Jeff Bezos used to make burgers at McDonald’s. Here’s what it taught him about management

In the early 1980s, you could find 16-year-old Jeff Bezos, a student at Miami Palmetto Senior High, working as a short-order cook during the breakfast shift at McDonald’s before the sun rose each morning.

Bezos, now the second richest man in the world with a fortune of $159 billion, reminded his followers of his humble origins with a tweet on Sunday. “My first job. And still the same great burger. Happy Sunday!” he wrote, attaching a photo of himself eating a McDonald’s burger with fries.

This isn’t the first time Bezos has been open to working at McDonald’s, which started because he needed a summer job. His father also worked there at a young age. In interviews over the years, Bezos has noted how flipping burgers has helped him learn management skills, gain responsibility, and have fun.

His time at the chain started with a bang, he told Cody Teets, his writer Golden Opportunity: Notable Careers That Started at McDonald’s. “My first week on the job, a five-gallon wall-mounted ketchup dispenser stuck in the kitchen and spewed a massive amount of ketchup into every hard-to-reach crevice of the kitchen,” he said. “Since I was the new guy, they gave me the cleaning solution and said, ‘Go!'”

The McDonald’s manager was excellent, he told Teets. “He had a lot of teenagers working for him and he kept us focused even when we were having fun.”

He added that he was strictly a house clerk throughout his tenure and never worked the registers. “The hardest thing was keeping everything in the right rhythm during a rush,” he said.

It taught him that customer service jobs of any kind are “really hard,” he said Fast Company in 2001. “I was a cook. They wouldn’t let me anywhere near the customers. This was my prime-teen phase. They were like, ‘Hmm, why don’t you work back?'”

However, the burger patty didn’t offer much in the way of practical skills. He added that one of the great gifts the job gave him was the ability to crack eggs with one hand.

“My favorite shift was Saturday morning. The first thing I would do is take a big bowl and crack 300 eggs into it,” Bezos said. “One of the things that’s really fun about working at McDonald’s is that you get to be very fast at all these things. See how many eggs you can crack in a period of time and not have any shells in them.”

However, some might say that Bezos didn’t necessarily apply everything he learned during his time at McDonald’s when he became CEO of Amazon. Critics and lawmakers have repeatedly accused the company of treating warehouse and distribution workers unfairly and dangerously. In 2018, author James Bloodworth went undercover at an Amazon fulfillment center and reported that warehouse workers were being written up for all kinds of breaks, including using the bathroom. Amazon has denied this, but many workers have confirmed it, and many Amazon facilities across the country have filed for union representation.

But Bezos considers his experience valuable. He told Teets he encourages young people to work in jobs like a McDonald’s cook.

“You can learn responsibility in any job if you take it seriously,” he said. “You learn a lot as a teenager working at McDonald’s. It’s different from what you learn in school. Don’t underestimate the value of this!”

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