Software for the finest computer – The Mind


Posted by Tim Bryce on March 1, 2012


Have you ever gone into a fast food franchise and felt you were being processed essentially no different than their product? I think we all have, and frankly I don’t like it. Let me give you a couple of examples.

First, I had a friend who recently visited a Taco Bell and placed an order that came to $3.17. He then paid the cashier with a $5 bill, but for some reason the cash register wasn’t working properly and couldn’t tell the cashier what the change was which, according to my scientific calculation, is a whopping $1.83. My friend waited patiently for his change, but noticed a strange blank look coming over the cashier’s face, kind of like the gaze of an Easter Island statue. After waiting a sufficient amount of time, he snapped the cashier out of her trance by simply asking, “Can I have my change?”

The clerk responded, “Ah, ah….,” as she looked like a deer caught in the headlights on an oncoming automobile. The food order itself was efficiently processed, bagged, and presented to my friend, but he grew impatient for his change. He insisted, “Miss, can I please have my change?” Her look now turned to fright as the machine steadfastly refused to tell her the correct amount.

“Look, it’s really quite simple,” my friend said, “You owe me $1.83.”

“Are you sure?” she responded.

This probably upset my friend more than anything. Instead of performing simple math, she was as locked up as her computerized register was, and the line of customers grew and grew behind my friend.

The next incident involved a recent visit I had to a KFC in Georgia. It had been several years since I had visited the home of the Colonel, and it will probably be several more years before I return. Probably the biggest thing commanding the consumer’s attention in the store is the impressively large menu board, with dozens of food combinations displayed on it. As for me, I just wanted six chicken wings, but couldn’t seem to find it in the menu maze. The only thing that came close to matching what I wanted was something called “Hot Wings.” Thinking this was it, I ordered it from the cashier who dutifully asked me what kind I wanted.

Innocently, I said, “original recipe,” thinking back to a time when there was only two types of KFC chicken, original recipe and extra crispy.

“No sir, what kind do you want?”

Unbeknownst to me, and not marked as such on the menu maze, there were three types of coating you get, probably some sort of honey glaze or different levels of heat, none of which I wanted.

I then said to the cashier, “No, I just want six original recipe chicken wings and that’s all.” Sounds simple, right? This caused the clerk to turn into another Easter Island statue as she was dumbfounded how to answer me. If it wasn’t on the menu maze or her cash register I guess you were SOL. The impasse was finally broken by the manager who said it would take too long to cook the wings and cost more than the regular “Hot Wings” which she recommended instead. Realizing a line of impatient customers was building behind me, I just threw up my hands and said, “Thank you, you’ve been a great audience,” and I exited stage left.

I learned quite a few things from all of this. First, you can, in fact, program people as easily as you can any machine. Simply create a dependency on technology and tightly control the parameters by which it works. In most cases, the human being will trust the machine’s judgment over their own. Second, deviation from the system is simply unacceptable. You can either take it or leave it, but you dare not ask to have it your way.

More than anything though, I learned that I won’t be returning to these franchises any time soon. Call me old fashioned if you want, but any time you put the machine ahead of the human being, I think you’ve got a problem.

“If the mind really is the finest computer, then there are a lot of people out there who need to be rebooted.”
– Bryce’s Law

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at

For Tim’s columns, see:

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Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.



  1. Bob T. said

    Tim, I’m reminded of the citizens in Huxley’s Brave New World or the Eloi in Wells’ Time Machine. The disassociation of the individual from the physical world, aka “reality” has a stultifying effect on one’s ability to engage. Your decision to no longer frequent the “food in a bag” store is rational, based upon your expectations. Unfortunately, for way too many of our fellows, opting out is not an option. As technology subsumes more and more of the production and delivery tasks in our economy, real work for many never materialize. Rather disconcerting if one happens to be sufficiently awake to notice; ergo public education mediates a solution by programming generation upon generation of dim-eyed, button pushers destined to be further removed from the physical world. The $5.00 lunch meal deal may not be such a good deal after all if one must confront the future in a brave new world. Yikes!!


  2. Tim Bryce said

    A P.E. of Canberra, ACT, Australia wrote…

    “Sometimes, I find some really interesting things on the net, like this one. Thanks, Tim Bryce! (Of course, there are the occasional shakes of the head, too.) I had a similar situation in a hospital waiting room the other night; I changed the channel on the TV — I was the only person watching, at after 1am — and was spoken to by the hired guard, because only a nurse ‘can do that’, to which I replied, ‘No, I can too, see!’. Stone face back at me…..” 🙂

    A C.P. of Canberra, ACT, Australia wrote…

    “I was in the Eye Clinic at Woden Hospital the other day. Full waiting room, and on came a kiddy program. When I got up and changed the channel everyone looked terrified, as if I had done something wrong!”

    A B.H. of Boulder, Colorado wrote…

    “The story about getting change from a clerk where the computer has failed is, unfortunately, all too common anymore. After all, it’s MATH Tim, and we all know math is HARD so a lot of kids shut it down in class and figure they only have to get a passing grade to get out. And, making change is APPLIED math, not theoretical … so some of the kids doing quite well in math CLASS never learn how to use it in every day life. Learning an ‘elegant’ proof of some common (or obscure) math concept and being able to spit it back verbatim to the instructor is completely different from being able to figure out change at a cash register. Even sadder? The kids at the cash register probably didn’t even KNOW the price of the individual menu items which are usually placed on the board with the items, and the customer would probably have to either figure it out for themselves or at least remind the kid that the prices were on the board for them to see.

    The story about KFC not having plain chicken wings on the menu is reflective of the customer DEMAND they try to meet in order to keep customers coming back. If no one (well, except for you) wants plain wings, the odds are that it won’t be on the menu. I know a few years ago, livers and gizzards disappeared from their menu (on corporate policy) because the demand wasn’t great enough nationwide. That manager could easily have gone to the regular (original) menu pieces waiting to be selected for serving and picked over them and given you what you wanted. Oh, wait a minute, my late father-in-law (used to work in a butcher shop as a kid) once told me KFC must use some pretty damned strange chickens – the pieces he got in a bucket didn’t resemble ANY chicken he’d ever cut up. (That’s because basically they take a whole fryer, put it under a big cutting jig that is divided roughly into 6 parts. It comes down, and whatever pieces of chicken come out, come out. It means you’ll get a breast with part of the back on it, no such thing as a ‘pully-bone’ or ‘wish-bone’ and so on. So even if the manager had gone over and picked out 6 ‘wings’ for you, they might or might not have LOOKED LIKE wings you expected. (If you really only wanted some wings, go to your local Safeway, Albertson’s, King Soopers or whatever main grocery chain you have. Chances are, they have plain wings in their deli counter, and probably cheaper than KFC would sell them. And, you can probably find them hot OR cold there).

    But, in line with your frustration and wonder, the gent who was my mentor once told me about a situation with ARBY’s that will blow you away. He and a few of his friends had diabetes. They were all in a van going to a meeting and needed to stop for some food to make sure their blood sugar didn’t get out of control. So, they stopped at a drive-in window to order 4 diet cokes and 4 roast beef sandwiches. Sounds straight-forward, eh? Well, the kid on the other end apologizes and says ‘I’m sorry sir, we’re out of roast beef.’ This, of course, takes the group by surprise. My friend goes back over the intercom and says ‘Uh, that kind of caught us off-guard. Give us a minute, OK?’ After a brief wait, they decide they will get 4 ham sandwiches instead. So, they try to order the ham sandwiches and get the ‘I’m sorry sir, we’re out of ham, too’ response. They eventually get 4 turkey sandwiches and go on their way. He and I wondered how much longer a store manager for Arby’s would keep his/her job if they ran out of roast beef (let alone ham). Eventually, I found that stopping at Arby’s for anything actually took MUCH more time to get your order than any other ‘fast’ food chain out there. Subsequently, although I kind of liked their roast beef sandwiches, I simply stopped going to Arby’s out of frustration at the time to get your order. If I wanted a sit-down dinner/lunch, I would go there and sit down. When you’re in a hurry, you want it now.

    HOWEVER, now I am now retired, I find that I don’t particularly want to have ‘fast food’ any more, because I have sufficient time to plan around my dietary needs at home.”

    A J.R. of Flint, Michigan wrote…

    I have to tell you that I’m stealing your quote at the bottom of your article: ‘If the mind really is the finest computer, then there are a lot of people out there who need to be rebooted.’ – Bryce’s Law

    TIM’S REPLY: Glad you enjoyed it. For a complete list of ‘Bryce’s Laws’, see:

    A L.C. of Caen, Normandy, France wrote…

    “And you do not even mention the quality of the food!” Good posting.”

    A J.S. of Arizona wrote…

    “I often get that statue look if giving some change to round up what I should get back, say 17 cents in your example, so I will get all paper money back instead of more coin in my pocket.”

    A J.S. of Skidway Lake, Michigan wrote…

    “This makes me want to wail and gnash my teeth. I knew that spelling and grammar had been downgraded or eliminated in public schools, but math, too? Are we raising a generation of button pushing robots who cannot count or spell? When you’re in a fast food place, always get in the line with the senior citizen at the counter. They can count and are polite. This sounds like profiling, but if you want good service and you’re paying the bill, it’s the way to go.

    I feel your pain, Tim. I’m about to fax copies of some THIRD NOTICE bills, still unpaid, to my car insurance company from the accident last September. Who is responsible for hiring these employees and don’t you wonder about the ones who were not smart enough to be hired?”


  3. […] “Easter Island Statues” (Mar 02, 2012) […]


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