It’s safe to say I’m not the type to make decisions based on a cost-benefit analysis.
For one thing, I’m prone to saying unkind things about bean counters, and analyzing costs and benefits is nothing but counting beans.
You put your “positive beans” (pb) on one side of the sheet, your “negative beans” (nb) on the other and then subtract nb from pb to see the “remainder” (pb-nb=r) and determine what your decision should be.
This is all nice and tidy, and for many it’s a comfortable way to make choices. There’s a certain security, I suppose, in something with a mathematical foundation.
But I’m Impulsive, Instinctive, Impatient and Irritable — the four letters I of Attention Deficit Disorder — so I’m more comfortable with blind hunches than weighing costs and benefits.
For example, consider people who use fast-food drive-thrus. Were I more inclined to prove my hunches, I’d have to gather data on what’s gained and lost by waiting in line. First, the costs:
▪ The number of vehicles annually waiting in line at fast-food restaurants;
▪ Average wait time for those vehicles;
▪ Average fuel burned while waiting, based on the median fuel consumption of vehicles in the U.S.; (My good friend Mr. Google mans the reference desk 24/7 just for such questions.)
▪ A person with an unhurried scientific inclination might also factor in wear and tear on fan belts, hoses, piston rings etc.
Also under costs, I might need to know:
▪ What’s the environmental harm caused by idling vehicles, calculated for both exhaust pollution and the medical costs related to treating asthma and other respiratory ailments;
▪ While we’re opening cans of worms — not as appetizing, I agree, as a Big Mac or three-piece meal — costs would also include the calories, cholesterol, cavities and other “C words” drive-thru customers receive;
▪ We’ve all been in these lines, and while they’re thought to be convenient, wait time and incorrect orders can be frustrating. That’s another hidden cost, one that begs for data on the anxiety, fluctuating heart rates and increased blood pressure customers experience.
We’d need to develop a formula to explain the toll in stress that a generally obese, sedentary population pays while waiting in line for fast food.
There may well be other costs in the fast-food drive-thru model, but the ones cited represent a good starting point had I been blessed with dogged patience rather than the four letters I of ADD.
To be fair, there are benefits a researcher would want to consider in arriving at a fair and balanced conclusion — beans left over, if you will. These would include:
▪ For most, not having to get out of the car is the single greatest attraction of fast-food drive-thrus;
▪ For others, there’s that uninterrupted game broadcast or phone conversation, or not having to unbuckle and buckle kids in car seats;
But for the sake of a comprehensive analysis, let’s not forget the economic benefits. Among others, these include:
▪ Increased spending in weight-loss medications, gym memberships, slimming clothing colors and patterns, medical care, liposuction and belly-tucks, ambulance fees, assisted living, physical therapy, funeral plans and condolence cards.
The alternative, of course, would be if customers would only park their cars, get out and walk into restaurants. All the negative health costs associated with consuming fast food would still be there, but think of the steps taken, calories burned and endorphins released, not to mention gas saved and benefits to the environment and breathing health.
Gathering and quantifying all this information on costs and benefits would only prove what I already know: drive-thrus are unhealthy. And personally I don’t have the time; I’m already working on my next hunch.
Once you’ve considered the costs and benefits, you can write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.