Sunday, November 20, 2005

Everything Should Be Open, All the Time

Businesses shouldn't close. Stores, banks, restaurants, supermarkets, the utility companies, government offices, the whole caboodle. Always open. Sundays? Open. 3 am? Open. Martin Luther King Day? Open.

That is the future. It's going to happen eventually - how could it not? I'm only arguing that it should happen now. I am tired of not being able to do some transaction at the bank because it's the wrong day of the week. I'm tired of not being able to get a decent meal because it's the wrong time of day. I'm tired of not being able to get customer service help over the phone because I've missed the office hours in central standard time.

Why is it that the places you need most urgently to be open right now, say your doctor's office - or the water company, or customer service for your PC, or the DMV, why are they the places most likely to be closed? You want some disgusting Del Taco at any time of day, no problem. But something you might actually need urgently? Come back between 8am and 4.

8am and 4? 8am and 4???? That's messed up.

One time I had a UPS pacakge that was sitting in the UPS warehouse that I had absolutely no way of picking up. UPS's hours coincided exactly with my work hours. They opened when I went to work. They closed when I got off. They were closed on the weekends. I had no way of getting this package. I argued with them. I pleaded. I tried to arrange some kind of under-the-table pickup, offering a nice gratuity. No deal. The day before it was returned to sender I ditched work to get it. I can't tell you if UPS has changed its warehouse hours since then, seeing as how I won't give them a dime of business for the rest of my life.

Society needs to take a big step back and reconsider its priorities. Now I've lived in New York City and Las Vegas, two cities noted for having a 24 hour culture. And if you can't get what you need in Vegas during off hours, what hope is there for everyone else? We're all screwed. The system as it stands just doesn't make any sense. Let's say we have errands to do at the DMV, or the post office, or a dozen different places. What's going to be the day we have free to do these chores? Sunday, right? What's the one day these stores are going to be closed? Yep, sunday.

So let's go briefly through the ostensible reasons why things close and explain why they don't hold up.

First of all, you've got this obsolete, holy Sabbath day mentality that just doesn't belong in our society anymore. If you think Sunday is holy, that's great. Good for you. You take the day off. But everyone else should get back to work. In the casino business here, it's common to hear people say "Today is my Monday" or "Tomorrow's my friday." Now that's the way it should be.

Think of the advantages. Overcrowded schools? What if I said I could give any school 40% additional capacity without adding one extra chair? It's called Saturday and Sunday. How about double capacity? Two words: swing shift. Get those kids to school in prime time.

So much of the way American society is time-oriented is based on some obsolete system. Kids getting the summers off to work the fields. Sunday liquor laws. It's time to shake off this notion that Sunday is America's day off. Let's see, what are the other objections...

Ah yes, money. It's not feasible to keep things open all night. Well, it's all a question of scale. Go into any 24 hour business and look around. Do they have a full crew working the Carls' Jr. at 3am? Of course not. It's two, maybe three guys. You don't need your full staff. For many of these stores, the only variable costs you have to worry about when staying open all night are the hourly wage of the one clerk and the power bill. A minimum stream of after-hours business is more than enough to make it worthwhile. And what about giving your customers the peace of mind of knowing that you're there 24/7, 365 days a year? That's worth something. That gets you respect and loyalty from your customer base.

If you feel, like I do, that nothing should ever be closed, then you definitely don't want to go to Europe. I was in England a few years ago and I couldn't believe it. Does no one in England get hungry after 8 pm? Restaurants there have "seatings". You can go for lunch or dinner, but they're closed in between. WTF? And I couldn't believe the sheer number of holidays over there. Every fifth day is a bank holiday or St. Ignacious day or something, and then everything closes. No wonder their economy is in the toilet.

Look, in the world of the future, everything's always open. How many movies have you seen about the future where the protagonist goes somewhere on urgent business, and his destination is closed? None! Nothing is closed in the future! That's what so great about it! We should just get started and do it now! I want to be able to turn to my grandkids and say "You know, when I was a boy, that place used to be closed." And they'll have no idea what I'm talking about. Anyone with me?

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