Workin’ at Dunkin’ Donuts: the good, the bad and the smelly

Throughout most of high school, I spent a lot of my time working my days away at Dunkin’ Donuts. I started working there a week before my 15th birthday (which I’m just now realizing may be against North Carolina’s child labor laws?) and worked on and off through senior year of high school.

I worked one summer at Dunkin’, but quickly realized early morning customer service dealing with sunburnt tourists from the Northeast was not my calling, so I got another summer job. But, since I grew up in an area that heavily relies on tourism, that job only needed me during the busy season, so I came back to good old Dunkin’ during the school year.

There was quite a bit of turnover at my particular store, specifically with the managers, so my experiences varied throughout my time there. There were highs (playing with the brand new label maker and assigning every employee a Finding Nemo character) and there were most definitely lows (getting yelled at by a woman with seven cocker spaniels in her car), but Dunkin’ was certainly an experience that shaped my life, for better or for worse.

The Good

Let’s start with the positives. Dunkin’ was really a great first job. It wasn’t a chill job, but that allowed me build a foundation for my work ethic. My boss’ favorite line was “if you have time to lean, you have time to clean,” which really sums up exactly how lenient of an establishment it was. But, I will say that having such a demanding job as my first job really set the standard of what to expect in jobs down the road.

Dunkin’ also allowed me to work on my verbal communication skills and develop my (somewhat fake) customer service persona. When you have hoards of tourists lined up out the door, you have to learn to be polite regardless of the situation, even just to move the line along. They say the customer is always right, don’t they?

I also was able to perfect multi-tasking. Mornings at a ridiculously busy yet ridiculously understaffed coffee franchise were anything but relaxing, so I definitely learned to be flexible and offer to help out wherever I saw the need.

Another small perk is that I still remember what goes in to all of the food and drinks and Dunkin’, and I’m able to guide my friends into making good choices.

There were also a handful of incredible customers throughout the years. The most memorable one was a man on Christmas Eve my junior or senior year of high school. There were about six of us working, and none of us wanted to be there, including the managers. This man ordered a medium coffee (which rang up as $1.94; $1.75 with a local’s discount — is it sad that I remember this?), and then individually tipped each employee on the clock $20.

The Bad

All that being said, with positives come negatives. And this job had several negatives, the most memorable of which was the Dunkin’ smell. Some people say the smell of coffee and baked goods is a good smell. However, that smell sticks to your clothes like maple syrup and gets really old really quick. Every time I walk into a Dunkin’, I still slightly shudder as I get taken back to 5:30 a.m. shifts.

Working at Dunkin’ is also pretty physically and emotionally demanding. Early shifts are no joke, and you’re expected to be on your feet all day. This is true with many food service jobs and customer service jobs in general, but some of our managers were very sparing with the use of breaks, particularly breaks more than 15 minutes. There were most definitely times I had a 6 a.m – 2 p.m. shift with only a small break. Which again, seeing as I was literally 15 at the time, definitely not super legal.

Remember what I said about incredible customers coming through? Well, we also had some pretty unfortunate customers. While I try to see the best in people and hope they’re only rude because they’re having a bad day, we had several repeat customers be consistently rude every time they came in. One man yelled at me because his change was too crinkly, people complained about our lack of peanut butter at the store, we had people steal from our tip jar — you name it, it probably happened.

Another negative that I most definitely did not expect was the lack of free caffeine we got as employees. As someone who, like America, runs on Dunkin’ (or really just caffeine in general), I was hoping that working Dunkin’ would help feed my addiction. However, I was sadly disappointed.

Like I’d assume is the case for many franchises, my experience was very dependent on my particular franchise owner, so I’m sure this isn’t representative of everyone’s Dunkin’ experience, but I just wanted to reflect on my glory days at Dunkin’ and share some gems from the years.

So, I’ll leave you with this, a photo of me working at Dunkin’, throwin’ up the finger guns, because 2012 was a weird time.


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