My first job was at a family owned, full-line pet store. My boss taught me the importance of treating the customer right, taking pride in my work, always doing right by the animals, and being educated about what I was selling. The bottom line was important, but not as important as customer loyalty and product quality. Fast-forward twenty years and one would find me working as a manager at a corporate pet store chain. I found the differences between the establishments to be profound—and that bigger does not always mean better.
After an especially trying tangle against the corporate red tape on one side of me and low paid young adults slacking under my watch on the other, I remember deciding I was going to write a book that took place in a world where everyone was reduced to a nametag, khakis, and a polo shirt. In this world, no one took pride in what they did, so everything was of mediocre quality at best. The multiple levels of managers and associates made it impossible to accomplish anything efficiently. Everyone did all of their shopping at the Food-Mart, because that was the only place left for people to go. Churches were owned by Faith-Corp. People got all of their news from Info-Corp.
And then the terrifying thought struck me that we were already well on our way there.