The Solution: Eat People?

Recently, I drove to Venice, Florida to pick up my daughter’s friend.

We chose a McDonald’s off the interstate as the meeting place, because it was convenient and had a bathroom (always a must). As I breezed through the restaurant, I noticed a sign informing patrons they had a 30-minute time limit on occupying space. After that, they’d be asked to leave the premises.

I’d seen a similar notice in another McDonald’s, more than 500 miles away, but thought it was just that location. Apparently, the time limit on eating in a McDonald’s is spreading across the country.

At first, I figured it was aimed at young people, who tend to buy a very cheap item and then hang out at the restaurant, bothering other patrons and generally being a nuisance. This sort of thing has happened before.

In the early 1990s, the convenience store chain 7-Eleven had a problem with teenagers sitting in front of its stores. In response, the store began blaring classical music into the parking lot. It drove off the teens almost immediately. But apparently, it’s not young people causing the issue at McDonald’s… or at least, not at all of them.

A McDonald’s in Queens, New York has a problem with elderly customers staying all day.

It seems that 10 to 20 senior citizens show up before dawn, buy a cup of coffee, and then plant themselves for the next 12 hours.

They’re not loud and obnoxious, but they definitely take up tables and chairs that other patrons would use, and they’re not spending much money.

What’s a restaurant to do?

Right now, the store resorts to calling the police to report loitering, but once the customers are rousted, they simply walk around the block and return. A recent Op-Ed in The New York Times suggested that, similar to the 7-Eleven stores years ago, these McDonald’s could begin blaring rap music, or some other genre considered objectionable to the unwanted customers.

I’ve got another suggestion (one I stole from the author Andy Kessler): we could eat people.

What else are we going to do with tens of millions of retirees?

They will have 20 years or more to sit around and… well, drink coffee while taking up seats in McDonald’s.

As the boomers age, this problem is going to grow exponentially, not fade away, and it’s just a side note to the greater issues we face as our population ages.

In the early 1900s, Isaac Rubinow, a social scientist, suggested that we set up a basic path for people as they reached adulthood. After finishing education, people should be allowed to create and innovate until they’re 40 years old, at which point, creativity (in his view) begins to fail.

From 40 to 60 years old, people could work and contribute; they just wouldn’t be allowed to say much.

At age 60, everyone gets a fabulous retirement party and a two year stipend. They could use the two years to travel, see family, and generally reflect on their lives.

At 62, everyone gets euthanized, thereby alleviating the world of caring for the elderly as they go through the costly, non-productive last years of life.

I wasn’t there when he said it, but I’m certain Mr. Rubinow’s comments were made in jest. However, his point of the trouble society faces when dealing with an aging population is well taken. It’s a problem the Japanese already have, and one that Germany is going to struggle with quite soon.

What happens when more than one-fifth of the nation is in retirement? What do they do, and how do you pay for it? We can’t play loud rap music in every store in order to drive them out, and we can’t eat them and won’t euthanize them.

Some have suggested dramatically raising the working-age limit, or the age at which a person can draw retirement benefits. That has merit, but it also could be a limiting factor on creating job openings for young people. Such a change is also seen as a tax on the poor, as they tend to have shorter life spans and would therefore receive substantially less in benefits than wealthier, healthier retirees.

So far, the dilemma is a problem without a solution. No major country facing this situation has a clearly articulated, well-funded plan that deals with caring for the elderly.

Our pension programs won’t handle it, and our health care programs certainly aren’t up to the task.

In light of the enormity of the issue, a few older citizens sitting in a McDonald’s all day seems rather innocuous. That is, unless you’re the owner of the store, and you’re stuck paying for their entertainment by losing paying customers.

As we all start to pay more to support an aging population, it will be very interesting to see how people work to avoid the costs of keeping retirees in good health and comfort.

Rodney

P.S. We believe that America will have no alternative but to evolve to accommodate an aging baby boomer generation. It’s that or the youth of today must carry the financial burden of their grandparents and parents. That’s why Harry did this interview. Listen to it now.

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About Author

Rodney Johnson works closely with Harry Dent to study how people spend their money as they go through predictable stages of life, how that spending drives our economy and how you can use this information to invest successfully in any market. Rodney began his career in financial services on Wall Street in the 1980s with Thomson McKinnon and then Prudential Securities. He started working on projects with Harry in the mid-1990s. He’s a regular guest on several radio programs such as America’s Wealth Management, Savvy Investor Radio, and has been featured on CNBC, Fox News and Fox Business’s “America’s Nightly Scorecard, where he discusses economic trends ranging from the price of oil to the direction of the U.S. economy. He holds degrees from Georgetown University and Southern Methodist University.