‘Can I Talk to a Human, Please?’ Panda Express Customer Nearly ‘Lost It’ at Drive-Thru When a Robot Attempted to Take Her Order

The fast-food industry has gradually embraced automation to improve efficiency and reduce labor costs.

One example is Panda Express, which recently introduced a robot attendant at its drive-thru.

However, this move has sparked mixed reactions from customers, some of whom prefer human interaction when placing orders.

The Incident: “Can I Talk to a Human, Please?”

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In a recent viral incident, a customer named Theresa Rubalcava pulled up to a Panda Express drive-thru and was greeted by an automated voice.

As she began to place her order, the robot interrupted her, stating, “I didn’t quite get that.” Rubalcava then politely asked if she could speak to a human.

A staff member quickly took over the speaker to assist her. Rubalcava later expressed her annoyance with the robot and when she found out that the restaurant had run out of white rice—a staple item.

The Public Reaction: A Mixed Bag

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The incident has garnered significant attention online, with many people agreeing that a restaurant like Panda Express should always have staple items like white rice available.

One person questioned,

“How does a place of business that serves rice not have a cooker full of white rice on ‘warm’ at all times?”

Another comment read,

“LOL if I pulled up to a window and they made me order with a robot I’d drive off.”

The “Karen” Perspective

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Rubalcava’s experience was framed as a “Karen” moment, a term that has come to describe a middle-aged white woman who weaponizes her privilege in a demanding, entitled, and sometimes inappropriate manner.

However, it’s worth noting that the term “Karen” has evolved into a widespread meme referencing a specific type of middle-class white woman who exhibits behaviors from privilege.

Examples include demanding to speak to the manager to belittle service workers, being anti-vaccination, and carrying out racist micro-aggressions. The meme has also evolved to include “Coronavirus Karens,” who refuse to wear face coverings and don’t adhere to quarantine guidelines. However, some argue that the meme is sexist and ageist.

The Future of Fast-Food Automation

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The article from Plum POS delves into the transformative role of automation in the fast-food industry, highlighting its evolution from self-service kiosks in the 1990s to AI-driven systems today.

Automation aims to enhance customer experience by reducing wait times, improving order accuracy, and streamlining operations.

While it offers numerous advantages like increased efficiency and potential revenue growth for restaurants, it poses challenges such as high initial installation costs and concerns about job displacement.

The future of fast-food automation is geared towards integrating AI and robotics, which can predict customer preferences and manage inventory more effectively.

However, the article also cautions that as automation becomes more prevalent, ethical considerations like data privacy and the human element in customer service must be considered.

Overall, automation is poised to revolutionize the fast-food industry, but it comes with challenges and ethical dilemmas that must be carefully managed.

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Image Credit: Krakenimages.com/DepositPhotos.
  1. bbc.com/news/world-53588201
  2. plumpos.com/blog/the-rise-of-fast-food-automation-and-what-it-means-for-the-industry.html

This article was produced and syndicated by Viral Chatter. It was inspired by this video:

@theresarubalcava1 I almost lost it for real lol #pov #karen #humor #food #pandaexpress #drivethruorder #recipes #momsover40 #fypシ ♬ original sound – Theresa Rubalcava

Martha A. Lavallie
Martha A. Lavallie
Author & Editor | + posts

Martha is a journalist with close to a decade of experience in uncovering and reporting on the most compelling stories of our time. Passionate about staying ahead of the curve, she specializes in shedding light on trending topics and captivating global narratives. Her insightful articles have garnered acclaim, making her a trusted voice in today's dynamic media landscape.