Wednesday, September 17, 2014

BAH! Hamburger

The subject of this post is hamburgers—sort of.

Our students at the university scheduled into certain sociology classes, read a book entitled The McDonaldization of Society*.  The theme of the book deals with topics related to the standardization of production, distribution, inventory, menu and environment of many different types of goods, not just those found in the fast food industry.  However, the fast food industry is a great example because the business practices of these companies are built on the promise that, whether your Big Mac is purchased in Fort Collins, Overland Park, KS, Patterson, LA or Beijing, China, it will taste exactly the same.  Same pre-weighed piece of frozen hamburger, same spices and special sauce, same white flour bun, potatoes fried exactly the same amount of time in exactly the same oil temperature—everything exactly the same.  This business practice, like most, is driven by what the company believes its buying public wants and expects.  The same can be said of a Whopper, a cup of Starbucks coffee or a Dunkin donut.  I’m not saying this is necessarily bad because I hate to pay for a bad cup of coffee.   I’m just saying that it’s been this way in a large portion of our culture for a long time.

But I sense that things are changing.  Fortunately it appears that restaurants, charter schools, customized websites and business cards as well as the health industry and many other service providers, are all vying to gain our business by coming closer to delivering what we want and what we believe is important to fit our unique lifestyle as well as our values.   Think 5 Guys Burgers v McDonalds: at one you have to request which condiments are removed while at the other, you get to choose which to add.  There is a huge upswing in the number of food trucks available in most cities, all ready to give you more options for lunch.  Tiny houses have become so popular—another option to be considered for changing lifestyles—that there is even a TV show entitled Tiny House Nation. Competition is the driving force behind this new-found thoughtfulness toward a consumer-centric approach so enjoy the extra attention.  Last week I even received a thank-you card in the mail from my primary health provider thanking me for choosing to bring my health needs to him!  Who would’ve thunk it!  Business and customer services seem to have taken our self-absorption seriously so next time you see someone taking a ‘selfie’, thank them!  

*The McDonaldization of Society, written by George Ritzer, published by Pine Forge Press, 2008.