McDonald's in the UK will now feature machines to take your order instead of cashiers. While this may seem like a great idea to technogeeks and senior citizens who are sick of dealing with those 'young people' when they head to the chain, it does beg the question: where will all the 16 year old kids work during the summer? It's a pretty common sight to see 'young people' get their first job at a fast food chain or coffee shop. While not the most glamourous place to work, it's not a bad starting point, particularly when you need have cash flow other than the Bank of Dad; not to mention soaring tuition rates for post-secondary.
On the other hand, there are many advantages to the new system. The representatives from McDonald's say that it's actually 3-4 seconds faster than ordering from a cashier. That's right, because when you're looking for fast food, every second counts. In fact, if you consider every visit that you've ever made to McDonald's and all the 3-4 seconds that you've lost in the past while talking to some dumb person, the franchise probably owes you minutes of your life that you'll never get back again.
Then there's the fact that it will be cost-effective. Instead of paying the mind-numbing $7-$9 an hour that some employee might cost, money which is just spilling out of the billion dollar franchise's pockets, they will use machines with a set price and minor maintenance fees.
And since we all know that machines never get our order wrong, or charge our credit card twice for the same thing, or break down, or go offline, or even freeze- well, we can all safely trust the machine, because machines already run half of our lives anyway.
It's hardly an improvement to go from indifferent teenagers to cold, sterile machines. Perhaps McDonald's can improve its customer service by making the machines sound friendly. They can try to find new voices that make us happy and want to buy burgers. Like George Clooney mode or 007- don't we all want to buy burgers from 007? Will there be a supersize button somewhere? What if you have a particular way that you like your burger, like no onions, or you want some extra barbecue sauce on the side for your fries? One good thing that nuisance people did is that they actually considered those special orders- even if they didn't always come through.
What will the new machines do? They'll be faster and more cost-effective, sure. But those are the advantages that will most benefit McDonald's itself, not you, the consumer. It's another way that McDonald's shows how much it cares.