Last night, I fell victim to ill-conceived fast-food gimmickry in the form of the Coca-Cola Freestyle® drink machine at a Wendy’s® restaurant near my home.
My foray into fast-food gimmickry began a few days earlier while driving by a just-opened Wendy’s® a few miles from my home. It was then that I noticed the message on a brightly-colored banner positioned near the street in front of the restaurant: “Over 100 Drink Flavors!”
After passing the restaurant several times during the days that followed, I finally succumbed to the less-than-subliminal pressure of that banner and went inside to buy a bag of burgers for my family AND to find out how the folks at Wendy’s® would fulfill their corporate promise of a plethora of drink flavors.
Unlike the traditional self-serve set up featuring a half-dozen drink choices on each side of an ice delivery system, the new system features a sleek touchscreen via which customers can concoct a mixture of their own choosing from a full-scale menu of carbonated and non-carbonated drink options.
As something of a germaphobe, I couldn’t help but think about how many people might touch the touchscreen on the high-tech drink machine during a given day. And how many had washed their hands — or not — before touching it?
That wasn’t an issue with the old-style fountain drink delivery systems that, when operated properly, allow one to push the side of his cup against a metal bars and cause ice and fluids to enter said cup and result in no direct contact between a customer’s hand and the machine.
And what about the lines? Another problem I noticed with this system is that it serves only one customer at a time, kind of like the DMV.
During the five minutes or so that I waited for my carry-out food order to be prepared, I observed as many as three customers at a time waiting in line to use the high-tech, high-touch machine — and the evening rush of customers had not yet arrived.
In addition, I observed that the system had to be “fixed” — that is, a manager had to use a password to get into the machine’s control panel and make some sort of adjustments — at least once during those five minutes. Customers waiting for the machine to be returned to working order had no other options as the one-hole wonder was, as far as I could see, the only customer-accessible drink-dispensing station in the restaurant.
What’s the solution for “Joe Customer” if fast-food restaurants like Wendy’s® stick with the new touch-screen machine, I suppose he can just call the restaurant months ahead of his next fast-food visit to schedule an appointment at the drink machine.
Wait! That’s kind of like what they will have to do with ObamaCare.
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