McDonald's Pushing Employees To Be Cheerier

McDonald's friendly employeesIt's hard to be cheery when you're earning minimum wage, but McDonald's is "pushing franchisees" to improve service after complaints about rude employees, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The Journal reports that McDonald's execs held a webcast with its franchise owners last month, and noted that more customers are complaining about "rude or unprofessional" employees. "Service is broken," one slide read, according to The Journal's report.

The fast-food giant pays its crew members an average wage of $7.63 an hour -- or $16,000 a year for working 40 hours a week for a year, according to the employer review site That's about on par with other fast food outlets. But fast food service is among the lowest paid, and fastest growing, jobs in the country. While flipping burgers used to be a part-time pocket-change job for teens, it's become a major employer of working families in the U.S. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that two thirds of fast food workers are female; their median age is 32 years old.

On April 4, the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination, Fast Food Forward, a coalition of activists and fast food workers, staged the biggest walkout ever of fast food workers in New York. "We are sick and tired of working like this every day," one McDonald's worker told AOL Jobs, noting that he works 30 to 39 hours a week and so doesn't receive benefits. The strikers were demanding raises to $15 an hour, with full-time schedules, so that they get benefits. A spokesperson for McDonald's defended the company's pay scale, saying wages are competitive and that employees have "access to a range of benefits to meet their individual needs."

According to the Wall Street Journal, McDonald's franchisees are taking several actions to improve service, including adding staff at peak hours and trying a new system to take orders. Surveys show that customers consider customer service as important as price, The Journal noted.

Pret A Manger, a fast-growing chain, is known for requiring employees to adopt the genuinely creepy "Pret behaviors": Employees must be "enthusiastic," "genuinely friendly" and "happy to be" themselves, and the chain reportedly sends a "mystery shopper" to each branch to gauge workers' emotional status. If a report comes back that is positive, the worker gets a bonus. If the report is negative, the investigator is likely to name the responsible workers, according to British journalist Paul Myerscough's fascinating piece in the London Review of Books.

Update April 15, 4:00 pm EST: A McDonald's spokesperson said the chain does not "comment on leaked information or information we believe is obtained through unauthorized means."

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McDonald's Pushing Employees To Be Cheerier

Average hourly wage for sales associates: $10.41

CEO William Dillard II's total compensation last year: $4.01 million

Working sales at Dillard's can be a dramatic affair, complain several employees on The clerks can be territorial, as they compete for sales numbers. There's little training, many say, and high turnover. Employees labor under the constant threat of termination, and with dizzyingly impossible-to-meet sales goals. The result: dismal morale.

Average hourly wage for sales associates: $7.51

CEO David Perdue Jr's total compensation last year: $1.94 million

The benefits and pay are low and there's a ton of work, especially because many of the stores run with a skeleton staff, employees gripe on "They are not very understanding about family emergencies, your health, and love loading you with way more than you can handle," says one manager, even though Dollar General saw its profits last quarter soar 36 percent from the same time last year. The discount chain gets an average employee rating of 2.4 out of 5.

Average hourly wage for sales associates: $8.31

CEO Do Won Chang and his wife and CMO Jin Sook don't have publicly available salaries, because Forever 21 is a private company, but Forbes estimates their net worth at $3.6 billion.

Do Won Chang is no stranger to grueling work, having held three jobs at once -- as a janitor, gas station attendant and coffee shop barista -- when he first immigrated to America in 1981. But now as the co-founder, along with his wife, of retailer Forever 21, Chang doesn't have to mop a floor again. He's worth almost $4 billion.

But employees at his cheap chic chain aren't saved from the menial grind. While Forever 21 wasn't on the 100 biggest retail list, its lowly employee rating of 2.3 earns it an honorary spot. On, sales associates bemoan the long hours, which sometimes keep them in the store to the early hours of the morning. In January, a handful of Forever 21 employees filed a class action lawsuit against the chain, alleging that the company routinely failed to pay for time worked, and forced employees to labor through breaks and stay after they clocked out -- so that supervisors could check their bags for stolen goods.

Average hourly wage for sales associates: $7.92

CEO James Gooch's total compensation last year: $5.6 million

You have to work hard at RadioShack, say employees on, who complain about intense pressure from above to make sales goals, while managers lament about the time spent away from home with their 50- to 60-hour-a-week schedules. They give the company an average of 2.4 out of 5.

"Minimum wage unless you annoy people into buying a wireless phone," said a sales associate. And because of the high sales targets, "managers will always be on your back about absolutely everything," said one sales rep in Arlington, Texas. "Almost to the point where your whole life revolves around RadioShack and would seem as if you have lost your personal life."

Average hourly wage for sales associates: $7.58

CEO Michael Balmuth's total compensation last year: $12.5 million

The company doesn't have enough managers, so sales associates complain they don't get properly trained. And while employees have very nice things to say about each other, many of them agree that Ross Stores somehow manages to attract the rudest, most demoralizing customers. Then there's also the part about low pay, few raises, being understaffed and overworked. Employees on give the department chain a 2.4 out of 5.

Average hourly wage for grocery clerks: $15.45

Average hourly wage for baggers: $8.68

CEO Bob Piccinini's salary isn't available, because Super Mart is a private company. But as the majority shareholder of a chain with an annual revenue of around $5 billion, you can bet it's more than a bagger.

Employees are dissatisfied with Save Mart, according to, giving the 60-year-old supermarket chain an average rating of 2.4 out of 5. Many complain about a lack of promotion opportunities, and general disrespect from upper management.


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