Fiefdoms Corrupt Systems (and donuts).

When I was 17 I had a weekend job making the donuts (cue the jokes). Actually, I didn’t “make” the donuts so much as fill them. The baker would come in around 3am and make them, and I showed up at 5:30am to fill and frost them. Sleepy-eyed, I entered the donut shop through the back door, never speaking to customers or other employees and followed a list that went something like this:

50 Jelly
40 Bavarian
90 Choc covered
120 Honeytops
90 Choc honey
40 Lemon

The job was supposed to take 4 hours – I got it down to 2.5. It was without question the stickiest job I ever had, but it paid cash and cash paid the rent. This despite the fact that I didn’t eat donuts, and still don’t.

Specialization Quickly Loses Context

Every Sunday after I was finished, I helped the owner load a special delivery into his black Trans Am (cue more jokes) and got my cash ($50 for Saturday and $55 for Sunday). I never knew where the delivery went, or even if the donuts were any good. As I said, I’ve just never been a donut guy, and I assumed a donut was a donut was a donut.

One morning I came in and saw the baker was still there making the donuts. He looked shaky and weird, but I left anyway and came back an hour later. I remember the donuts were flatter and harder to fill but I knew nothing about baking—it wasn’t my department. During my first week of training I had asked the baker to show me. He said, “I make ’em. You fill ’em.” And that had been that. Baking clearly was not supposed to be my department—I was the filling and frosting expert. One week later, I found out that he had been putting unmentionables in the donuts. People got sick and another week later, the store was closed—for good. Eight people lost their jobs and the neighborhood (deservedly) lost a meeting place.

The baker. The employees. The owner. The customers. Separate entities, unconnected but for the donut. Looking back, I wish I had taken the initiative to test every donut. No matter how foul the donuts may have been that Saturday, I wish I’d tasted them. I wish I’d broken rank and learned how to do the job that came before and after mine. Not to take over that job but to understand contextually the import of the bigger picture.

Your role is your role. But your job is to make sure you’ve got the best damn donut in town.


  • Filed under Content Strategy, Customer Experience, Small Business   /  

2 thoughts on “Fiefdoms Corrupt Systems (and donuts).

  1. I like it, Stinky Goop. It’s another version of thinking like an owner v. an employee. May I republish?
    I have to know though, what were the “unmentionables” and why did he do it? A donut terrorist seems weird to me.

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