Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Drive-Thru Madness

If one day you hear on the news that someone has gone postal at a Tim Horton’s franchise location, the stakes are high it will be me.

Tim Horton’s, for those unfamiliar, is a typical fast food chain with franchised outlets across Canada and is expanding into the US. Although not all locations are stand-alone, most are, and offer drive-thru ordering and pick-up.

Its main fare is basic: coffee and donuts, but they have since broadened their menu with offerings of sandwiches, soups and miscellaneous other "food" items to remain competitive.

There is rumour that their coffee contains some kind of additive substance, beyond the normal caffeine, that has many of their customer’s hooked to the point of franchise monogamy. Suggest a coffee other than from Tim Horton’s and they get right ornery. Whether true or not, there is a behaviour associated with a typical “Timmies” addict that goes beyond rationality, and there are millions of them.

Perhaps I should explain first why I despise Tim Horton’s the way I do, and I DO despise them.

About 15-20 years ago in Bolton, a small town north of Toronto, there was a grocery store sitting on a relatively large piece of property in the heart of the early 1900’s downtown core. It was too small for a “modern” grocery store, so the land was being sold off. And the reason the parcel was so large was because at one point in time, that side of the street had been razed by fire. Essentially the entire side of the downtown core was destroyed. This was a perfect opportunity to finally mend the gaping hole in the downtown core and bring it back to its former glory with appropriate and contextual development.

Tim Horton’s, who already had another location a kilometer south along “the strip”, proceeded to purchase part of the property. Even back then, drive-thrus were part of their template.

Upon discovering that TH planned to put a suburban-styled outlet complete with a drive-thru in their former 1900’s core, the Town Council as well as local community groups, were outraged and begged TH not to proceed. In Ontario, when disputes arise between parties that fall under the Planning Act, the disputes can typically be resolved through the local council in two ways: either thru committee of adjustment or the re-zoning process. Each requires the support of both politicians and staff and only differs in degree of transgression of the zoning in place. If agreement cannot be met in these ways, the case can be heard at the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), which, like a high court, has a judge whose decision is final. This is oftentimes a costly and time consuming process and is typically avoided.

The Town fought hard. There were petitions and much objection to the proposed development, but Tim Horton’s, despite those objections -- from their own customers even! -- took the Town to the OMB: and unfortunately, won.

The result: a suburban-style, stand-alone building was built complete with a drive thru that encircles the entire building in the heart of the old downtown. Their only tip-of-the-hat to the old downtown was the exterior materials, which had to be sympathetic to the old brick of the downtown structures. That was their “compromise”.

Opportunities like this are few. TH patently placed corporate greed over community interests. Ironically in the years since, their advertising and marketing campaigns have focused on their “community” service, with ads deliberately designed to tug at your heartstrings, as they peddle their support of local hockey clubs -- one of the pillars of Canadian identity -- and the like. But this is a very thin veneer clearly devised to connivingly dupe their drug-induced patrons into believing that nothing but sheer goodness and motherhood flow from Tim Horton’s loving bosom.

So why do I want to go postal? They are proliferating the drive-thru model throughout their franchise locations, and as we all know, drive-thru’s do nothing but promote automobile use, which we can safely conclude is having devastating impacts on global resources, the atmosphere and about everything else one can think of.

There are approximately 3400 locations across Canada. The majority of these locations have drive-thru’s. I would estimate in the neighbourhood of 80-90%, resulting in 2720 locations minimum. Typically when I pass by one of these locations, as few as 3 cars and as many as 15 cars are waiting in the drive-thru’s. I’d say an average of 6 or 7 would be a typical count, regardless of time of day.

To add insult to injury, the jelly-filled donuts they offer to their adoring patrons are about as healthy as, well, a jelly-filled donut; essentially they are nothing but edible “products”, not to be mistaken with real food. Real food implies the ingested material provides actual nutrition and contributes to healthy living. Further, their coffee -- their raison-d’être -- as we all know, has no nutritional value to it whatsoever. Add the sugar and cream to it and you’re well on your way to a diagnosis of diabetes and heart disease down the line.

There is nothing of value to society that they are providing. They encourage sloth with their “convenient” drive-thru’s, they offer products that do not contribute to a healthy diet, they practice duplicitous advertising campaigns to deceive the public in their motives and subsequently don’t practice what they preach when it comes to what’s best for the community.

Every time I see a vehicle pull up to their drive-thru, especially on beautiful days when the sun is shining and the temperature is great, I just want to stop and ask them: why in hell don’t you get out of your gas-sucking, fume-belching vehicle and walk to the door to get your coffee, you fucking lazy-ass slob? Oftentimes it’s as fast (and sometimes faster) to go to the counter than it is to wait in the drive-thru lines. Plus, you have the benefit of interacting with a human being as opposed to a voice thru a speaker and then an arm that stretches out to exchange your hard-earned money for their inferior products.

Complaining to Tim Horton’s would be a waste of time. Their argument to closing drive-thru’s would be the classic “we’re giving the customer what they want” drivel.

Like all corporations, they have no interest in making this a better place to live in.

1 comment:

mark said...

So true Steve... they have nothing to offer in health, flavor, or community. Why dont people get it is beyond me. And yes next time you should walk up to their car, and comment, maybe leave out the expletives tho. The problem is that the current status of our civilization , everyone pretends that they are not bothered, no one comments, so I guess it is OK, think the mindless. Its the Obama complex or try to appeal to everyone, never say what you really believe and are doing... not possible in my opinion. Too Many have no consideration for what others might feel or think, which is not the way I live, I am considerate, polite, but still voice what I believe.