You all know I’m a serious guy. A serious guy who talks about serious things. Important life issues, and pressing matters that affect today’s common man (or woman). So I want to tell you a story about Taco Bell.
I don’t eat a lot of fast food. But when I do, I usually choose two places: Arbys or Taco Bell. Usually depends on which one is on the side of the road I am on. Since I’m already busy (or lazy) enough at that point to get fast food, clearly I can’t be bothered by making a left turn. So the other day I’m running some errands, and decide that a Chalupa would be awesome. Having a few extra minutes than I planned on, I decided to just park and go into the fine establishment. I wait in line, and get up to place my order (a number 6, no tomatoes, the taco soft, and a Mountain Dew if you were wondering). As I’m ordering, I decide that while I do want all that gut-busting food, I don’t want the 32oz beverage that comes with it. Call me crazy, but I don’t need a quart of soda. So I made what I thought was a simple request. I asked to have a smaller soda size. Now, the look on the gal’s face was akin to showing a dog a card trick. Confusion. Then she said: "ahhhh, we can’t do that sir.” It was as if I asked her to explain Newton’s law of universal gravitation. Apparently, the keypad on the cash register didn’t include an option to have a smaller soda. So after a few moments, I simply told her to charge me the normal price, and just give me a smaller cup. The look of relief on her face was as though I was a cop and let her go with a warning instead of a ticket. It got me thinking. The whole process of ordering (selecting a number, choosing a few variables, pressing corresponding buttons, etc) is extremely efficient. But have we become TOO efficient?
Think of it with other purchases. Macs come in two colors, white and black. A package not on a car physically in the lot at the dealership involves a lengthy wait process and usually a LOT of extra money. Hell, even most newer neighborhoods offer 3 or 4 models with a handful of color schemes. There is an over-efficiency problem to the extent that institutions offer you only a limited set of choices and what results is a subtle determinism of your behavior. I believe that this isn’t what people really want. They want to be more free. They want to exercise their freedom of choice. Do you remember the old marketing slogan of Burger King? "Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce, special orders don’t upset us. Today, special orders might not upset them, they just short-circuit their brain synapses. The "Have it your way" mentality of the past is no longer valid. Today, virtually all of the fast food chains are saying "Have it our way". You are not free to choose. And this is a serious issue.