Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Back in town

Posting has been sparse lately because I've been out of town. Family business took me away for a bit, but Lagniappe and I are back now. Lagniappe will now be going on a diet, since his spending several days with my mother always results in his eating far too much ice cream.

We got back in last night and unpacked, and today it's back to business as usual. I would, however, like to give a perfect example of why capitalism and competition in the marketplace will always beat the alternative such as we're seeing with Obama's mandated health care scam. Forf this example, I have to point you all to the Ohio Turnpike.

At each rest stop along the turnpike, east or west, there is a restaurant. Typically the Turnpike Authority grants the concession to one food-serving restaurant only. Sometimes there may be a Starbucks or some other lite venue there, but only one "sit-down" concessionaire per stop. In most of these rest stops, it's a McDonalds.

Now this would not be bad in itself. I can eat at McDonalds occasionally. However these McDonalds restaurants typically suck in both pricing and the customer service department. Prices are much higher in these stores than in any other McDonalds, and in every one that I saw in both directions, there were long, slow lines for service because they were only manning one or two registers while three to five other registers just had "Next Register Please" signs on them. Lots of people wanted food, but they all had to wait ridiculously long times to get it--and pay more for it.

Why does it work like that? because there is no alternative. It's McDonalds or nothing. They are the only food choice on the turnpike, and you can't just hop on and off easily anywhere you like because the exits are few and far between and you have to screw with the tolls both exiting and re-entering if you do. So it makes sense to just stay on and deal with it, but that also means that you have to accept whatever shitty service that McDonalds feels like giving you, and they know that most of you will because there's just no other choice. You can't just shrug at their lines and prices and go over to the Burger King next door; McDonalds has a monopoly and they exploit that fact to the detriment of their customers.

After seeing this played out in multiple rest stops both going and returning, I finally confronted a manager named Samantha at the Glacier Hills store, 12500 Beard Road, in Springfield, Ohio. I pointed out that she had four cash registers but only one was being used. There was a long line of customers--it would have been longer but people kept walking away in disgust--but she was still only running at 25% capacity. Meanwhile, it took me ten minutes to get to the counter just to order a damned Big Mac. Samantha was quick to start tossing out excuses. One worker has a seizure and broke her nose. Another one was pregnant. Two others had just left--during the lunch rush--because it was the end of their shifts. She was short-handed and there was nothing she could do about it.

"You could hold people over or call them back in for overtime," I suggested.

"Oh, I can't do that," she replied.

"No, you can do it," I corrected. "You just won't. There's a difference. Don't tell me that none of these people working here would take the opportunity to make some time and a half if you offered it to them." I made sure to say that loudly enough for several people behind the counter to hear.
"You've got the people. You're just not willing to cut into the owner's profits because you don't worry that any of these people in line here are going to go buy food somewhere else. You've got a lock on the market here so you're not worried about treating the customers like crap."

Samantha again began to reel off a litany of excuses as to why she was short-handed and unable to remedy the situation, but she was talking to other people in line now--I was walking out. I was, however, pleased to see that others in the line had taken up where I left off and were giving her hell about it. I had given voice to the frustrated people and spurred them to protest. My job was done.

I am, however, still writing letters to both McDonalds and the Turnpike Authority. McDonalds needs to kick their franchisees in the ass and the TA needs to allow some competition in these rest areas and put two or more full-service restaurants in them. That way, customers would have a choice and if one didn't want to treat them right or offer decent prices, they could walk over to the other one, just like we used to be able to do with our health care providers before St. Barack rode in on his magic unicorn and pushed a law through saying that from now on, we can only eat at McDonalds, and that henceforth, no one can refuse to eat at McDonalds, even if they aren't hungry.

I can hardly wait for the new health care scam to take effect, because then every visit to the doctor's office or hospital will be just like driving on the Ohio Turnpike! Yay.


  1. Your analogy scares me in more ways than one in that McDonald's gave me a stellar case of food poisoning once upon a time such that I avoid them at all costs now.

  2. Yeah, monopolies are GREAT! (For the monopoly holder).


  3. Even the Soviets finally figured out that removing the profit motive from businesses doesn't lead to success. As soon as you link an enterprise to a government, you've done that. Post Office, Amtrak, etc.

  4. All dead on point... sigh...