“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

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 again. Probably the biggest thing that commands 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 then 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 I purchase 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.

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

Keep the Faith!

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

Tim Bryce is 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 [email protected]

For Tim’s columns, see:

Tune into Tim’s new podcast, “The Voice of Palm Harbor,” at:

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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