Don't Get Caught In The Efficiency Trap
By Donovan Baldwin
Okay, I'm going to start off by talking bad about a Toyota dealer, so before we get into it, let's make a couple of things clear. I own a Toyota Prius and love it! From what I have seen, I would probably enjoy owning almost any Toyota vehicle. However, not all Toyota dealers are created equal, and I have run into one low-life, scumbag, bait and switch dealer in North Dallas, but that has been the exception rather than the rule.
The other Toyota dealers I have dealt with have all been courteous, service oriented, up to date technologically, and efficient. Therein lies the rub, as Bill Shakespeare would say. Sometimes even these great organizations get so caught up in their grand scheme of operations that they lose sight of how to do the simple things.
Years ago, some coworkers and I used to have a motto of sorts. It was something like; "Work tends to expand to occupy the time and resources committed to it." That seems to be what has happened to such things as "labor saving devices", paperless record keeping and the like.
This was brought to mind today when I took my Prius in for an oil change. After it was completed and I got my paperwork, prepared by a computer, by the way, I had to take the paperwork to a cashier so she could take payment. That's not the bad part. While standing at the cashier's desk, I noticed a bin of ice scrapers. We had had an ice storm the night before and more was expected, and, having recently moved, my ice scraper was resting safe and warm in a box...somewhere.
In a blistering fit of ignorance, I picked up an ice scraper, priced $1.69, and said, nostalgic fool that I am, "Add this on there, please." I always say "please" and "thank you", just like mama and daddy taught me. Despite my cheerful courteousness, the young lady looked at me blankly for a moment. I'll skip the ensuing conversation. The upshot was that I had to take the ice scraper to the parts department, where they created a sales ticket within the computer system, which they then printed up a paper copy of, so that I could carry it back to the cashier, so that I could pay her the $1.69 plus tax. To create the sales ticket in the parts department, they needed my name. I guess that was necessary to meet homeland security requirements, or something.
I had the exact change and was willing to lay it on the counter and take my ice scraper and go. However, systems and procedures must be followed, and a transaction between two humans without a computerized intermediary is unthinkable to some people.
Years ago, I worked in an office with a very small, very slow copy machine with a very limited capacity and capability. We did quite well. Shortly after that, we got a much better copy machine. It was faster and was able to do tricks, like two-sided copies, color copies, and the like. Suddenly, a need developed for more copies and the color capability was exploited to the max. Despite the greater speed of the new machine, the new requirements and uses wound up taking more time than with the old clunky piece of junk.
I use a lot of online bill paying and I use Microsoft Money to keep track of my financial activities, but, to tell the truth, sometimes I get a little misty-eyed for the good old days...you know, you wrote down the check number, the date, how much the check was for, and who it was made out to, and knew exactly how much was in your bank account at any given time. Once a week you sat down, wrote checks out for all the bills, balanced your checkbook and were done.
I guess I can't say much about the Toyota dealer. Looks like I fell into the same efficiency trap he did.
About the Author
Donovan Baldwin is a Texas writer, a member of Mensa, and a University of West Florida alumnus. He owns an online cell phone store at http://texasprepaidcellular.com .
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