Last night I had nothing to eat in the house, and I hadn't eaten in eight hours (and then, not that much). So I walked over to the nearest McDonald's, where the drive-thru is open 24 hours. Shouldn't matter if I don't show up in a car, right?
Well, the cashier pokes his head out of the window while serving the truck ahead of me, looks over, and asks if he can help me. "Can I help you?" = Go away. I asked if I could still order without being in a car, and he said he couldn't do it. When I pressed him politely, he said he got yelled at by his manager the last time.
There was no one behind me, I was not dressed like a bum, I would have gotten off their property after ordering, etc. And of course they would have made a little profit off of the order. Multiply that by all the other normal people who would patronize the drive-thru window on foot, and that's a decent chunk of change they're leaving sit on the table. They're already open, business is always slow during the late hours, so what gives?
They clearly have some kind of policy, since the guy's manager is strictly enforcing it. Presumably that comes from higher up the chain of command. Who knows what the reasoning is — perhaps keeping away bums, robbers, and so on? The point is: it's obvious I am not one of those people, so let me order my damn bacon McDoubles and give you money.
Or maybe the goal is to avoid lawsuits if I got hit — except that there were no cars behind me, or even in sight pulling into the parking lot. Just the truck ahead of me, which I stood a good several feet behind. How could I sue for getting hit by a ghost car?
No matter what hypothetical reasons are given, none applied in this concrete case. This silly example nevertheless reveals something rotten about the mega-corporate model — the inability of any of the workers, from top to bottom, to use their brain and discriminate.
Like, "Yeah, we don't want drugged-out bums or robber-looking dudes showing up, but you look fine." (And anyway, what's to stop a robber from showing up to the window in a getaway car?) Or "Well, normally we don't want people standing in between a line of cars with impatient drivers, but since there's no cars behind you, I guess it's OK."
Corporations instead insist on a culture of law — given how enormous and broadly distributed they are, and how top-down in command structure, their efficiency would get thrown off if every actor were allowed to pause, reflect, and discriminate based on what his local concrete circumstances appeared to warrant. Rather, the decisions are codified in an explicit set of rules or laws that applies to abstract categories of people — if the customer arrives in a car, let him order; if not, turn him away. That must be where the profit-left-on-the-table is made up for — this petty legalism is what allows the whole mega-corporate machine to operate in the first place.
I don't care what is the most rational or profit-maximizing way for McDonald's to run its business. I don't own any stock in the company, and don't know anybody who works there, depending on them for their welfare. But I do resent being treated like some formless representative of an abstract category (the customer). And the more that large top-down corporations take over the industries that serve us in one way or another, the more we can expect to get disrespected by some pantywaist who says he's just following the rules he's given.
You hear rationalizations like, "If we let you order here, we'd have to let everybody order here." Why? Are you completely blind, where every customer appears equally risky, despite you knowing that most are safe and only some are dangerous? I don't care where you set your threshold for "this customer appears too sketchy to allow to get close," but it sure as hell ain't going to include me, or most folks. That's paranoid and disrespectful. Judge me like a particular human being, not some abstract type that you can discover no information about.
Use your brain, not your mind.
Everyone knows how dehumanizing it becomes for workers within a corporation after awhile. This is different, and worse: they take the same clueless, legalistic approach with their customers too. Taking into account all corporations, and looking at both workers and customers, that's... uh, just about everybody who's affected.
And no, I didn't go all Falling Down on the McDonald's cashier. Felt like it would've been pointless with no one around to hear it and agree.