Lessons in Consumerism from the Street

Standing in line today at the Tim Horton's adjacent to my office building, I watched as several of the Soup Kitchen Boys, a group of haggard, aging men in unkempt clothes worn in too many layers for the day's weather, hung around with their coffees and made conversation with each other. Being one of those antisocial ipod-listening types, I had my earphones on for much of the duration of the time I was in line, but shut off my music two spots short of being "the next person in line" to be helped.

To my amazement, I witnessed two noteworthy events: the first involved one of the SKBs at the table adjacent to the counter removing his donut from it's small paper bag, and upon looking into the bag and finding no crumbs, he handed it to his friend in the next chair, who was seated right beside the counter. The friend placed the bag back up on the counter, on top of the pile of neatly stacked, "unused" bags that would soon house donuts, bagels, and sandwiches.

At first, I thought that slightly unsanitary, and from a consumer's point of view I had hoped the woman behind the counter would see this and remove the bag, redirecting it to the trash. After all, each consumer should be given something clean and fresh with their order, yes? I guess I didn't see the "re-use" concept hurtling toward me before smacking me square in the face. Obviously these SKBs know a little about not wasting what little you have. Lesson one complete.

Lesson two happened about a minute and a half later. I had just removed one earphone so that I would hear when it was my turn to be helped, when I noticed that one of the SKBs was either in line behind me, or was waiting alongside the counter for some other type of service (the way we all thumb our noses to queuing convention when all we want is some napkins or a glass of water). Behind the counter, there was some debate over whether or not there would be enough eggs prepared for the breakfast sandwiches that were being ordered at the cash. The woman making the sandwiches wanted to be sure the woman working the register wasn't going to sell more sandwiches than could be prepared, so she mentioned that there was only one egg. Apparently there may have been some confusion over whether two sandwiches were being ordered, or just one, or perhaps just advanced warning for any future orders after that one, but the SKB to my right and rear said, in a tone one may hear from a parent trying to settle an argument between two preschoolers, "Just cut it in half".

Again, in my head, I tried to rationalize the selling of "half a product" at a full product's price, but really, what are we talking about here? We're talking about making something go twice the distance, in a pinch. An interesting concept, though not one employed often in the food service industry, I'm guessing. Lesson two complete.

I thought I went to work this morning. Evidently I went to school, too.

Posted bythemikestand at 9:28 AM  

6 stepped up to the mike:

Sizzle said... 3:44 PM, May 23, 2008  

I'm not sure I'd want a reused anything that was containing my food but I see how it's good for the environment. :)

HalfAsstic.com said... 6:39 PM, May 23, 2008  

These lessons seem to be of an environmental economics nature... Did you even sign up for this class?

themikestand said... 7:02 PM, May 23, 2008  

Environmental and economic... both aren't necessarily environmental. And I haven't signed up for an economics class in a very long time. I just teach them, unofficially to whoever will sit still long enough. Oh, and to you guys. But honestly, if you didn't come here for variety, what did you come here for? :)

Richgold said... 1:52 PM, May 25, 2008  

There's something else to be said about the environmental/economical debate. How many people just take their product out of the bag immediately? Wouldn't using a smaller piece of wax paper and handing it to the client (or even offer this choice) be a reasonable option?

A pet peeve I have is that they don't push the use of reusable mugs very often. In my office building, the coffee shops won't even consider office workers bringing their own mugs. Instead, day after day, people go down for one or two coffees a day and use non-recyclable paper and styrofoam cups. Lovely.

themikestand said... 8:50 AM, May 26, 2008  

richgold: I think that's more my point, here: that we use more than we really need. Not so much that I want to have a re-used paper bag when I go to a restaurant.

themikestand said... 8:50 AM, May 26, 2008  

richgold: I think that's more my point, here: that we use more than we really need. Not so much that I want to have a re-used paper bag when I go to a restaurant.

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