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Doomsday Scenarios

Tim Holloway
Saloon Keeper

Joined: Jun 25, 2001
Posts: 15632
    
  15

We've all heard the dire predictions that all the high-paying jobs will flee overseas and leave only the McJobs. And then there's the automated fast-food equipment that McD's has been playing around with. But just when you thought it couldn't get any crazier:

they thought up this.


Customer surveys are for companies who didn't pay proper attention to begin with.
Marc Peabody
pie sneak
Sheriff

Joined: Feb 05, 2003
Posts: 4727

That isn't a half-bad idea. The call centers won't be overseas.

But how does the call-taker know that the McDonalds they are answering for is out of parfaits or that there will be a five minute wait for onion rings?

Scenarios like that would make the drive-thru experience much more frustrating.


A good workman is known by his tools.
peter wooster
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jun 13, 2004
Posts: 1033
Originally posted by Marc Peabody:
That isn't a half-bad idea. The call centers won't be overseas.

But how does the call-taker know that the McDonalds they are answering for is out of parfaits or that there will be a five minute wait for onion rings?

Scenarios like that would make the drive-thru experience much more frustrating.


Computers, my dear Watson, computers, they can do just about anything nowadays.

Our local pizzaria uses a call centre to take delivery and pickup orders for the whole chain, when we call they know our address and the last 5 orders we've placed, so they can recommend something we will like. It works well and leaves the pizza makers to make pizza, not play with phones. The pizza always arrives fast and right.
Jesse Torres
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 25, 2004
Posts: 985
Originally posted by Tim Holloway:
We've all heard the dire predictions that all the high-paying jobs will flee overseas and leave only the McJobs. And then there's the automated fast-food equipment that McD's has been playing around with. But just when you thought it couldn't get any crazier:

they thought up this.


It almost seems like a joke!
Mike Gershman
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 13, 2004
Posts: 1272
Every time I get angry about what is happening to our jobs, I remind myself that we made a good living doing things like this to other people's jobs.


Mike Gershman
SCJP 1.4, SCWCD in process
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Originally posted by Mike Gershman:
Every time I get angry about what is happening to our jobs, I remind myself that we made a good living doing things like this to other people's jobs.


Well said.

And remember, your programming brethren aqre working on IVR systems which will completely eliminate these order taking jobs (where local or outsourced) altogether. The world works towards automating simple and/or repetitive jobs. The only way to survive in a contsantly more competitive world* is to keep pushing the envelopings with your offerings. This is as much true for individuals in the job market as it is for product and service companies in the consumer/enterprise markets.

*It got bad for the US in the 80's when "third world" nations like Japan started offering serious competition. It got worse in the 90's when efficent companies beat out inefficent ones. As Eastern Europe and Asia continue to progress it will get even worse (where worse means "more competitive" which is ultimately better for everyone except the shlumps who didn't see it coming_. I can't wait for Latin America to finally stablize and open up their economies.

--Mark
peter wooster
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jun 13, 2004
Posts: 1033
One thing to remember is that business runs in cycles. What's up today is down tomorrow. At some point North America will be the low cost producer, probably in necessities like food. I suspect in the next few years as China and India get large affluent middle classes, that North America's ability to produce many times its requirement of food and water will be significant. Already the commodities market, especially in metals and oil is pushing Canada's dollar up at the expense of the states and China, who are strangely still tied together economically.
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Originally posted by peter wooster:
the states and China, who are strangely still tied together economically.


(This is a foot note to the discussion. China has pegged the yuan to the dollar.)

--Mark
Tim Holloway
Saloon Keeper

Joined: Jun 25, 2001
Posts: 15632
    
  15

I just figured that first they'll outsource order-taking to North Dakota, then decide that it's even cheaper to offshore that too.

But didn't someone recently run some sort of TV commercials about how no one ever complimented a burger by saying "Now that sure tasted efficient!"?

I realize we're talking here about a chain whose first requirement for being a customer is lack of any functional taste buds whatsoever, but there is a danger when you get too far abstracted from the situation. I've seen it over and over where people get so tangled up in the measurable that they forfeit the things that really count.

Like spending millions on CRM software because the people at the top not only no longer deal directly with most customers, but because they have commoditized the customer-facing positions to the point that no one person or group of people has an ongoing rapport with those customers.

For me, the whole point of efficiency is that everything necessary should be affordable. However that's only the beginning. Once you have what you need, the next logical step would seem to be to seek improvements in the experience. E.g., when I call them up, my call really is very important to them.
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Originally posted by Tim Holloway:
But didn't someone recently run some sort of TV commercials about how no one ever complimented a burger by saying "Now that sure tasted efficient!"?


I think you're misremmbering the quote, they said, "boy that was a good value." Cheaper and cheaper.

And before someone complains, "it just means more profit for the execs" remmber that if McDonald's takes the savings as profit, then Burger King can undercut them... or Wendy's... or Jack-in-th-Box.. that's the beauty of the free market. (And if, by some chance, none of them do, then start your own burger place and undercut them.)

--Mark
Dave Lenton
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 20, 2005
Posts: 1241
Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:
*It got bad for the US in the 80's when "third world" nations like Japan started offering serious competition. It got worse in the 90's when efficent companies beat out inefficent ones. As Eastern Europe and Asia continue to progress it will get even worse (where worse means "more competitive" which is ultimately better for everyone except the shlumps who didn't see it coming_. I can't wait for Latin America to finally stablize and open up their economies.


With any economic policy, you have to take the rough with the smooth. For a long time the USA and Europe have done very well out of free market ideas, but now face some tough new challenges as more countries begin to open up their markets. I agree that in the long run this will be good - the theory goes that large open markets will eventually lead to the most efficient distribution of resources. There is a down side to it though - as markets become more free, the gap between the rich countries and the poor countries should, in theory, narrow - the poorer countries will become richer and the rich countries will become a bit poorer.

We, in the USA and Europe, can't really complain - after so long telling the world that the free market is a good thing, we have to grin and bear it when it comes back to bite us in the rear end.

From an economic perspective, what comes next will be very interesting indeed - Europe and the USA will have to make tremendous transformations of their economies from manufactoring based to services based to cope with these changes (manufactoring being the sector the poorer countries will expand into first). While this will work for a while (the UK is a good example of a country that has made this large level transformation), eventually the poorer countries will move into the services sector as well. When this happens, the richer countries will either have to accept losing a share of the world market (and probably a drop in standard of living), or find new sectors to grow into. It will be very interesting to see what new stuff they can come up with.


There will be glitches in my transition from being a saloon bar sage to a world statesman. - Tony Banks
Don Kiddick
Ranch Hand

Joined: Dec 12, 2002
Posts: 580
There is a down side to it though - as markets become more free, the gap between the rich countries and the poor countries should, in theory, narrow - the poorer countries will become richer and the rich countries will become a bit poorer.


This sounds like an up side to me.
Dave Lenton
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 20, 2005
Posts: 1241
Originally posted by Don Kiddick:
This sounds like an up side to me.


Yeah, sorry, bad phrasing on my part. What I meant was that it was a bad thing for the richer countries. Personally I'm all for a smaller gap between the rich countries and the poor ones, but that does come with a degree of sacrifice for the richer countries.
Jeroen Wenting
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 12, 2000
Posts: 5093
Originally posted by Don Kiddick:


This sounds like an up side to me.


Would you still think it an upside if it's you loosing his job, his life savings, and ultimately his home to some half dozen Indians (for example) who can do the same thing more cheaply even when it takes half a dozen of them to do the job you do on your own?

Because that's what's happening.

The buying power of the US and EU citizens is going down very rapidly. Soon we'll no longer be able to purchase those goods that we outsourced the production of even at the lower prices that outsourcing makes possible.


42
Jeroen Wenting
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 12, 2000
Posts: 5093
Anyway, outsourcing the order taking at McD won't help them get a lower percentage of wrong orders to cars.
It may in fact have the opposite effect. At least here the people taking the order are the same ones taking the payment and delivering the goods. They remember voices and the order in which orders came in.
If all the people in the kitchen get is a slip from a computer telling them to prepare XXX, the chances of it ending up in the wrong car go up.

And if soon the callcenter is outsourced to Shanghai someone oldeling one tliple cheasebulgel with extla ketchup hold the pickels may well get something different altogether...
Hu Jiabao
Ranch Hand

Joined: Feb 16, 2004
Posts: 39
Originally posted by Jeroen Wenting:
And if soon the callcenter is outsourced to Shanghai someone oldeling one tliple cheasebulgel with extla ketchup hold the pickels may well get something different altogether...


We replaced your "high quality" toys/wires/zips/umbrellas and electronic instruments.Wait for sometime to see your burger order will be taken in Shanghai.


working in Shanghai CHINA PRC
Don Kiddick
Ranch Hand

Joined: Dec 12, 2002
Posts: 580
Originally posted by Jeroen Wenting:


Would you still think it an upside if it's you loosing his job, his life savings, and ultimately his home to some half dozen Indians (for example) who can do the same thing more cheaply even when it takes half a dozen of them to do the job you do on your own?

Because that's what's happening.


Well obviously I'd be a little peeved. However in your example, it seems that 6 people would be better off, versus one would be worse off and as a whole we'd all be better off as the production of goods would happen in the most efficient way. Isn't this the goal of globalisation ?

D.
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Originally posted by Dave Lenton:

There is a down side to it though - as markets become more free, the gap between the rich countries and the poor countries should, in theory, narrow - the poorer countries will become richer and the rich countries will become a bit poorer.

When this happens, the richer countries will either have to accept losing a share of the world market (and probably a drop in standard of living)


You are half correct. The theory says that the gap between rich and poor countries will close (which is good). However, this doesnot imply a decrease in the standard of living, or that the current rich countries will become "poorer" in a non-rlative basis. The belief is that everyone is better off. The only question is: are you trying to live well, or live better than your neighbor?

--Mark
Tim Holloway
Saloon Keeper

Joined: Jun 25, 2001
Posts: 15632
    
  15

Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:


I think you're misremmbering the quote, they said, "boy that was a good value." Cheaper and cheaper.

--Mark


No. While in English, "cheap" can be used to mean "good value", the converse is not guaranteed.

However the campaign I'm trying to recall definitely used the word "efficient" in regards to the taste of their competitor's products.

It wasn't Subway, I don't think, though they did briefly use the term "Styrofood" to allege that most burger-joint products had flavor virtually indistinguishable from the boxes they came in.

I really don't want my meals to taste like they came out of a factory, I don't even want to eat in a place that makes me feel like I'm on an assembly line myself. I haven't frequented fast-food places in years. Cheap isn't the overriding definition of what I live for. I'd rather go for value.
peter wooster
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jun 13, 2004
Posts: 1033
Originally posted by Tim Holloway:
Cheap isn't the overriding definition of what I live for. I'd rather go for value.


Many people seem to be emulating Oscar Wilde's cynic, knowing the cost of everthing and the value of nothing.

Air travellers in Canada learned this the hard way last week when JetsGo shut down the day before the March school break, leaving thousands of people with their spring holidays ruined and hundreds more stranded in Florida (not the worst of fates when the Toronto temperature was -10C). The airline made a policy of fares that were so low that they couldn't make money, in the hope of bankrupting their competition.

Oddly there was a big rush of trading in their main competitors shares a couple of days before they shut down.
Tim Holloway
Saloon Keeper

Joined: Jun 25, 2001
Posts: 15632
    
  15

Moral of story, before offering something too good to be true, be sure you can afford to offer it.

Once long ago, when warrantees were guarantees, when everything wasn't run by the lawyers and no one hard ever heard of a EULA, the best of the companies would generally bite the bullet when they goofed on a sale or a product offering. A few do even today, but it's become far more common to simply run and disclaim. I dunno, it might be as much the inversion of the "economies of scale" principle. Bigger companies can make proportionally more ruinous mistakes, but leave that for another day.

I found out who ran the "tastes efficient" ad campaign. Google to the rescue!

It was Steak 'n Shake, and oddly enough, the last time I went for fast food (about a years ago last Dec.) that's where I went, though I'm not sure the commercial had run yet. If the mint chocolate chip shake was inefficient, then screw efficiency.

Somehow I suspect my life is a whole lot more fun than Hetty Green's.
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Originally posted by Tim Holloway:
No. While in English, "cheap" can be used to mean "good value", the converse is not guaranteed.


Sorry, I wasn't trying to point out the right phrase (I never heard of the campaign) but rather comment that price is often a *major* consideration for many people for most products and services.

Yes, many may claim McFood's is not a good value at any non-ngative price, but those who like MacDonald's--including kids, and families on cross-country driving vacations, my neighbors (when I was in grad school) who lived on welfare--do consider MacDonald's a good value. Anyway, my point was, such a cost savings does hav positive impact. For thos neighbors for example, with their 3-4 kids, saving a dollar per person did impact their bottom line.

--Mark
Dave Lenton
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 20, 2005
Posts: 1241
Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:
You are half correct. The theory says that the gap between rich and poor countries will close (which is good). However, this doesnot imply a decrease in the standard of living, or that the current rich countries will become "poorer" in a non-rlative basis. The belief is that everyone is better off.


In the long term this is probably true - if the world were to be made a totally free market tomorrow, in 50 years time we may all be living at a nicely high level. In the short term, these things probably take a while to balance out. Markets cannot adapt instantly, so there could be short term problems.

Take the current outsourcing fears. In the short term the US will suffer as service industry jobs go to India, but in the long term a richer India on the world market will hopefully lead to long term improvements for people in both countries.

Still, its a dog eat dog world in free markets, and countries like the USA and European countries will have to be very flexible to be able to reduce the short term problems of more markets opening up.

India's process of stepping up from third world to first world status was a huge event in world economics, but its most likely going to be dwarfed by the rise of China.

The only question is: are you trying to live well, or live better than your neighbor?
--Mark


Sounds a bit like this: http://www.coderanch.com/t/41427/md/Status-VS-Luxury
Dave Lenton
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 20, 2005
Posts: 1241
Originally posted by Tim Holloway:
It wasn't Subway, I don't think, though they did briefly use the term "Styrofood" to allege that most burger-joint products had flavor virtually indistinguishable from the boxes they came in.


While at school I had a job in a Burger King. The boxes that contained the vegetarian burgers had some text listing ingredients and then the sentence "Made from recycled German cardboard". I never quite worked out if it was referring to the box or the burgers.....
Dave Lenton
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 20, 2005
Posts: 1241
Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:
Yes, many may claim McFood's is not a good value at any non-ngative price, but those who like MacDonald's--including kids, and families on cross-country driving vacations, my neighbors (when I was in grad school) who lived on welfare--do consider MacDonald's a good value. Anyway, my point was, such a cost savings does hav positive impact. For thos neighbors for example, with their 3-4 kids, saving a dollar per person did impact their bottom line.


Something that always confuses me is the number of people who eat in MacDonald's in large cities where there is a large choice of cheaper, higher quality, alternatives. In the part of London I live in there is a very busy MacDonald's, but within 5 mins walk are several independent burger places (the typical Turkish kebab/burger restaurants) that serve vastly bigger, better and cheaper food. This is in quite a poor part of London, so you would have thought that people would be wanting to save their money, but MacDonald's is �2-3 more expensive then a burger from the place just down the road. Maybe this shows the power of branding and advertising.
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Originally posted by Dave Lenton:

In the long term this is probably true - if the world were to be made a totally free market tomorrow, in 50 years time we may all be living at a nicely high level. In the short term, these things probably take a while to balance out. Markets cannot adapt instantly, so there could be short term problems.


Actually, it happens surprisingly quickly, usually on the order of about 5 years. Remember cheaper goods can reach the shores within 30 days. Product lines and operations can be adjusted in a matter of a few months to a few years.

Now granted, some people get clobbered and if they can't adapt, the rest of their career is in trouble, e.g. British steel workers (or was it coal?), US autoworkers. But the net positive for the country happens very quickly.

--Mark
Tim Holloway
Saloon Keeper

Joined: Jun 25, 2001
Posts: 15632
    
  15

Junk food is a good illustration of why the term "price" is best used with care.

Impoverished people often make a major part of their diets off of foods that are "cheap" but unhealthy. Part of the price they pay now and in cash. But part of the price is less immediate and more valuable. I.e. they pay with their health.
 
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