Why you can’t take just one napkin from a McDonald’s napkin dispenser

You know how you can never just remove one napkin from a dispenser at any fast food place because the unit is always over-stuffed?

Actually, it doesn’t matter whether it’s fast food or fancy. Wherever you have people in charge of replenishing supplies who have no P&L accountability, they generally — and quite naturally — optimize their own convenience. I’d do the same.

They’re not thinking “Gee, I wonder how convenient this is for customers to remove one or two napkins?” They just want to get the unit restocked with the minimal amount of time and effort. So it’s easier to grab a large supply of napkins and stuff the unit to the max than to try to optimize the amount for customer convenience and most efficient use of supplies.

Of course this is somewhat self-defeating since customers now have to grab a large handful from the unit in order to get just the one or two napkins they need — and so the unit needs to be restocked sooner.

This is similar to Paco Underhill’s* observation about beleaguered department store staffers who overstocked clothing racks to save time: Customers who wrestle a hangar out invariably pull other garments along with it, dragging them to the floor. Of course staffers just have to pick them up and re-hang them later.

Moral: Time saved by overstocking is wasted in maintenance and supplies.
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*Underhill, Paco. “Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping.”

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One comment on “Why you can’t take just one napkin from a McDonald’s napkin dispenser

  1. watcat says:

    Hi this blog is great I will be recommending it to friends.

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