Tuesday, 06 January, 2004
"Good afternoon, Sir. Welcome to McDonald's. How may I help you?"
"Hi. I'd like a Big Mac meal, super sized, with a Coke to drink."
"Sir, please step forward onto the pad there in front of the register. You have to be standing there before I can enter your order."
"Huh? Oh, okay. Gimme a Big Mac meal, super sized, with a Coke to drink."
"I'm sorry Sir, but I can't place that order for you."
"What? Why not?"
"Those options aren't on the menu, Sir."
"But of course they are! I'm looking at them right there on the board!"
"Yes, Sir, we do serve those items, but I am not able to order those items for you."
"What? You're telling me that even though those items are on the menu, you won't sell them to me?"
"No, Sir. Ummmm. Yes, Sir. The thing is my register won't let me order a Big Mac meal for you."
"I don't know, Sir. All I know is that the menu changes for each person who stands in front of the register. Some people can order whatever they like, and others can only order salads or one of our delicious Tofu Macs."
"And what can I order?"
"Ummmm, let me see. You can order a Happy Meal with a diet soda but no cheese, a salad, or any one of our new McTofu Meals that include carrot sticks on the side. "
"Does the Happy Meal still include a real hamburger and fries?"
"Yes, Sir, it does."
"Okay, then, I'll have four Happy Meals, no cheese, and a large Diet Coke."
"I'm sorry, Sir, but the register will only allow me to order a single Happy Meal for you. Would you like me to substitute three Happy Tofu Meals for the others?"
"No! I don't want a McTofu Burger! Just give me a Big Mac meal like I originally ordered!"
"One moment please, Sir. Manager to the front!"
"What's the problem, John?"
"This customer wan..."
"I'll tell you what the problem is! That little punk won't serve me a Big Mac. He says his computer won't let him order it for me. What kind of employees are you hiring? I've never heard of a restaurant that won't serve a customer something that's on the menu."
"I'll handle this, John. Serve the next customer in line. Sir, please step over here with me."
"Are you the manager?"
"I'm the shift manager."
"Are you going to serve me a Big Mac?"
"I'm sorry, Sir, but State Law forbids me from serving you a Big Mac."
"What?! That guy just got one!"
"Yes he did. The register must have enabled that menu choice for him. But it doesn't for you. Your choices are limited to a Happy M..."
"I know, I know. Without cheese. The pimply-faced kid over there told me my choices. So why is my menu limited?"
"Well, Sir, I don't understand everything about how this new system works, but when you step on the pad in front of the register, the computer determines the menu choices that would be appropriate for you."
"Huh? The computer figures out what I should eat?"
"Not exactly. The computer is programmed to comply with State Law number 541T, the Fast Food Fat Abatement Regulatory Treaty in support of similar initiatives around the world. We're proud to be the first State to institute such an Act."
"The FFFART? What the hell is that?"
"The State Legislature passed it last year. It was all over the news and in the papers. After much argument the Legislature dropped some of the more progressive requirements, but special interest groups couldn't prevent it from passing altogether."
"What exactly does the FFFART say?"
"I don't know exactly, but I can get you a copy if you want. The Law states that we must have a copy on hand for customers. It's only 250 pages or so. I'd be happy to let you sit in my office if you'd like to read it."
"250 pages? Is there a summary somewhere?"
"Yes, Sir. The company prepared a two-page summary that is posted on the wall over there. But I'm authorized to give you a verbal summary if you wish."
"I'm all ears."
"The Law states that fast food, of which this restaurant is a purveyor, is in general unhealthy in that it contains dangerous levels of saturated fats, sugars, salt, and animal products. The Law recognizes that it is the duty of the State and all food purveyors therein to promote and even enforce healthy eating habits on State Residents who are at risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other morbidities whether those conditions be the fault of the Resident or caused by outside means such as indiscriminate provision of unhealthy foods by unscrupulous eating establishments. To comply with the Law, this restaurant has installed Body Mass Index measuring devices in front of all registers and abides by the recommendations of those devices in providing food options to our customers.
"That's the verbal summary. The two-page summary is more detailed and includes a chart that shows which menu choices are available to persons with particular BMI values."
"Wait. Let me get this straight. You won't serve me a Big Mac because your computer thinks I'm too fat?"
"Not at all, Sir. We would never use such a subjective term to describe a person. Our computer simply compares your height with your weight while you're standing on that pad, and enables the menu choices that are appropriate according to the Law."
"And what if I don't care that I'm fat or at risk of keeling over from a heart attack? Huh?"
"The Law is very specific, Sir. Not only does the Law prohibit us from serving foods that are deemed inappropriate by the chart, but it also prohibits State Residents from purchasing such foods. It's all spelled out in detail on pages 70 through 76."
"And what if I don't live in this crazy state?"
"Part 15, Section 4, Paragraph 8 clearly states: 'Those persons who are not State Residents are not restricted from purchasing unapproved foods, and fast food purveyors are not restricted from selling unapproved foods to non-Residents, provided that such purchase and sale is for consumption by non-Residents.' There's a little bit more in there about penalties for providing unapproved foods to State Residents, and you can't take the food out of the restaurant, but seeing as you're alone I won't go into those."
"So if I'm from out of state, you'll serve me a Big Mac?"
"Yes, Sir. If you show me a valid out-of-state driver's license or other photo identification and sign an Acknowledgement and Waiver form indicating that you understand the potential consequences of your unhealthy food choices and that you absolve the Company of any responsibility for your behavior, I will be happy to order for you any item on the menu."
"You're kidding, right?"
"No, Sir. It's all spelled out in the Law, Paragraph 9 of the same Section. Would you like to see it?"
"No, no. Here's my driver's license. Where's the form? Get me a Big Mac Meal, super sized, with a Coke to drink."
"One minute, please. John, did we get more Waiver Forms yet?"
"No. They were supposed to be here this morning but the delivery guy hasn't arrived yet."
"I'm sorry, Sir. Without a signed form I simply cannot serve you a Big Mac. Can I get you something from our McTofu menu?"