Echo Chambers & Autocracy

I’m on record a few times now stating that social media is like a cancer. It slowly spreads itself, and unless you’re checking in, it will take over your life.

I deleted Facebook a few years ago, when my youngest was born. I still recall the reason for it, one of my friends on there was posting multiple links a day about some racist conspiracy theory. His volume was filling my feed. I talked to him about it, he was absolutely convinced about the topic and was surrounded by the digital equivalent of walls of “news” articles on the topic. Even if he tried to get out, the algorithm was feeding him more garbage. I wanted none of it, and just deleted everything.

It’s not like things have gotten better. The proliferation of mobile apps made fast food junkies out of many of us. When’s the last time anyone actually read an article that was more than a paragraph? Hell, one that covered a few pages? The pandemic on top of it has made more people turn into hermits and reach out for any type of social link. And the “system” rewards people for taking advantage of this, either with an “influencer” tag, streaming donations, or political aspirations. The more rage-inducing content they can pump out, the more the algorithm feeds eyeballs and $$$.

Tangent for a bit here. The UK election a few years ago, there was a fair amount of online weight that Corbyn was going to win against Johnson. It didn’t matter than Johnson lied profusely, it only mattered that he had sound clips. Johson beat the tar out of him, to the incredulous voices of the interwebs. The echo chamber of the online communities could not bear to hear that any other option was present. Not much different than /thedonald, where if you didn’t tow the line, you were banned. This in effect builds multiple rabbit holes that go in completely divergent paths, and the folks within are either oblivious to the other, or are mortal enemies. It will, at some point, reach enough of a fever pitch that an individual with lesser capacity, will take it as incentive to do something horrible. And then nothing will change.

Autocracies (or dictatorships) are quite similar. They focus on inner circles of sycophants (yes-men) who are only as good as long as they tow the line and say what the “leader” wants to hear. Take a different path, and you’re out on your butt. In reflection, it’s pretty clear that Trump was/is surrounded by this model and the loss of the election turned into his typical – it’s someone else’s fault. Whether he actually believes this or not isn’t relevant, it’s the impacts of that message, and the refusal to accept that a different narrative is possible. It’s created its own echo chamber.

Russia is the more recent example of this, in that Putin’s military information clearly was not accurate. We are 1 month into the invasion of Ukraine and still Russia has not taken a major city. Russia the superpower, with UN veto power, the saber rattling country that has been a boogeyman for decades. He’s been cleaning house of his advisors ever since, which makes you wonder who in their right mind would want to step into those shoes. It bears pointing that even the West has been surprised at the results of this war. Not so much how effective Ukraine has been at resisting, but at how poorly organized Russia’s machine has been. The logistical errors alone are baffling.

I’d be lying if I thought there was an obvious solution out of this. There are historical reference points, but none that can account for the speed of social media and hunger for outlets of anger. I can only help those around me by talking to them, looking at multiple sources of information, and having actual discussions over a coffee/beer. I can supervise my kids consumption, and talk with them about the reality of the content (Mr Beast is neat and all, but I have a better chance of becoming Spider-Man). I didn’t think we’d end up here so fast. Wonder how long it will last.

Getting Away

The family took a trip last week to the Dominican Republic. I’ve been a few times now, and the kids have travelled with us as well. It’s seemingly one of the prime destinations for our spot on the globe.

It was a slightly different trip, for a multitude of reasons. Obviously, being at the tail end (?) of a global pandemic has stretched my mental state to a frayed one. It’s one of those slow scrapes, where you don’t quite realize how far along you are until you are able to take a few steps back. I had been working pretty much non-stop for 2 years and there are limits to that. Hell, I had spent weeks working out of a garage while the rest of my family was out on the water… or sitting in a church parking lot to get a decent LTE signal. I took a few days prior to rest up and close out some needed bits, and that really helped be relaxed for the trip.

Second, the DR itself has had a rough time. It is primarily run through tourism, so they’ve had a hell of a time these past few years. The sense of normal, or at least the potential for tourism to return made for a very pleasant experience. The vibe was relaxing (at least in our end) where people were just happy to be out.

Third, the kids are old enough now to not worry about so much. We still spent our time with them, but they are old enough to order a drink or get some food on their own. And young enough to spend 6 hours a day in a pool or on a beach without complaining. Not having to babysit, but instead being able to share the experience with the kids is a world of difference.

Finally, the act of travel itself and vaccinations/masks is an interesting one. Everyday more restrictions are lifted, though you can see that people are still easing into that mindset. The resort staff all had masks, but it’s hard to wear one while in a pool. The plane and airport all had mandatory masks. We did a lot of prep work (paper copies and electronic) to be sure there would be no stress… and that worked out quite well.

When we left, I had just finished snowblowing a good foot+ of a snowstorm. When we got back, there was grass almost everywhere and much milder temperatures. Never quite sure what March will bring here, so it was a very welcome sight to see Spring inching its way towards us.

I do realize that travel is a luxury, and this post isn’t so much about the destination itself in as much as the fact that we got away and recharged our batteries. It’s been an incredibly shitty few years now (and for some it’s certainly worse now), so any ability to just stop and take a breath of normalcy was sorely needed. Hope others are able to do so as well.

Cost of Living Math

Gas prices are reaching records, and I wanted to do a rather simple math exercise to see what that meant. I’m not going to go into why prices are as they are, that’s quite complex and perhaps another post.

  • In my city, gas is $1.85/L. In BC, there are spots at $2.20.
  • The average car has a 65L fuel tank, average truck is about 120L.
  • To fill a tank in my city costs between $120 to $220. In BC, that’s $145 to $265.

Next up, minimum wage.

  • In my city, minimum wage is $15, in BC it’s $15.20.
  • A 7.5hr day that’s net $112-$114. Gross depends on taxes and a few other deductions. Let’s be super generous and say it’s 10% tax, so ~$100 in the pocket per day.
  • A tank of gas costs between 1.2 and 2.6 days of work, at minimum wage.
  • Find a better job is often the reply. A daycare worker makes $16/hr, the people effectively responsible and raising children. Auto mechanics are at $27/hr. Nurses are between $33-47/hr. Teachers are about $45/hr.

Depending on the work you do, transportation options are quite limited. So what’s an acceptable amount of time spent to fill a gas tank, at minimum wage?

  • Half a day? You’d need to make ~$35/hr for a car, $70/hr for a truck.
  • A few hours? We’re in the $90-$180/hr range due to tax brackets.

The median family income in Canada was $62,000. For non-seniors, it was $93,800. Assuming 5 days a week, 50 weeks of the year that comes to: $248/d and $375.2/d. That’s a massive amount of income heading towards fuel.

Fuel Economy

So let’s look at the ratings for a bit. Their discrete values are always optimistic, to the point of frankly absurd, but their relative values have meaning. Let’s use 20,000km per year as the baseline, with 55% city driving, and fuel at 1.85 for regular.

  • Let’s say a 2021 Dodge Ram Classic. 11.9L/100km. That’s about $4,400 in gas per year.
  • Conventional SUV, like a Ford Escape, is 7.7L/100km, or $2,849 per year. Nearly half of a pickup.
  • A mid-size conventional sedan, like a Honda Civic is 7.1L/100km, or $2,627 in gas per year. Nearly half the cost.

Hybrid vehicles next:

  • A pickup, there are less options, like an EcoDiesel or a F-150 hybrid. Both run around 9.1L/100km, or $3,640 per year. About 30% cheaper than conventional.
  • An SUV, like a Highlander is 6.7L/100km, or $2,479 per year. Not any real difference with a conventional.
  • A mid-size, like a Toyota Camry is about 4.9L/100k, or $1,813 per year. This one is practically half of a conventional.

Electric vehicles now.

  • There are no electric trucks yet.
  • SUVs are extremely limited.
  • Mid-size cars have more options, though dominated by Tesla. The average annual cost is around $600 per year – or the price of 3 full tanks of gas for a pickup.\

Again, these are very optimistic numbers. I’ve used a Dodge Ram. I can assure you, it has never hit 11.9L/100km… maybe 14L/100km on pure highway, with 17 as mixed use. That $4,400 turns into $6,285 pretty quick.

I get that hybrid and electric vehicles can cost more, and that plug-in stations in Canada are really only options in urban settings. But I’m also aware that a pickup truck runs $60k, and cities are full of them that have never had a piece of lumber in the box. There are obvious choices and hard choices everywhere.

Personally, our 2013 Subaru Outback (tows + AWD) is at best 9.9L/100km and $3,600 a year. It’s due for replacement. Wife and I had a chat in the summer and hybrid was the only viable way forward… likely a Toyota Highlander at 6.7L/100km and $2,480 per year (32% cheaper). Recent prices have cemented that idea.

Certainly this is an opportunity to reflect on our energy dependencies and long term options. Perhaps this is the kick in the knees where our habits move towards renewables, and give us an actual change against global warming. It’s certainly an incentive for those who are able to work from home to NOT commute. And there’s going to be a price point where it simply does not make sense to drive at all.

General Fatigue

I haven’t had a real night’s rest in weeks now, which is pretty frigin’ rich coming from someone who has pretty much everything going for them. That’s ironically part of the issue. I take some solace in there being some purpose, or logic in *waves hands* but these past few years have really pushed that to breaking point. The 2020 Australia bush fires until this point have been seemingly a barrage of events to test our joint sanity and cohesion.

I’ve tried to be optimistic, that my kids have some sort of more positive future than I was presented. I dunno anymore. Our leaders seem to only care about themselves and enrichment, and the dregs of humanity hunker in the echo chambers of social media. We’ve inflicted all this upon ourselves, put away our morals for the rush of the meaningless crowd and on-upping the Joneses.

It’s more disappointing than anything else. We’re supposed to be better than this.

Social Break Ups

I had another post up about a recent Kotaku article about D&D. It’s a really good example of platforming a very divisive topic that even those moderately supporting the concept will have trouble jumping on board with. It reminds me of an old SNL sketch.

I won’t comment much further on it, except to highlight that these types of topics that focus on gatekeeping are emblematic of the similarities between the far right and left, and why those in the middle lack a whole bunch of empathy for either.

Instead, I want to lightly touch on the fun divides that this pandemic has brought about. It’s really quite fascinating. Social media gives zero opportunity for any actual discourse or debate – everything is a sound clip or 140 characters. Long form constructs, such as blogs, are still pretty much 1 way conversations. A comment reply is rarely as long as the originating post. Video formats give you the non-verbal aspects, but actually finding them is like a needle in a galaxy hard.

What we get instead are opinions caked in more opinions. Relationships with seemingly reasonable people all of a sudden take a very quick turn into something else. Anti-vaccine is a deal breaker for me, full stop. Luckily we’ve only had 1 family in all our contacts that went over that deep end, enough to move to Mexico. It’s the more minute items. Any attempt to have a conversation about the topic was quickly directed to Facebook research and hidden agendas. Pretty hard to have a relationship there.

The trucker protest in Ottawa is making national news. What was originally a relatable event to protest the restrictions for cross-border truckers (which affects less than 10% of all of them, is required in the US as well, and has had no real impact on supply chains) devolved into a more anarchist bent. They wanted to reverse election results (sound familiar?) and replace the Governor General. Well, they got rid of one leader, just not the one they expected. But the message now has been warped to something else, and seen replication in other parts of the world. This is going to be an interesting social marker in our country for some time, where the fors and againsts have a wide gulf and no true path to reconcile.

It doesn’t help that the Liberals and Conservatives are both using this as a wedge issue. Nearly half of folks are empathetic to the issue, but 2/3rds are against the actions. That’s a heck of an us vs. them conversation.

What will be interesting is how this particular model is applied in future protests, by other organizations. There are numerous examples of first nation protests having nowhere near the impact of these protests and them being broken up quickly and railed against. This particular event is showing a new method of causing disruptions and what society seems to be willing to tolerate. And how conversations about new protests approaches develop. Is the method of protest debatable, or the actual topic itself?

It’s an interesting time, with some very complex answers. And it would appear that few want to find a way to mend bridges, simply build more chasms.

The Challenge of Being For Something

Back to politicking for a bit. There’s a simple matter that it take little effort to critique and a ton of effort to lead. Quick sound bites and headlines are the meat of an opposition, and the ‘easy’ method is simply to simply focus on the negative. The hard part is to actually propose an alternative, because if it was easy, it would have already been done.

I’ll pick on politics here because it’s the the most prominent example that most everyone can see. A person will have an idea, then people will think of every reason why it won’t work. These are often very, very minority views on a topic, which is the purpose of democracies after all, to give a voice to as many as possible. But there’s a difference between a voice and actual power. If 99 people agree, and 1 person dissents, then odds are that 1 person is just going to have to live with it.

There are a lot of things my wife and I don’t agree on. I don’t just pack up my bags, or stage a protest when that happens. I find a compromise, or in some cases one of us simply ‘wins’.

In Canada, the Conservatives (right-leaning) booted their ‘socially centrist’ leader and now need to find their 3rd leader in 2 years. The why of the boot is interesting, primarily due to him being elected as leader as a ‘socially right’ and then swapping platforms to an actually electable one. The challenge with the “right” is that they just can’t seem to get any messaging out that isn’t offensive to wide swaths of the population. If your platform is only targeting the older white CIS male, I got news for ya, that’s not a demographic that is growing.

Now we get to take the popcorn out and see who tried to take the reigns of a party that can’t figure out its own identity. Are they going to take someone with zero experience leading but oodles of biting sound clips (Pierre Poilievre)? Are they going to go with someone who’s only platform is pro-life (Leslyn Lewis)? Will they take a “red” center-leaning candidate (Peter McKay)? Will they even bother trying to please the fringe, or just focus on what’s in the majority’s interest? Or will they shift further to the right and give up the middle? Or maybe, in the weirdest of spots, simply split up to avoid distractions?

One things for sure, people will have plenty to complain about.

Politicking

This is a tad off topic for the blog, but quite on topic for the times. Today is an interesting vote for leadership in one of the two primary parties in Canada.

Background

Canada has a parliamentary system, which means that we elect individuals that are registered with a party, and that party elects their own leader. The party that can collect the most votes, either on their own or as a group, forms government. There are dozens of countries with this system. Those of that were/are in the Commonwealth only have a few parties. Others often have 6+. The advantage of this system is that it generally offers more representation because it’s near impossible to have an outright majority, and the governing party is based on compromise. In a 2 party parliament, you often get massive and ever increasing political swings. I won’t get into Republics too much, but just say that they have historically proven to be the least effective method of governing due to the concentration of power and corruption in a single role. It’s simply impossible for a single person to represent millions, so they don’t.

How we got here

Anyhow, that’s not the point of this post. It is about a fracture in Canadian politics. We have 5 main parties here, though only 2 have ever managed at the federal level. Liberals are center-left, Conservatives are right, NDP are left, Bloq Quebequois are centre left (they are a provincial party, which is another topic), and then the Green (they are as you can guess). The Liberal party has been around since the start of this country, generally hovering near the center with a traditionally socially-left/financial-right structure. The Conservatives are different. They were a founding party (center-right) which was all but abolished in the 2003 following some atrocious financial reforms (they lost 151 seats, which was more than half of the total amount of seats in Parliament). They merged at that point with the Reform party, which was a full-right leaning party. This effectively unified the right, and provided them a new party that governed for a long period of time. The lack of social media meant that the fringe elements could be controlled somewhat.

In 2015, the Conservatives were in the election and launched a “barbaric practices” hotline to call in if you saw people doing things “un-Canadian”. This wasn’t the only event, but the culmination of multiple culturally divisive efforts by the party that culminated with them losing 60 seats and the Liberals claiming 148. That was a very large swing. The Conservatives realized that the fringe elements were taking more air and spend efforts to squash them. (As an aside, the leader Stephen Harper, was a staunch delegator at the start of his term, and by the end became autocratic trying to control all these elements. It’s truly fascinating.) There was a leadership vote following the election and the one of the more populist members split to form the People’s Party of Canada (PPC). Conceptually, this is a libertarian party, but in factual matters is built entirely on fringe/conspiracy elements.

The Conservatives have been unable to make inroads across Canada since, as the core of the country is socially liberal and financially conservative, with the social part having more weight. Plus, the US President was a massive red flag here where people associated the Conservatives with the Republican party (e.g. they are against everything nearly everything, want to help business, don’t believe in the environment or health care, and have no systems to help individuals.) In 2020 they elected a new leader (Erin O’Toole) who was put in on a “true blue” platform, meaning the right/right of the spectrum. The 2021 elections came, the leader moved towards center (which was smart) and they still lost seats. The party split became more evident and the fringe elements wanted him gone the next week. The last 6 months have been primarily about Conservative infighting, and today is an early vote on their leadership. It would seem that 30% of the party willing to vote to let him go. That is a substantial group.

The repurcussions

A party that is not united cannot unite a country, that’s a simple fact. The last 6 months have amplified a fundamental challenge in any party that dominates a spectrum, there are simply too many voices to please at all times. Party loyalty is not a given fact anymore (at least in Canada) and that assuming the middle will stick with you is no longer the case.

This party leadership vote has one of 4 possible outcomes.

  1. O’Toole wins and stays. The factionists accept the outcome and the party finally unifies and accepts that the centre is the way forward.
  2. O’Toole wins and stays. The factionists do not accept the outcome and continue to sow discord within the party, or create a new one.
  3. O’Toole loses. A new party election comes along and the party moves solidly to the right. That leaves the center wide open for the Liberals.
  4. O’Toole loses. A new party election comes along and the party as a whole agrees that the middle is the way forward.

I won’t weigh the odds of this coming to fruition, but it would be a longshot to say that any fringe element will be happy with any outcome here (that is the fundamental aspect of a fringe element, the unwillingness to accept any view but your own). If O’Toole leaves, then they have no leader for a year and need to fight for relevance in that election, then somehow sell the fringe to the rest of Canada. The center can’t be happy either, as they just want this in the rearview and get back to being a federally relevant party.

This is one of those events where it appears that everyone loses, no matter the outcome. Quite curious as to how this all plays out.

COVID Math

The problem with statistics is sample variety and size. If you look at 3 apples in your house, you may think that all apples are red. Omicron statistics are heavily weighted towards the sub-65 demographic right now, which is giving early indications that this variant is milder, up to 2/3rds milder. Larger sample sizes will determine this as being accurate or not. As to why the sample size is smaller, there’s a laundry list of reasons, though primary is that older people (who have survived so far) are being cautious and limiting risks of exposure. Recall that there are 5.4 million less people on the planet due to this disease, and that only accounts for countries who accurately report numbers.

But the stats portion, where there are lower odds of require hospitalization is the interesting metric. Let’s take that 2/3rd number and simply state it at 66%. Compared to 100 cases of Delta requiring a hospital visit, only 33 afflicted by Omicron would need similar treatment. Again, super preliminary, but argument all the same.

The challenge with % is that they are not reflective of absolute volume. If I gave you 10% of $1,000 you would get $100 and it would be a decent gift. If I gave you 10% of $1,000,000 you would have $100,000 and that would probably change a lot in your life. Hospitals don’t work on %, they work on number of beds. If they have 200 beds, when it hits 201 they need to make choices and someone is going to get less service.

Statistically, to occupy the same amount of beds as Delta, Omicron would need to infect ~3x more people (100 Delta vs 33 Omicron). Omicron has a 2 to 3.5x increased transmission rate, again with preliminary statistics. If it’s on the low end, then the hospital load will increase but hopefully be manageable as compared to Delta. If it’s on the high end, then things are going to go downhill pretty quick.

Perhaps we’ll luck out and all future strains will be mild and this can turn into an annual cycle similar to the flu. That’s about the most hopeful thing I can think of right now. Until then, stay safe folks.

When the Bottom Falls Out

All civilizations are predicated on a disposable workforce. The measure of how disposable has changed, but it takes only a minor look across the globe to see how well that has worked out. Your Nike shoes aren’t made by adults with retirement plans…

The way most of this works is that a pyramid of financial power has things go forwards. People at the top do next to nothing of use in the day to day work, and yet share a massive amount of the financial rewards. The people at the bottom are what makes the world go round. Lose the board of a company, things still roll for quite a while. Lose the people running the store, then there’s no money coming in at all.

The workforce has undergone a massive shift due to the pandemic, with dozens of causes, a few of which below.

  • The largest one is simply death. 5.3m people have died. Not all of them are working age granted, but it’s still a massive global impact.
  • Retirement. When sh!t goes sideways, people take a sober look around them. A lot of people simply decided to nope their way out and move on out of the market. The age curve has a massive amount of baby boomers all leaving the market within a very small window. The lack of training/information sharing also means the people retiring are creating gaps in the ability for a business to conduct business.
  • Birth rates. The replacement rate is 2.1 In 1990, the global rate was 3.2, primarily driven through massive medical breakthroughs in 3rd world countries (lower child death rates). Today, it’s 2.3 globally. In the US it is currently 1.64.
  • Immigration reforms. This one is touchier… but if there are less country-born people to replace the workforce, those people need to come from somewhere. There are very few people in Canada/US that are willing to pick fruit in an orchard for 10 hours a day for $50. If these jobs are not filled, then food rots and doesn’t get to the supermarket/table. Global travel restrictions and reforms have certainly dropped overall immigration rates.
  • Stimulus packages have dramatically favoured the already financially stable, especially in the US. Even in Canada, the stimulus package was substantially higher than minimum wage and allowed people the time to assess their state.
  • Abusive practices are highlighted. The restaurant industry is a big one, where people are paid minimum (or less), have shifting hours, often work evenings/weekends, and have to put up with Karens on a daily basis. Many people have taken the opportunity during the closure to gain a new skill or new job, and found a better life balance. In particular replacing that other group that finally retired. I would be remiss not to point out r/antiwork
  • Employer/Employee relationships are transactional. Corporations have made it clear that money matters more than people, and the current generation of workers has very little attachment to the company they work for. Maybe the people, or the tasks, but not the company.
  • Wages vs inflation are not reflective of wage vs cost of living.
  • Remote work allows people to perform many types of tasks from anywhere. Particularly in locations where the cost of living is much lower than an urban setting. This increases the number of jobs available to an individual, and therefore choice.

The ‘bottom’ of the workforce therefore has less workers available to do the jobs, and the businesses now need to compete with the market. If Burger King offered $100,000 to flip burger, they wouldn’t have a staffing issue. Combine that with less company loyalty, people aren’t exactly willing to take any amount of stress when they can easily find somewhere else for either better hours or more money, or even both.

Seems like the disposable workforce has been disposed of. Fancy that.

Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons is an iconic Canadian establishment. A village turns into a town when it gets a Tim Hortons (and then a city when it gets a Canadian Tire). It’s been around since the 60s, and currently operates in 14 countries. Roll up the Rim was a matter of parliamentary debate in terms of odds of wining (it actually changed some of our laws).

From ’67 until ’90 it remained a rather small scale operation – Canada wide for sure, but really focused on coffee & donuts. In the mid-90s it merged with Wendy’s, which main benefit was figuring out how to get hot meals into the pipeline. It was not viewed as a positive by the Canadian public. Early ’00s, Timmy’s overtook McDonalds as the fast food location of choice in Canada, split off from Wendy’s and owned 76% of baked goods and 63% of the coffee market. That’s damn big.

In 2009 Cold Stone Creamery (ice cream) was put into 50 stores. That shut down in 2014. The coffee chain continued to grow, and in 2014 was merged with Burger King, or more accurately an international conglomerate of faceless capitalists. By 2018, its reputation had fallen to 67th in terms of Canada’s most reputable companies.

Now you’re asking, what the heck does this have to do with anything? Well, it’s related to yesterday’s post about nostalgia and the feeling of friendship with a company.

Timmy’s grew on a very simple concept. Decent coffee and baked goods, served quickly, at an affordable price, and early in the morning to boot. There were certainly donut shops prior to this, as well as diners, but the sheer brand appeal of a consistent experience was the seller. I mean, that’s why brands exist in the first place, right? There aren’t too many non-franchised donut shops around, right?

The fast-food boom of the 90s was not lost on them, and the partnership with Wendy’s allowed them to integrate processes to quickly get food to customers. When I say quickly, I don’t mean the 5 minute wait at a burger joint. I mean 90sec and you are served and out. This mattered most at the drive through, where people were used to ordering, showing up at the window with all the items prepared, and simply paying. The time it took to process payment was the time it took to get food prepared for the next person. The logistics in this are impressive… but for another topic.

This worked for a very long time, as the choices made on what food items to serve fit within the service standards – at least for a while. The ice cream integration is a really good example of poor planning. DQ gives you ice cream cones in 20 seconds, soft-serve. SCC uses a mixing palette to get you ice cream, a process that takes 2-3 minutes per order. While the novelty was interesting at the start, it eventually caused massive queues in the stores that prevented the “coffee and donuts” folks from getting what they wanted. It also cost a pile to keep things cold and clean (it’s much more space than keeping things warm).

This experimental phase of adding and removing complex menu items kept going. A sandwich seems like an easy thing to manage, but when you have options and substitutes, things get complicated. The workers are doing an amazing job, given the area to work in, but it’s nearly as much effort to make a Timmys sandwich as a Subway version. At low demand, this is manageable. When someone orders 4 different sandwiches in one go… things buckle.

Further, the need to increase franchises means that the quality of ingredients has to suffer. It’s a matter of scaling… there is only so much AAA product available on the market after all. If you mix with AA or A level products, it’s still comestible but will costs WAY less. Price points are important in quick serve food joints, so those businesses need to work on volume with smaller margins to make a profit. Starbucks can sell a $9 coffee, and 4x slower speed of Tim Hortons $2 version.

The value of Tim Hortons was based on food quality, speed of delivery, and price point. As the menu and franchises expanded, the quality of the food suffered. As more complex menus abound, the speed of delivery suffered. As other companies started to offer alternative options for coffee, the price point itself became a debate. As a result, the opinion today of Tim Hortons a lot lower than it once was, and sales are down. They still do great work in the community (TimBits hockey is a sort of ritual passage), but as a company, the type of loyalty they used to command has long since moved on. There are no boycotts here… simply that people have seen alternative options that meet their needs and shopped elsewhere.

Which begs the question, would Tim Hortons have taken a different path if they opted not to enter the food market? Time travel is the only way to answer that one.

What does merit discussion is how this particular thought process, of growth for the bottom line impacted the client’s perspective of the company. They have moved from the conceptual mom and pop family friendly location to a cleaner corporate image. That has distanced people’s attachment to the company, and once trust is lost, it’s incredibly hard to regain. That particular nuance is something that we are clearly seeing in the AAA game space… Will Tim’s take a different approach here, with a return to a more customer focused experience, or stay with the corporate objectives? Will we see that in the video game industry?