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Fast Food Nation

The injury rate of teenage workers in the United States is about twice as high as that of adult workers. Teenagers are far more likely to be untrained, and every year, about 200,000 are injured on the job. The most common workplace injuries at fast food restaurant are slips, falls, strains and burns. The fast food industry's expansion, however, coincided with a rising incidence of workplace violence in the United States. Roughly four or five fast food workers are now murdered on the job every month, usually during the course of a robbery. Although most fast food robberies end without bloodshed, the level of violent crime in the industry is surprisingly high. In 1998, more restaurant workers were murdered on the job in the United States than police officers.

America's fast food restaurants are now more attractive to armed robbers than convenience stores, gas stations, or banks. Other retail businesses increasingly rely upon credit card transactions, but fast food restaurants still do almost all of their business in cash. While convenience store chains have worked hard to reduce the amount of money in the till (at 7-Eleven stores the average robbery results in a loss of about thirty-seven dollars), fast food restaurants often thousands of dollars on the premises. Gas stations and banks now routinely shield employees behind bullet-resistant barriers, a security measure that would be impractical at most fast food restaurants. And the same features that make these restaurants so convenient - their location near intersections and highway off-ramps, even their drive-through windows - facilitate a speedy getaway.

A fast food robbery is most likely to occur when only a few crew members are present: early in the morning before customers arrive or late at night near closing time. A couple of sixteen-year-old crew members and a twenty-year-old assistant manager are often the only people locking up a restaurant, long after midnight. When a robbery takes place, the crew members are frequently herded into the basement freezer. The robbers empty the cash registers and the safe, then hit the road.

The same demographic groups widely employed at fast food restaurants - the young and the poor - are also responsible for much of the nation's violent crime. According to industry studies, about two thirds of the robberies at fast food restaurants involve current or former employees. The combination of low pay, high turnover, and ample cash in the restaurant often leads to crime. A 1999 survey by the National Food Service Security Council, a group funded by large chains, found that about half of all restaurant workers engaged in some form of cash or property theft - not including the theft of food. The typical employee stole about $218 a year; new employees stole almost $100 more. Studies conducted by Jerald Greenberg, a professor of management at the University of Ohio and an expert on workplace crime, have found that when people are treated with dignity and respect, they're less likely to steal from their employer. "It may be common sense," Greenberg says, "but it's obviously not common practice." The same anger that causes most petty theft, the same desire to strike back at an employer perceived as unfair, can escalate to armed robbery. Restaurant managers are usually, but not always, the victims of fast food crimes. Not long ago, the day manager of a McDonald's in Moorpark, California, recognized the masked gunman emptying the safe. It was the night manager.

Fast Food Nation is definitely one of the most interesting books I've read in a long, long time. It made me sad, it made me think, it made me mad. But most of all, it made me a lot more knowledgeable. Very recommended.
©2005 karenika.com