“Ms. Anne, have you considered having a drive-through for people in cars? You could convert some of the space to have a window.” Mike Dumbellskovetsky, a general contractor, seemed eager to sell Ms. Anne on the idea. “I could have plans drawn for your approval in less than a week.”
The other staff and I watched Ms. Anne. We knew her feelings about car culture.
“Mike, you’re not the first to suggest that idea, but I reject the McDonaldsization of contemporary America.”
“I didn’t say anything about fast food. Just a drive-through window, Ms. Anne. Just a simple change would make a big difference to your bottom line.”
“Listen to me. Every corporation has its drive-through and its timers and its ways of getting employees to worker harder and more efficiently for less money and for less customer satisfaction. I stand against that.
“Last Sunday I stopped by the corporate coffee mill. We’re not open on Sundays, but I wanted a copy of the Sunday Times so I went. I parked the car and walked into the shop. That seemed like a good idea because cars were backed around the building for the drive-through window.
“A young man in front of me and an older man behind me. We chatted—the older one and I. I placed my order and noticed six baristas working hard. I’ll get my drink real soon, I thought. I waited. I watched them hand drinks and snacks out the window and they put coffee and such on the bar for pick-up, but the two men and I waited. Turns out that the chain’s priority is the customers in cars and the customers who order over their app so they can skip the line. And if you’re not in either of those categories, you’re out of luck.
“I understand where they get that approach. Edwards Deming brought the concept of measurement and quantification to corporate America from his post-World War II work in Japan. And the corporate accountants can time and measure the online orders and the car orders and establish standards for delivery, but they can’t do that for the walk-in people. I’m for the walk-in people.
“And you know what else, Mike. Not a single barista asked how I was doing or what I was interested in that day. Only a slightly kinder version of Sarge at the hash house saying, ‘What’dya want?’ And if I put in a drive-through window, I’d be tempted to treat everybody like they were just a cog in the profit chain instead of a human being. I refuse to go down that path. I reject that sort of thinking.
“Now before you try to answer, would you like your usual morning drink?”