I want to share an experience with you. An experience I had on Thursday morning in the great township of Hatfield, Pennsylvania.
After dropping my kids off at daycare, I popped by Dunkin Donuts on Forty Foot Road, just to grab a few coffees and two donuts. The queue was outrageous and wrapped around the building which is understandable. It was snowing and no one wants to get out of their car and walk inside the place which is associated with the fact that COVID is still a thing and some people are trying to avoid close interaction.
Since the line was blocked, I decided to get out of my truck and enter the place instead. No problem. It shouldn’t take very long to get that order and go home, so I can work on high-level journalism at wide traverse.
But when I entered the building there was a piece of paper taped to the plexiglass divider that said ‘no front counter’. Instead they now have a few kiosks where you have to place your order and wait for the employees to do it, much like Wawa or Sheetz or any other place that has been ordering by touchscreen for a while. However, for a place with such a small menu, it seems a bit silly to have to order coffee and donuts on a touch screen. It’s not like building a sandwich in Wawa, where you make specific choices about mayonnaise, oil, lettuce, tomato, avocado, or whatever. Counter orders at any Dunkin’s or Starbucks are simple and usually look like this:
Customer: “Good morning, how are you doing?”
Clerk: “Great, can I take your order? »
Customer: “Let me have a small black coffee, a medium coffee with cream and sugar, and two glazed blueberry donuts.
Clerk: “Sure, it’ll be three bucks or whatever.
Clerk: “Here is your order.
Customer: “Thanks, have a good day.
Clerk: “You also.”
It takes two seconds, but now you can’t do it. You can order through an app, drive-thru, or kiosk, but you can no longer walk into the place and tell a human your order. It’s like calling Comcast customer service. They will go out of their way to make sure you can’t talk to a real person, not until you’ve followed 27 bot prompts first.
It all made sense at the height of COVID. We were trying to be safe and distanced, and limit face-to-face interactions. But what you see now is a permanent change, where some places are still accessible by car/app only. Some don’t even have kiosks or let anyone into the building, so the dining halls just sit there, totally empty.
I know everyone says “just order with the app, it’s easybut again, we’re talking about two coffees and two donuts. Do I really have to get my phone out for such a small order? I spend enough time tinkering around on my phone as it is and scrolling through nonsense like Instagram so the last thing I want to do is place an order through the Dunkin Donuts app when it basically takes the same time to walk into the store and “git r done”, as cable guy Larry once said.
This might sound really cheesy considering we’re talking about donuts, but I think this trend is tied to a bigger problem, and that problem is that basic human interaction has taken a big hit in the last five years or so. We text, use apps and work remotely, so you never see anyone except your spouse and children. As a result, we’ve generally become poor communicators, and people are buried in their phones and seem to distrust traditional methods of speech. People barely talk on the phone now and will sit around sending myriad text messages instead, which is much less efficient. It’s great to have all these new technologies, but we’re slowly becoming anti-social hermits, completely avoiding human interaction. I’m old enough to remember the days when you had to call a landline and say hello to your friends’ parents, or knock on a door and greet them. We are more detached in 2022 than we have ever been.
At the risk of sounding naive, we are all aware that there are bigger labor issues at play when we talk about automation and technology. Robots are coming for all of us, aren’t they? Soon they’ll be doing all the jobs, and the only professions left will be robot maintenance or low-level crappy sports blogger. What you’ve seen during the pandemic is that many companies have downsized and blamed it on COVID (like all the various layoffs we’ve talked about on this site). The coronavirus provided fantastic cover for places that wanted to cut middle management fat and/or stealthily save on labor costs. I’m not accusing Dunkin of doing that here, so don’t take it the wrong way; they just happened to be the example I used for the story since that’s where I went. And the employees up there at Hatfield were ordering left and right, impressively.
Also consider this:
They do this specifically for you to use the app and put money in your DD wallet in advance so they can turn around and invest that money themselves while maintaining their hand costs -work lower.
— Mike (@MikeyHat) January 20, 2022
Mike may be right. I don’t know anything about it because I don’t have the app, but maybe I’ll download it anyway just to give it a whirl and get an idea. Boom! Instant credibility. Now I really know what I’m talking about instead of looking like the old man shouting at the cloud from the Simpsons meme.
And finally, don’t be the person who says “who drinks Dunkin Donuts coffee anyway?“It’s not an everyday affair; sometimes you’re on the road, or you’re held up, or your kids have slept like crap, and you need a helping hand. Coffee elitism is over. Ordinary Americans drink ordinary coffee.
Thanks for reading this Pulitzer worthy column and have a great day.