We Make The Clown Change His Tune! (Or At Least His Clock!)

There is a train of thought, and not without merit, that when in Rome, one should do as the Romans do.  Another way of interpreting this is that if they do something differently to how we do it “back home”, who are we to change them?  What right do we have to even comment?  I say it depends on the situation but if it is something so intrinsic to life, so basic to one’s survival, then you are duty bound to bring it to the local’s attention and suggest how it should be done!  So if it relates to breakfast at McDonalds, then it falls within this critical “life or death” category.  Right?

I have been consulting to a school way over on Cordova island, which is at the far end of Mactan.  It requires me to leave home early to beat the morning rush hour and try and minimise the evening drag for the return in the afternoon.  Some mornings I just don’t feel like having breakfast before leaving the house, I just want to get out there and mix it with the Dongs on the road.

Luckily, my old cobber Ronnie the Clown has one of his establishments near my route.  It is the work of a few seconds to hang a left instead of a right when I exit the old Mactan Bridge, pick up some Macca’s and then chuck a u-ey (Buy McDonald’s food and make a U-turn in Aussie speak) and resume my journey.

So the sign on the wall boasts the place opens at 7am.  It is 7:10am and it is still closed.  I bang on the door, point at my watch and make the usual signs of agitation.  Eventually a manager type opens the door.

“The sign says you open at 7am, it’s nearly 7:15, how come?”

“We go by the McDonalds clock, Sir.  The same time used all over the country.” the manager said, pointing over his shoulder to a large clock on the wall of the kitchen.

“So because that clock is slow or needs a new battery, you open 15 minutes late?  Can you imagine how much business you are missing from people driving past  in that time and turned away because you are following a clock set for Manila?”

“Yes Sir.” Was his open reply.

“Well how come the other McDonalds stores on Jones and Cebu South road open on time? Should we tell Ronald they are not following his clock?”  No answer so I pressed on.  “What is your personal opinion about a store that runs to it’s own clock? I mean, the entire nation of 85 million work to GMT plus 8 hours and you people use GMT plus 8 hours 15 minutes.  Doesn’t that seem a little ridiculous to you?”  Still no answer but I could see the dawn of comprehension starting to break over his physiognomy.

The next day I returned and they were still closed until 7:15.  I reminded them of the fact they were a joke and how did that feel? Shouldn’t someone tell the owner his store is a laughing stock and so on.  I returned the following week and they were still living in their time warp.  Then on the Tuesday, a week after my first attempt to make even one of them see sense, I arrived at 7:10am.  They were open!

As I walked in I saw right away there were already customers sitting at tables, eating.  Cars were in the drive through, their occupants buying breakfast!  Just like I had predicted!  What was even more amazing was the atmosphere!  The staff were pumped!

They were so proud of themselves for having been told they could reset the clock to GMT +8 and open at 7am.  The owner admitted it was silly to open 15 minutes late every day and the staff were rapt!  Now that nasty foreigner wouldn’t be pointing out how stupid they were, even if they were just following orders!  The change in the staff was amazing to behold and quite contagious.  I felt so positive as I left, maybe there was hope for this country yet? Maybe common sense and persistent complaining could make a difference?

A few days later I came again for my breakfast only to find the rope used to block off the carpark and drive through was still up.  I ignored it and drove under, parked and walked in.  The store was open but one of the Dongs had forgotten to lower the rope.  A day or two later the same thing except just across the drive through entrance.  Must have had brain fade that last few feet of rope lowering!  Still, at least they were open on time!

The manager told me they were making between P2000 and P5000 each morning in the first fifteen minutes from 7am to 7:15am. They had been following the late clock for nearly a year, so I figured that roughly they had lost about half a million peso’s just by losing that crucial first fifteen minutes of trade!  That’s nearly ten grand real money, not to be sneezed at in any currency!  Of course it begs the question how much more money is being lost or opportunities missed due to nobody having the bottle to speak up?  I think I figured out what happened to the clock, too.  Some Dong wanted a few extra minutes in bed each morning so he turned the clock back.  Simple!