McDonaldization is a fast growing process being implemented in numerous businesses worldwide. With all business tactics there come pros and cons along with outcomes that were predicted or perhaps not foreseen. In this essay I plan to analyse the advantages and disadvantages to Ritzer’s four dimensions of McDonaldization and respond to his ideas. To begin, I think we should discuss what McDonaldization is.
McDonaldization is commonly understood as “when a society adopts the characteristics of a fast-food restaurant”. The developer of this term, Ritzer (‘The McDonaldization of Society’) claimed there were four dimensions which made up McDonaldization. The four dimensions being efficiency, predictability, calculability, and control.
The first dimension of McDonaldization is efficiency. When practicing efficiency in a McDonaldization society, businesses often focus on minimizing the time required to complete individual tasks. Thus resulting in the entire process to be completed in the quickest way with minimum wasted effort and expense. For companies, this tactic is a benefit by limiting multi-tasking for employees while concurrently limiting errors received by consumers. Consumers also reap the benefits of this tactic as it allows them to feel as if they have more options. In many shopping centers, self-checkouts have become a common way of completing shopping trips. Companies have purchased multiple self-checkout desks, typically eight to ten, and only need one or two employees there to supervise customers as they checkout. As a customer, self checkout is often the quickest option since there are so many checkstands available at the self checkout. For companies its the cheapest option as they have a one time purchase of the computers and then one or two staff members to supervise opposed to paying eight to ten employees to run their own checkstand. Though there appears to be many benefits to efficiency, negative effects do occur as well such as limiting employment and human interaction. In the case of self checkouts, less employment opportunities are available in shopping centers as computers are taking a dominant role in checkouts. Additionally, though it may seem easier to not interact with people while checking out, there are situations, such as wanting to pay with a cashiers check, that a human check out is necessary. That being said, companies often choose the cheaper and more effective option as it seems in best interest for their business.
Moving forward in the dimensions of McDonaldization, the next step is predictability. This step ‘…emphasizes such things as discipline, order, systematization, formalization, routine, consistency, and methodical operation. In such a society, people prefer to know what to expect in most settings and at most times”. Often this is done to allow consumers the comfort of having the same experience despite different location/circumstances. Furthermore it is done by companies to ensure employees can get into a routine of the same tasks and become experts at the one duty assigned. Examples of predictability being put to use could be Starbucks. Starbucks has the same recipe and instructions for their employees to follow to a tee to ensure all the drinks come out tasting the same. So whether you order your iced nonfat caramel latte in Seattle, Washington or Perth, Australia it will come out tasting the same. This benefits Starbucks customers so that they can experience comfort in ordering their drink and perhaps limit the amount of ‘remakes’ the company has to provide for customers. It additionally benefits the company as they can predict and limit the use of extra products being added and used in recipes for drinks. However, predictability has consequences as well. When you travel to a different area, do you want the experience to be the same? If you were to be in England and wanted to embrace new culture but only saw chain restaurants such as McDonalds, KFC, Starbucks and so on, it would hinder your ability to experience new culture. This is one large outcome predictability in companies has made globally.
The third level of McDonaldization is calculability which is when companies organize tasks into easily calculated bits and pieces that can be measured and quantified. When businesses implement calculability into their tactics it makes it easier to measure work output. One company that is known for using this technique is Amazon. Amazon has many warehouses that employ large amounts of people to sort, box and ship products for its customers. With their large amount of demand, Amazon uses the calculability tactic to ensure customers can be offered promotions like one-day shipping to entice them to continue shopping with Amazon. People who are employed by Amazon and put into the task of boxing are given a quota of items they must box per hour. With technology, Amazon counts how many items are boxed by each employee and if they are under quota the employee can risk termination. The advantage to this is that customers receive their purchased items in a timely manner. Additionally, Amazon is getting good labor from their employees in exchange for their hourly rate. Conversely, the disadvantages are that employees are often worked too hard and at times have skipped desires for water or bathroom breaks to avoid being under their quota. Employees being overworked also raises chances of mistakes being made, for example sending the wrong item to a customer. So, as we take in the pros and cons of calculability, it is understandable to see how companies would want to use it despite it not always being the best option for all parties involved.
Finally, we reach the last dimension of McDonaldization, control. This tactic focuses on making tasks repetitive and forcing employees not to think. By creating a monotonous work environment and forcing employees not to think, employers can maintain a tighter control over them. Ritzer specifically focused this idea “on control through the substitution of non-human for human technology”. We see this technique being used everyday, all around us. From the ‘popcorn’ button on our microwaves to the cruise control in our cars, companies frequently implement control by using technology. By doing so, consumers can complete tasks easier as technology does a lot of the work for us, all while it provides a reassurance of infallibility. Using GPS as an example, people can plug in the address they want to go to then simply follow the instructions to arrive at their desired location. However, this has a negative impact as well. As people become more reliant on GPS, they become less educated on how to find their way there on their own. This means that “Google Maps” for instance now has significant control of all the people using their app.