The 5 Worst Things Famous Companies Made To Train Employees
Training videos are a fickle art. On the one hand, it's almost impossible to make one without coming off as completely stupid and/or insane. On the other hand, same thing -- no matter what you do, if you're making a training video, to some extent, it's going to be cheesy and stupid. You're providing detailed instructions for things that, in most cases, probably didn't need to be explained so thoroughly. Also, for all intents and purposes, your audience is being forced to watch it. The pressure to produce something that acts as an effective training tool under those circumstances must be intense.
I say that because, holy shit, it's pretty clear that somewhere along the way, a few of the corporate training video producers of the world completely and totally lost their minds. Fortunately, a lot of the videos those insane bastards made have survived the times, thus allowing their messages and teachings to be shared with future generations. We talk about a few of the crazier corporate training videos of all time on this week's Unpopular Opinion podcast ...
... where I'm joined by musician Danger Van Gorder of the band Countless Thousands and former carny Brett Rader. That's also what I'm talking about in this column. Up first, a video that drives home that famous restaurant job adage: "If you've got time to lean, you've got time to rock a choreographed dance routine."
McDonald's And A Fake Michael Jackson Want You To "Clean It"
As you'd expect from a song called "Clean It" that came out at some undetermined but almost certainly coke-addled point in the '80s, this is a parody of the Michael Jackson classic "Beat It," except with the lyrics altered to inspire lazy-ass McDonald's employees to maybe wipe down a few tables without the manager having to ask for once.
It even features a low-budget MJ impersonator ...
Still available for parties!
... who uses his single white glove solely to judge the cleaning work of those he's been tasked with inspiring.
Dirt? At a McDonald's? Highly unlikely.
That's the thing -- this is by no means an exact copy of "Beat It." Most noticeably absent is that "Don't let the bastards win!" spirit that coursed through the original version of the song. No, you have lost, and your employment at McDonald's proves it. There is nothing left for you but the cleaning and, as the lyrics clearly state during the chorus, "It really matters that you do your best," even if your best involves working under insanely dangerous conditions, like while standing on a dude's shoulders ...
Does OSHA know about this?
... or, for no reason at all, on the slippery metal surface of a dish sink ...
Just stand on the floor and do it!
... or standing on a dude's shoulders in front of a door ...
Someone's being sexually harassed here, but I can't decide who it is.
... that could open from the other side at any moment. Which it does ...
What were they doing in there?
... just seconds later. All of this while the King of Mop offers zero assistance, aside from a constant verbal shaming about not trying hard enough and the occasional request that everyone stop and dance ...
Is there a training video that teaches this?
... which isn't a problem, since every cleaning maneuver is accompanied by robotic choreography of some sort. There is a glimmer of hope that he's going to come down from his high horse and help out a bit when he emerges from that clown car of a supply closet with a broom and mop in hand ...
... but he only holds them long enough for two of his well-trained janitor robots to grab them and run off to make their McDonald's shine harder.
The best part about this "training" video, though, is the absolute lack of instruction within. It's not like they're singing a bunch of detailed steps that go into the process of cleaning a grill. No, it's just general motivation to not waste the minimum wage you're being paid by loafing around on the job, in the form of a bastardized version of a current (at the time) pop hit. In other words, it's exactly the kind of thing that makes employees want to do the bare minimum amount of work needed to not get fired.
Sizzler Sells Freedom To Investors
Just last week, the Internet was awash in the glow of a newly-surfaced motivational film from the Sizzler "steakhouse" chain. Initially posted on Mashable, the video, at least according to the YouTube description, was used internally during the employee training process and whenever the chain needed to impress investors. What did they impress them with, specifically? Freedom.
It's basically an emotional power ballad about the virtues of Sizzler, with the most important of those virtues being that they, above anyone else in their industry or even in the history of the world, gave us choices.
What kind of choices? Well, how about this?
How will you decide?
That's right, they don't just have a grill -- they also have a buffet. And all in one convenient location. That's freedom, motherfucker. That's America. Or more accurately, Sizzler is America, and they have the b-roll footage ...
... in this video ...
... to prove it.
When they aren't riffing on the fact that they're way more American than the competition, we're treated to an insane series of images from the restaurant itself. A magical land where every dad is a fucking creep ...
This look is actually being directed at a child.
... and every young couple respects the freedom to have full-on sexual intercourse inside a family dining establishment that only Sizzler can provide.
Soon, she'll be pregnant ... with choices.
There's really too much inspiration and glory happening in this video to cover it all in the space of one entry. It was made at a weird time in American history, when the Cold War was mostly over and the tension with the Middle East hadn't escalated to anything close to what we know now. We were confident, we were at peace, and we wanted to celebrate. All of that is perfectly embodied in this video. Basically, this is Sizzler saying, "We came here to do two things: eat steak and fight Russians. And we're all out of Russians."
Blockbuster Uses Condescension To Train Sales
There are a lot of ways to teach a person how to do something, and as this training video from the glory days of cassette-based entertainment proves, "be a condescending asshole" is definitely one of them. It comes to us courtesy of that most esteemed of institutions of higher learning, Blockbuster University.
Who knew a degree from this place would be completely worthless someday?
The basic premise is that girls are stupid. Well, this girl is ...
... and that's a huge problem, because she's got a lot of responsibility on her hands. People are coming to her for advice, and she's letting them down. We know that, because this creepy goon ...
Gladstone? Is that you?
... keeps showing up on one of the overhead televisions ...
Is it better than watching Lethal Weapon for the 50th time? Nope.
... to belittle her customer service skills and show her how a pro handles the rough and tumble sales floor of a Blockbuster Video in the early '90s.
His name's Buster. Buster Sales, that is, and every single goddamn thing about him lives up to that name. It's not enough to just explain the various techniques and procedures that go into effectively servicing a Blockbuster patron. No, those explanations come with eight solid minutes of eye rolling ...
... disgusted looks ...
... and plenty of questions about this lowly Blockbuster employee's life choices.
It includes a running theme about her fucking up her chance to ask a customer's son out on a date, thus forever blowing her opportunity to see Bon Jovi in concert.
Things seem to turn around near the end, after Buster pops up again on a different screen ...
Could computers even play video back then?
... to remind this hapless cashier to keep her eyes open for opportunities. She does just that by talking a friend into buying a video instead of renting it for a sixth time. The talk soon turns to the customer's younger brother. He's a huge Star Trek fan. Maybe she can find something for him for his upcoming birthday! How ever will they figure out what to get him, though? Don't worry, a man shows up to take care of it.
"This is Tim, and he's not an incompetent dame who lacks a working knowledge of every sci-fi universe."
Great job talking her into buying more shit, though, right? Nope, Buster still isn't happy. Turns out they never landed on the exact Star Trek to get that daffy broad's little brother, and she was allowed to leave without taking advantage of the most obvious solution imaginable ... gift certificates.
"They spend just like money, Sugar Tits."
After a little more shaming ...
She deserves this.
... the video ends. Except not at all! Like almost everything else on this list, this video is long as shit. All of the belittling and shitty treatment mentioned so far ...
... all happens in the first half. There's another nine minutes of Buster Sales in the above video. If you can sit through all of it without swearing off watching movies forever, you're a far more patient person than I am.
Wendy's Blindsides Employees With '80s Rap
Wendy's infamous Grill Skills training video is an Internet classic, mostly because of the insane '80s rap song that erupts halfway through. But there's a plenty of crazy before that point that people rarely talk about.
That's actually the strangest thing about this video to me. It starts out completely normal, with company founder Dave Thomas preaching the gospel of his superior burger-making abilities.
"Hi, I'm Dave Thomas, and I was almost certainly hammered while filming this."
Listen close, though, and you'll notice that things get weird almost immediately. For one thing, Dave Thomas speaks with an accent that cannot possibly be of this world. He says the word "fashioned" repeatedly, which makes sense, seeing as how the name of his restaurant is Wendy's Old-Fashioned Hamburgers. What makes less sense is the way he says the word, which comes out sounding more like "fayshioned" than "fashioned." He says it constantly. He says it wrong every single time. It is maddening.
Then there's his constant reminders that every meat patty needs to be pressed into a square, "so the meat hangs over the bun." Why? Because "people'll like that."
Less questions, more pressing meat into squares, please.
It's apparently so important that it needs to be mentioned no less than 10 times in the space of one training video.
After Dave is done speaking, it seems like we're still on course for a relatively normal experience. Then a shot of a manager leading an employee to a back room to watch a video appears.
The calm before the storm.
That's when things get truly insane. First, the machine starts vibrating and smoking ...
But yes, by all means, move closer.
... before sucking the befuddled trainee inside ...
... where he's immediately met by the rapping grill cook that Wendy's has apparently imprisoned in their version of Tron.
Set him free!
The rest of the video plays like an '80s rap fever dream, full of disembodied heads ...
... gold-plated spatulas ...
The chrome rims on a 1997 Nissan Altima of the food service industry.
... and singing meat patties.
Racist? No way!
The best part? It's 15 goddamn minutes long. The basic message behind that quarter of an hour is simple: make the meat hang over the bun. That's it. This video could have just as easily been a sign with three or four handy demonstration pictures. Press the meat, make it square, drain the fat, put it on the bun. If you've ever wondered why Wendy's never seemed to reach the same heights as the McDonald's and Burger Kings of the world, it's probably because they blew their profits making completely unnecessary propaganda videos like this one.
McDonald's Makes The Taxi Driver Of Training Videos
Everything about this McDonald's training video from 1972 ...
... seems perfectly normal at first. Everyone is singing, everyone is happy, customers are being served. It's everything you don't expect from a McDonald's lobby. Nothing unusual about that -- training videos are known for their over-the-top optimism, and that's precisely why this one stands out. See, 1972 was a different time. We weren't yet soaring on the wings of freedom, like in that Sizzler ad from earlier. Times were tough. The war in Vietnam was still happening, Nixon was still our president, gas was hard to come by ... to put it mildly, people were bummed the hell out.
McDonald's recognized this as much as anyone else, and they acknowledge as much when it's revealed that all of that happiness and contentment from the early parts of this video ...
It's like Watergate doesn't even bother her!
... were but a dream.
Of course it's a dream; no one's happy at McDonald's.
Soon, it fades out, revealing the bleak reality of America in the '70s. Gone are the smiling customers being doted on by helpful fast food workers. In their place, a sea of snarling ...
... monsters ...
... who want nothing more than to order a burger and for everyone around them to shut the fuck up while they're doing it. Smile? You'll be lucky if you survive this exchange of goods without getting punched in the goddamn teeth. It's not just customers, either. In this brutally honest version of the world, even the McDonald's employees themselves turn into bitter ...
... malcontents ...
... who lost all hope of ever encountering a friendly face again a long long time ago.
How did they get this way? Well, it's simple, really: The world made them this way. They venture out looking for help, and instead they find nothing but abusive car parts salesmen ...
"What do I look like, a mechanic or something?"
... and disinterested electronics store workers.
"How would I know if we have it? I'm not even looking up."
In turn, they take those hurt feelings back to their McDonald's job, where they level the playing field by being shitty to everyone, customers and coworkers alike. This goes on for an excruciating 13 minutes. Basically, it's McDonald's saying, "Look, you're all a bunch of assholes, and we understand why. Just please don't bring that shit to work with you."
It's a war that they never had a chance of winning. We know that now, but back when this video was made, there was at least a glimmer of hope that things might be different someday. This wasn't McDonald's trying to change their employees' attitudes, this was McDonald's trying to change the world.
For more from ATB, check out 5 Stories That Will Compel You To Quit Your Day Job and 5 Things You Didn't Know Are Signs Of Impending Danger.
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