Social media marketing is all about businesses having conversations with their customers. In many industries this era is the first in which brands have actually listened rather than trumpeted their hype from the tallest billboards and loudest channels. That listening is opening the eyes of brand managers, CMOs and CEOs everywhere.

Dairy Queen -- Remember The BurgerUnfortunately, brands sometimes forget to listen internally, though. A recent and very strange personal experience illustrates this point.

On Wednesday of this week, my family stopped at our local Dairy Queen for lunch. We grabbed it to go since our house is less than a mile from the store. When we got home, my wife opened her bacon cheeseburger to add ketchup and exclaimed, “You’ve GOT to be kidding me?!”

There it was … bun, cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato, condiments … and that’s all. They forgot the freakin’ hamburger patty.

Blown away at the ineptitude and interested only in making sure I rushed to get my wife’s meal corrected so she could eat, I failed to take a picture of the burger-less burger from DQ. (Shame on me, I know.) I returned to the store moments later where I was met at the counter by the manager.

“My wife ordered a bacon cheeseburger meal with onion rings,” I said. “You guys haven’t gotten the onion rings right in two years of coming here. We’re used to it. But I’d like you to look at the sandwich and tell me if anything looks odd to you.”

He didn’t say a word, turned to the kitchen and calmly said, “There’s no meat on this man’s burger.”

He retrieved a value meal coupon, returned an apologized. He was professional, courteous, etc. Then he said the following:

“It happens every now and then. There’s several different people involved in our assembly process.”


“Really?” I said. “How often do you forget to put a burger on someones … um … BURGER?”

“Oh, this is only the second time I’ve seen that happen.”


One time, I can see. The strangest, planets-had-to-be-aligned-just-right thing happened this week at Dairy Queen. But TWICE? Your assembly process doesn’t work.

Listen internally, Dairy Queen. If a manager ANYWHERE says they’ve seen more than one instance of a burger being served without the … um … BURGER, something isn’t working.

IMAGE:dairy queen” by PinkMoose on Flickr. (Lettering digitally manipulated by J. Falls.)

[tags]Dairy Queen, hamburgers, customer service, social media, listening[/tags]

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • Kristen


    Kind of reminds me of that old commercial “Where’s the beef?” LOL

  • Colin Fast

    Sorry Jason, but I think you’re blowing this waaaay out of proportion. Any process that relies heavily on people (especially teenagers working for minimum wage) is occasionally going to run into problems.

    This manager has seen two beefless burgers out of how many? 10,000? 50,000? We’d all be lucky if the rate of error for most products was this low.

    And I really don’t see how this experience relates in any way to the point of your blog. Seriously, writing about your wife’s hamburger? Where’s the beef in this post?

  • Mari

    Completely unacceptable.

  • Jason Falls

    Kristen and Mari … I agree on both counts.

    Colin — Thank you for keeping a critical eye on things here. Sometimes the attempt at illustrating a point works and sometimes it doesn’t. The underlying reason for the post was to remind businesses to not forget to listen to their internal audiences about potential issues that might hinder their performance. Perhaps you’re correct in assessing I didn’t accomplish that well and I thank you for the assertion.

    However, I’m going to disagree with you on the rate of error issue on products. Messing up my order happens. (Despite this incident, I like DQ and will continue to go back there, even if they hit the onion rings right only about 50 percent of the time.) Your point is certainly valid in terms of condiments, drink specifications and the like. But I don’t care if you’re a teenager working for minimum wage … you don’t serve someone a burger without the burger. One time is too many.

    Perhaps this is a streak of customer service anal retentiveness coming out of me, but your core product (not DQs but the core of this particular order) is why people pay you money. Dress it up wrong, okay. Forget the product altogether … not so.

    Minus the product testing possible on non-consumables, this would be like Ford churning out F-150s and one of them didn’t have an engine.

    Yes, the assembly of a DQ burger relies heavily upon people and human error happens. But if your people can’t recognize a burger without the burger, I can find 1,000 capable, minimum wage teenagers ready to replace them.

  • Bryan Person,

    I laughed at this story, Jason, even though I’m guessing you weren’t at the time.

    I was a pretty hopeless employee in my 6-week stint (as a 16-year-old) at McDonald’s back in the early 1990s, but even I managed to never forget putting the burger in the bun.

    Any my recollection is that there weren’t too many of forming the assembly process.

  • Joe Wheeler

    Funny post Jason; and as someone who produces a product, I get it.

  • AndrewBadera

    Way out of proportion is an understatement.

    1. The manager handled the situation supremely well.

    2. What sort of defect rate do you think TWO (2) burgers in the lifetime of an average DQ management career represents? Thousands of one (1) percent at best — .000001 maybe? That would surpass the most stringent of manufacturing QA standards, including almost all milspec.

  • AndrewBadera

    3. How long do you think the average food-assembler works at a DQ? Not long. How much of a learning curve is involved, particularly early on in that role? Fairly steep, for someone who’s never worked in fast food before.

    This is not a failure on DQs part at anything. Amusing, sure. Well-told, somewhat. But this does not represent a failure by Dairy Queen.

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  • ophelia chong

    My first HS summer job was at McDonald’s. I still can’t eat there. After being made to wear the Mayor McCheese outfit in a parade (little kids kept trying to push me over, the head was abut 3′ in diameter) I was determined to study harder and do my homework. The manager’s mantra to us was “Smiles are Free”; I kept thinking that at a paltry $1.75 per hour, so was I.

    If people were paid more, but most of all Respected at their jobs, the quality of service would go up. At McD’s I knew I was just a cog in the Patty Machine, but I learned a valuable lesson in How To Treat People, with kindness and respect. You get what you give. :O) Ophelia

  • Carrie T

    That is too funny! It is nice that the manager gave you a free meal, he could’ve handled it a lot worse. I saw an article called “Customer Service Hall of Shame” It ranks the worst companies of 2008. I thought it was very interesting. You might want to check it out at

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