Robots will replace fast food strikers

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  • Fantastika Reston, VA
    Sept. 2, 2013 2:03 a.m.

    I hate automation such as "phone trees." I am cursing the idiot robot voice and the jerk- programmer who ALWAYS lead me to a dead end and waste my time and screw up my day.

    However, I love the automation that makes it possible to get a 39" TV for $228 (priced at Walmart yesterday, although personally, I do not own a TV). 10 years ago, You could pay that that much for a 30-pound 15" CRT.

    And I can see the day when we will have not only $100 60" TV's but $100 cars.

  • Dr. Thom Long Beach, CA
    Sept. 1, 2013 11:49 a.m.

    My uncle use to wait for the bank to open to deposit his check since he didn't like the ATM outside even though it did the same job as the teller inside the bank and operated 24/7. Now we don't give a second thought about drive-in ATMs or banking online. We do this because it is secure and convenient. Automation of any industry is inevitable if the customer demand is there for the service and the quality of the product remains consistent and reliable.

    Not long ago (OK, 20 years) when planning a trip to Hawaii, I called my travel agent who made all the arrangements including airfare, car and hotel. Now I use Price Line or some other online travel service. So what happened to all of the travel agents?

    By raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15.00 means increasing prices 51.6% as a natural operational costs. This means that the $1.00 coffee at McDonald's would then cost $1.52 (rolled up). McDonald's sells coffee at this price as a loss-leader to encourage customers to purchase a more expensive items such as a breakfast or lunch meal.

  • cjb Bountiful, UT
    Aug. 31, 2013 9:58 p.m.

    How about the execs taking mote than one million per year agree to take half that, then give the workers half of what they are asking for as a show of faith to the employees they lead.

    What is wrong with leading by example.

  • Mike Richards South Jordan, Utah
    Aug. 31, 2013 2:41 p.m.

    If a company gave you the choice to use an automated phone system or to pay $4.00 to talk to someone, which would you choose? The phone company does that. If I pay my bill, using their automated system, there is no extra charge. If I need a human to help me, they charge a $4.00 "service fee". That is the cost to them of providing a service that would be free if I didn't need a nanny to pay a bill.

    People cost money. Sometimes people are necessary. Sometimes people are not necessary. Sometimes customers refuse to change because they want someone to hold their hand.

    Going to McDonalds is a prime example. If someone wants a low cost meal, he may soon be required to use a touch screen to order that food. He still has a choice. If he wants a "person" to use that touch screen for him, he can go to a higher priced fast-food restaurant or he can go to a real restaurant and pay 5X the price.

    The customer can choose, but he can't dictate how the restaurant operates.

  • Strider303 Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 31, 2013 8:50 a.m.

    In my not so humble opinion, well paying jobs require either a skill that is marketable and has significant value, or education/training in an area that is linked to marketable skill. Skating through High School without a skill and fluffy college degrees just aren't cutting it.

    I recognize that the skill set for working in a fast food establishment is reasonably easily learned and therefore there is a vast labor pool from which to draw from which keeps wages low. It appears that these jobs were never meant to be career jobs, at least on the entry or "line" level. I do understand that the managerial and supervisory level positions pay better as do ownership of the franchise. Ergo the entry level position is "move up or move along".

    Some of the angst we see is the entitlement generation, raised on praise and self esteem meeting head-on with the freight train of economic reality, whose engineer is Adam Smith.

    Oh, our elected leaders of both parties have not, and will not help because they are in control and it is in their best interest to keep the status quo.

  • Shaun Sandy, UT
    Aug. 31, 2013 7:25 a.m.

    @Mike Richards. It is great you do great with technology, but it also sounds technology is part of your business and therefore you have learned to use it.

    Most older people I know hate the self checkout technology. My dad and mom hate it. My step mother works at home depot and hates the self checkout not because she fears losing her job to it but that so many people screw up on it or try to cheat it. My grandparents refuse to do online banking or anything online. My grandparents, parents, and extended family might be the minority and you may be right.

    I know I hate the automated telephone prompts. I rather have a person to talk to that i can understand.

  • VickieB SLC, UT
    Aug. 30, 2013 9:39 p.m.

    yum, food from a machine. This is a scare tactic by a business supported "think tank". Does anyone really believe what these organizations are selling?

    It takes the old folks longer, because they are buying food for them, and their children's families. Who do you think invented the technology?

  • Hank Pym SLC, UT
    Aug. 30, 2013 7:59 p.m.

    re: Roland Kayser

    Oh, goody. Lets continue the obesity epidemic.

    To Mike R...

    Why stop there? Robots could take over all aspects of customer service, manufacturing, etc... Hello, Skynet or maybe Age of Ultron.

  • Mike Richards South Jordan, Utah
    Aug. 30, 2013 6:11 p.m.


    I'm an "older person". We have no problems with automation. We welcome it. It reduces our bills. We even use the Internet to pay our bills, to contact our children and grandchildren, to use FaceTime or Skype. Blaming us is a slap in the face to all of us "older people".

    Do you like paying someone $25,000 per year to answer telephones? I don't. On my website, I have a FAQ page where people can "help themselves" to information that would normally cost $150 an hour if they "consulted" with me. They can contact me via email, so that I can give them a proper response. They can make an appointment to talk with me personally if they want to spend the money that I charge for a consulting fee. I give them all the information that they NEED free of charge. If they need "hand holding" I charge $150 per hour minimum.

    Would you like to make an appointment? I'd be happy to help you spend your money.

  • Shaun Sandy, UT
    Aug. 30, 2013 5:43 p.m.

    I do not know if self ordering would work that well at McDonalds. A lot of older people go there for breakfast and coffee. I have seen older people try to use this type of technology at other places like home depot and grocery stores and there is always a line behind them because they either screw up or can not figure it out.

    Where breakfast counts for twenty five percent of Mcdonalds sales I can not see them risking it.

  • LDS Liberal Farmington, UT
    Aug. 30, 2013 3:54 p.m.

    @J Thompson

    L Liberal,

    Making "things" is not the same as dealing with "people".

    Do you like calling businesses or doing business with automated "call centers"

    Press "1" for yes,
    or "9" for no.

    Press "1" for English,
    Para "nueve" por espanol.

  • Ultra Bob Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Aug. 30, 2013 2:33 p.m.

    Bring it on!

    The future of human beings, if there is one, will be the eventual obsolescence of physical human labor, and the human mind will be set free to explore and control the universe.

    Already, the future has its toe in the door. Welfare, unemployment pay and all sorts of subsidies are simply pointing the way for our civilized society to persist.

    The probable result will be a government of some sort to organize the efforts of the people. Perhaps that government will be God, human or even a machine.

    But the fact is that we must change our nature, values, attitudes and goals in order to survive. If we allow the cycle of birth and death of nation societies to continue according to the false notions of wealth and power, the end will most likely be extinction.

  • dalefarr South Jordan, Utah
    Aug. 30, 2013 1:22 p.m.

    I wish the Deseret News would quit publishing opinions circulated by special interest groups and would hire journalists to do substantive news and opinions.

  • J Thompson SPRINGVILLE, UT
    Aug. 30, 2013 1:10 p.m.

    L Liberal,

    You seem to ignore what is happening in YOUR industry. You've told us that your job is military/defense related. How are parts made for anything military? Does someone use a drill press to drill the holes? Does someone use a manual lathe to turn the part? Does someone use a manual mill to machine the par? Or, are all those operations handled by a CNC milling center? How are airplanes designed? Does an engineer stand at his board and carefuly draw each part with a mechanical pencil or do all the engineers involved in that project have interactive computers that automatically correct each drawing when another engineer makes a change?

    What makes you think that your job would exist if someone had not automated the design and production of everything military? Where would our defense system be if we relied on "signalers" who used flags to tell us that the enemy was near?

    The military/defense part of our government is highly computerized, using every available technology to reduce its reliance on human beings. McDonalds will someday catch up.

  • LDS Liberal Farmington, UT
    Aug. 30, 2013 12:14 p.m.

    I'll believe it when I see it.

    If robots would truly be better than people in fast food,
    I'm sure some "millionaire-wanna-be" would have already developed it and retired moved in next to Mitt Romney.

  • J Thompson SPRINGVILLE, UT
    Aug. 30, 2013 12:05 p.m.

    People seem to forget that we go to McDonalds to buy breakfast, lunch, or dinner. We don't go there to support the workers. We don't go there to support McDonalds. We go there because we want to buy something to eat.

    Where I live, there are several "fast food" restaurants. Except when I'm with someone who has a preference, I go where the price is the cheapest, knowing that a gourmand does not look for gourmet food at low prices.

    In other words, if McDonalds costs more than Burger King, I'll go to Burger King.

    To those who think that people are not important, I also run a business. I know that if the "price" of my service is higher than the perceived "value", that my customers will find someone else to serve them. Price and value are part of every product and every service. Adding value is the only way that I can increase prices.

  • The Hammer lehi, utah
    Aug. 30, 2013 11:07 a.m.

    @maverick,freedom and Roland.

    So if you don't like what the scientist says you just ignore him. Why don't you look at the research and all factors that are involved in why he is saying what he is saying. I know you care about those workers and so do I and so does the researcher who wrote the article. Automation is coming it has been coming for years. The fast food industry is just starting to get to the price level that will force the industries hand. All it will take is a company that can implement it and draw customers. Workers will eventually move on but nobody will replace those workers. and downward pressure on wages will pick up when more people are willing to work at those jobs for less pay. Base economics is what this researchers is talking about and you look ridiculous by just dismissing what he is saying.

  • Invisible Hand Provo, UT
    Aug. 30, 2013 10:15 a.m.

    @Maverick: Haven't robots replaced workers successfully in other fields? Why would fast food be any different? Your attitude is on the wrong side of history. Automation is coming regardless of the minimum wage, but these strikes will certainly hasten the process. Minimum wage advocates want to use circular arguments like "if we pay them more they will buy more stuff". But they aren't any more productive, so there's no net benefit to the economy. Regardless what you pay them, they are only worth what the MARKET would pay them. Let's not price these people out of a job that will give them experience and skill they need to get ahead.

  • Mike Richards South Jordan, Utah
    Aug. 30, 2013 9:06 a.m.

    I often shop at a "big box" home repair store. That store has self-service checkout registers as well as registers with a clerk. MOST of us use the self-service checkout for small purchases. We can handle the transaction in a matter of seconds. Often a clerk at a register will ask if I'm ready to check-out and then wave me over to his/her station. Those clerks know that their job security depends on them being "needed". The only way that they have to show that they are "needed" is to show activity at their register.

    Using a self-help computer at McDonalds would replace two or more "cashiers" per shift. Only one person would be required to hand the order to the customer. There is already one person doing that job. He/She usually hands the order to the cashier and the cashier usually hands the order to the customer. How long would it take to pay for a $2,500 self-service computer when its cost is compared to several workers being paid $15,000 each per year?

  • Noodlekaboodle Poplar Grove, UT
    Aug. 30, 2013 8:43 a.m.

    If McDonalds is going to replace workers with robots they would do it strike or no strike. I don't remember a lot of grocery store strikes, but almost every store has a self checkout line that replaces actual cashiers.

  • Mountanman Hayden, ID
    Aug. 30, 2013 8:37 a.m.

    Most of us have entry level jobs in our past but most of us used those jobs as stepping stones to gain experience, demonstrate our work ethics and then we made personal efforts and sacrifices to gain more marketable job skills that had more value to offer employers that paid more for that value! When minimum wage earners go shopping for goods and services, do they demand the best value for their money? Are they willing to pay more for less or equal value? But they demand the rest of us pay more for equal or less value. Businesses can only stay in business if they hire people and pay them according to the value they have for that business. To pay to much is the fast track to bankruptcy.

  • The Real Maverick Orem, UT
    Aug. 30, 2013 8:22 a.m.

    If anyone thinks that a robot is going to cost less to purchase, program, and maintain than your typical min wage worker then I have ocean front property in Nebraska to sell ya.

    This might be the worst op-ed I've ever read on this site.

  • FreedomFighter41 Provo, UT
    Aug. 30, 2013 8:17 a.m.




    Ok, well, you have me convinced! In fact, lets pay them $1 per hr under the threat that if they demand more money we'll replace them with robots.

    Sheesh. What a foolish article. Robots will come no matter what the min wage is.

    Besides, isn't this the same employment policies institute which complained about the regulations on the finance industry in the late 90s? The same employment policies institute which praised Bush's handling of the economy in 05? And now the same folks want to talk about min wage.

    Essentially, they have no credibility. Whatever these folks say, DO THE OPPOSITE.

    Raise the min wage.

  • Mike Richards South Jordan, Utah
    Aug. 30, 2013 7:50 a.m.

    Every job has a value. If the worker thinks that he is more valuable than the job pays, he will find himself without a job.

    For many years, I built process control computers to automate professional photo labs. The computers increased the production of each machine from 250 prints per hour to 1,500 prints per hour. One machine could do the job that formerly required six machines and six operators. Five machine operators were not needed. In addition, five "print checkers" were not needed.

    Fortunately, those businesses did not fire the excess employees; they retrained those employees. Some became salesmen. Some were trained to "finish" the prints. In every case, automation LOWERED the cost of business resulting in LOWER prices to the consumer. The businesses that automated stayed competive. Those that did not automate closed their doors.

    The fast food industry is ripe for automation. Clever designers will produce machines that will replace workers. Those workers will soon realize what happed to the "garment" industry when the workers demanded "union wages". They will realize that people eat at fast food places because of cost, not because of quality.

  • Michael Matthews Omaha, NE
    Aug. 30, 2013 5:08 a.m.

    Great... replace them. I don't see why not? Lost jobs... switchboard operators, Blockbuster employee, etc. is progress. Let those who lost their jobs at McDonald's work in some capacity for the robot building companies or go to school and get a job in a field where we have huge shortages such as welding (only need a trade school), nursing, or engineering.

  • Roland Kayser Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Aug. 30, 2013 3:20 a.m.

    If McDonlads were to double their wages and pass on the consts to consumers, it would raise the price of their dollar menu items to $1.17, not $2.99. Plus their customers would have more money to spend, therby boosting their sales.