conceited maniac.
I got the manager on the phone. He was going to thank me for saving his restaurant!
"Great news!" I said. "I can work the rush shift two hours a day. And weekends. When can I start?"
"Ok." There was a pause. "I'm really busy, can you call back later?" It must've been 3 in the afternoon. He was not busy. Lunch rush was over.
I've been in enough broken relationships in my life that I know it's never good when anyone tells you they're busy, and they'll call you back later. Only this time it wasn't a woman who was disappointed in me. It was a Burger King manager with a patchy goatee. The rejection hurt just the same.
The final rejection
I remained hopeful. I called in again a few days later. The manager picked up.
"Hey, it's Lee again. I can work those day shifts like I said earlier. So when would be good for me to start?"
"I'm sorry, but we're going in another direction."
I didn't believe what I had just heard, so I asked him again.
"We're going in another direction. We found other people."
"I don't know what to tell you. We're going in another direction. Ok? Thanks."
I guess I'll never figure out why I wasn't hired. Too peppy during the interview? Did I say something wrong? I barely said anything at all -- we mostly just went over my hours.
I wonder if he could hear my heart breaking over the phone. I wonder if he even cared. He might have been a Burger King manager with a useless journalism degree, but to me he was just a cold-blooded killer.
I found myself driving by that Burger King the other day during my lunch break. I was waiting at a light at the intersection. I looked over and saw the building. The smell of Whoppers wafted through my open window.
And as I looked at that beautiful new BK I realized something: whenever I pass a Burger King for the rest of my life, I won't think of Whoppers.
I'll think of rejection (... and also probably Whoppers).