Monday, December 14, 2009

In decline

I had an errand to run in a certain part of town, so I thought I'd visit a fast-food establishment over there that's not in my usual rotation. I probably haven't been there in six months or more. But after a run with Archer this morning, I had a craving for one of their burgers.

When I arrived, it was five minutes after opening. Cars were lined up at the drive-through, but I was the first to pull in and park. I grabbed my book and my purse and walked up to the door -- only to find it locked. Checked the hours; yep, supposed to open five minutes ago. Walked around to the other side -- locked.

I peered in the window and saw a couple exiting the other side of the restaurant, and then an employee coming toward my side. She opened the doors and said, "You can come inside, but I'm the only one here. The others will be here in a few minutes."

As I waiting, I thought about what it meant if a franchise doesn't have employees who show up for opening. It's a sign of a business in decline.

Noel and I used to go to a pasta franchise not far from where I was having lunch today. By the last time we went, some menu items were listed as unavailable, and the food was served on paper plates from the nearby Wal-Mart. The franchise couldn't afford to get its supplies from the main office. It was the last gasp. Shortly thereafter, the building was up for sale (and so it still remains today).

I find the experience of visiting a failing business depressing. It's like throwing good money after bad. I can no longer help them, and they know that; so why should they care about me? Driving back to my office, I almost expected to find it as abandoned and dysfunctional as the restaurant. Failure feels like a virus that could easily spread.

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