Recently Kish asked me to stop by the dry cleaners to pick up some clothing. “Just go to the drive-thru window,” she added helpfully.
Eh? A drive-thru dry cleaners? Intrigued, I drove to the side of the dry cleaner shop, where there was an open door rather than a drive-thru window. I summoned the clerk, gave her our name, and then watched for minutes as she moved the moving hanger line around for several loops, looking for our clothing. It was vaguely embarrassing to see into the rear of the store as she searched, like looking through an open door into a stranger’s kitchen and seeing them eating at their table. After she found our clothing, the clerk came back over to the open door and handed me the hangers.
At that point I realized that the drive-thru concept really didn’t work. Unlike a bag of burgers or a Coke, clothes on hangers aren’t easily passed through the driver’s side window. You have to wrangle the hangers through, dragging the clothes against the side of the car. And once they are inside, what do you do? Leave them bunched up in your lap? Toss them into the passenger seat? From a sitting position in the driver’s seat, only a contortionist could reach around and hang them on the hooks above the back seat windows. So, I had to open the door, clumsily get out with the clothes — which, of course, defeats the entire purpose of a drive-thru — and hang them properly. The lady watched my fumbling performance, probably chuckling inwardly at a show she’s seen over and over again.
Are Americans really so lazy that we demand that a drive-thru option be available for every imaginable consumer business? Here are two simple rules that should be applied to determine whether a drive-thru concept is well-suited to the business. First, does the business sell a product that can be delivered comfortably through a driver’s side window? Second, can a reasonably coordinated driver do something with the product without ruining it?
I’m hoping these two simple rules prevent doomed yet irritating business ideas like drive-thru haircuts, drive-thru tailors, and drive-thru wedding cake bakeries.